Congress approves 'only yes is yes' law with new definition of sexual consent

Law leaves out prostitution section against procuring after controversy among political parties

Women demonstrate holding signs in a female protest in Tarragona on March 8, 2022 (by Eloi Tost/Mar Rovira)
Women demonstrate holding signs in a female protest in Tarragona on March 8, 2022 (by Eloi Tost/Mar Rovira) / ACN

ACN | Madrid

May 26, 2022 07:47 PM

The Spanish Congress greenlighted a new law on sexual freedom on Thursday, commonly known as the law of the "only yes is yes." The vast majority of the chamber has voted in favor of the new legislation, except the People’s Party and far-right VOX, who voted against, and the Catalan pro-independence far-left party, CUP. The bill got 201 votes in favor, 140 against, and the three abstentions from the CUP.

The legislation sets a new definition of sexual consent as from now on, "consent will only be understood when it has been freely shown via acts that clearly show the desire of a person, depending on the case," the bill reads. 

The Spanish congress also greenlighted getting rid of the difference between sexual abuse and sexual aggression. One of the most controversial sections of the legislation referred to prostitution and fined those procuring women. 

The text considers sexual aggression any circumstance when "any action against the sexual will of a person without its consent has taken place." In this case, the attack will be considered a violation, with higher sentences in jail, when the aggression "involves vaginal, anal or mouth carnal access, or entering corporal members or objects inside one of the first two wholes." 

Law will now go to the Spanish Senate.

Group attacks

The law considers aggravating when the acts are performed in group, there is "extremely severe" violence, the victim is in a "situation of vulnerability," the attacker is the couple or family member, or has "annuled the will of the victim with drugs or any other substance," among other aggravants. 

The gang rape that occured in Pamplona in 2016 was one of the most violent news Spain has recently seen. In April 2018, a court in Pamplona, in the Navarra region, convicted a group of five men popularly-known as 'La Manada' of sexual abuse rather than rape after they sexually assaulted an 18-year-old woman during the San Fermín celebrations two years before.

The shockwaves from the verdict and the protests it provoked were even felt on a European level, with the EU commissioner for Justice, Vera Jourová, saying she expected the Spanish judiciary to make a “quick and fair” decision on the prosecutor's appeal.

At the same time as ‘The Wolf Pack’ case received broad coverage in the international media, the protests continued, such as the one involving 3,000 people in Barcelona in November that year that was attended by the city's mayor, Ada Colau, and other leading Catalan political figures.

The case is known as ‘La Manada’ because of the name of the WhatsApp group the men used to share the video of the attack. While the prosecutor pressed for a 22-year prison sentence, the men were finally sentenced to nine years, leading to the appeal.

Since then, other rape cases have been reported in Spain but also in Catalonia. In 2016, a 14-year-old girl was raped in the inland town of Manresa. She explained she had been threatened with a gun and felt intimidated and was forced to have sex with them. 

Despite, the court sentenced the five young men to prison for sexually abusing her, feminist organizations hold protests in over 40 Spanish cities against the verdict as they consider it was too lenient

Controversial prostitution section

The law has finally been passed as one of the most controversial sections has been left out. The political parties that voted in favor of Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez becoming the PM, have sounded the alarm.

The text does not include the prison sentencing or a fine for procuring or earning money when renting a place for a person to prostitute that the Spanish equality ministry proposed.