EPADe Spaanse premier Pedro Sánchez
NOS Nieuws•vandaag, 17:36
Spanish Prime Minister Sánchez apologized to rape victims this weekend. The reason for this is the unintended, but harmful consequences of new legislation.
Last summer, parliament passed a law that makes it possible to prosecute any form of sex without explicit consent as rape. But at the same time, the minimum sentence for rape was lowered. As a result, convicted rapists can be released more quickly by appealing to the new law.
“I don’t think anyone wants perpetrators of sexual violence to benefit from this new law,” Sánchez told Spanish newspaper El Correo. The prime minister speaks of a loophole that must be closed quickly.
Since the law came into force, 104 people have been released early and a further 978 convicts have had their sentences reduced.
Only yes is yes
A major impetus for the new rape law was a highly publicized rape known as the “Wolfpack” case. During the popular running of the bulls festival in Pamplona in 2016, an 18-year-old woman was raped by a group of five men. They filmed their actions and bragged about it in a mutual app group called ‘De Wolvenroedel’.
A court initially ruled that this was sexual abuse and not rape, because the woman would not have resisted the men. The images show that the woman is unconscious. There was no explicit consent.
The ruling mobilized the women’s rights movement at the time, which pushed for legislation that better protects women against abuse. The men who raped the woman were later convicted of rape on appeal.
Partly because of this case, the Spanish parliament passed the law that makes any form of sex without explicit consent punishable.
Rape victims were initially happy with the new law. But it soon became apparent that this could be beneficial for already convicted rapists.
This is because the new law no longer distinguishes between sexual abuse with violence and sexual abuse without violence. From now on, all forms of sex that someone has not explicitly consented to are punishable.
At the same time, the minimum sentence for rape has been reduced. And therein lies the pain.
In the Spanish legal system it is possible to review a sentence if the minimum sentence is lower than before after new legislation. This means that convicted rapists may be eligible for a reduced sentence with retroactive effect.
‘Problem lies with judges’
According to the Spanish Minister of Equality, Irene Montero, the problem is not the law itself, but the way it is applied. According to her, judges abuse the ‘Solo Si Es Si’ law to reduce sentences for rapists. She accuses them of ‘machismo’ and suggests sending judges on a ‘gender sensitivity course’.
Ángeles Carmona, member of the general council of the judiciary in Spain, does not see this, she told the British newspaper The Guardian “The system is not sexist, the judges apply the law according to the rules.” She points out that Minister Montero had already been warned about the undesirable consequences before the introduction.
Spain correspondent Edwin Winkels:
“It was a very ambitious law. During the drafting of the law, no one apparently realized that there was a kind of back door that allowed the sentences of convicted offenders to be reviewed. That shocked them enormously.
The government has been negotiating for months now with Unidas Podemos, the coalition partner behind the law, to change the law. Sánchez is now seeking support from the Partido Popular. He has promised the conservative opposition party some technical adjustments, he said in El Correo this weekend. According to Sánchez, this law is progressive in Europe and he wants to keep the core of the law. So negotiations are still going on there.”