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‘Only Yes Means Yes’: Spanish Parliament Approve Consent Bill

Spain seeks to adapt existing criminal law by employing ‘Only Yes Means Yes’ bill that places consent at the forefront

For many years, the definition of consent in criminal law has been unclear and this ambiguity has allowed sexual predators to get off relatively unscathed in situations when other parties were unable to provide enthusiastic consent. Of note is the uproar triggered by a gang-rape case during the San Fermin bull-running festival in Pamplona, back in 2016. Five individuals were found guilty of sexual abuse, although not explicitly rape, as the victims didn’t verbally object to their assault. To better combat these situations, Spain’s parliament has released the ‘Only Yes Means Yes’ consent bill. This new consent bill establishes clearer definitions for consent. 

Consent is described as an explicit expression of the person’s will and clarifies that passivity or silence cannot be classified as consent. Non-consensual sexual intercourse is an aggression subject to prison terms of up to 15 years. And, simply put, the bill establishes that positive consent is required before any sexual activity. This means that not saying no to sexual activity doesn’t equate to an implied yes. This will serve as a way to clarify what is and what is not sexual assault. 

Irene Montero Backs Only Yes Means Yes Bill

Irene Montero © Getty Images

Thanks to the newly approved bill, sexual assault survivors won’t have to prove that violence was used against them when in court. The draft also includes measures such as having minors who commit sex crimes undergo sex education, gender equality training and the creation of a 24-hour crisis network centre for survivors of sexual abuse and relatives. As explained by Irene Montero, Minister for Equality, the bill will assist in swapping violence for freedom, fear for desire and making Spain a safer country for all women. 

On top of that, Spain has been introducing a series of bills and reforms, including the menstrual leave bill, to benefit women’s health rights. Current law needs sexual assault victims to show proof of assault, intimidation or resistance. However, the law also includes reform to the definition of sexual violence, including digital acts of sexual violence. This would include non-consensual pornography and sexual extortion using technology.

Rape and sexual assault crimes performed under a substance, or using a substance to subjugate the will of the victim will also be punishable.

The long-term goal of this bill is to reduce the number of hoops sexual assault victims have to go through to find justice in court.

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