Our former colonizer, Spain, is on a roll when it comes to women’s rights laws. The country made headway in approving a three-day menstrual leave this May. It celebrates another win with Spain’s parliament voting to pass a bill that classifies non-consensual sex as rape on May 26. With the proposed Guarantee of Sexual Freedom law, also known as the “only yes means yes” law, victims won’t be burdend with the need to prove that violence or intimidation was used against them.
Government spokesperson Maria Jesus Montero said that the bill “makes clear that silence or passivity do not mean consent, or that not showing opposition can not be an excuse to act against the will of the other person.” Non-consensual sex is considered aggression in it and is subject to a prison sentence of up to 15 years. It faces a Senate vote before it can become law.
The bill includes a number of interesting proposals such as prison sentences for work-related sexual harassment, criminalizing catcalling, disincentivizing services linked to sexual exploitation, obliging minors who commit sexual crimes to undergo sex education and gender equality training, and creating 24-hour crisis centers for sexual assault victims and their family members.
Spain’s measure came as a response to a horrific gang rape case against a group called “The Pack” in 2016. Initially, the five men were only convicted of sexual abuse and not rape because the court found no proof that they had used physical violence or intimidation. The defendants’ legal team insisted that the victim never said “no” but she stated she was paralyzed by fear. The ruling was then overridden after the decision and the defendants’ subsequent release on bail sparked mass protests. The men have been found guilty of rape, sentencing each of them to 15 years of prison instead of nine.
Spain’s Equality Minister Irene Montero best encapsulates the weight of this decision when she said, “We’re going to swap violence for freedom and we’re going to swap fear for desire. From today, Spain is a freer, safer country for all women.” Hopefully, the entire world gets to say this in the near future.