Before Spains’s ‘yes means yes’ law rape victims needed to prove that they have been sexually assaulted and now with the loophole in the new sex abuse law the offenders might get their sentences reduced?
Spain toughens its penalties for sex abuse as it emerged a landmark law that took effect last month is now being used by lawyers as a loophole to reduce their clients’ existing sentences. This has erupted an enormous row in Spain over the getaway of the sex offenders whose lawyers are laughing in delight.
Yes Means Yes Law?
Until a few days back, Women had to prove that they were subjected to violence and intimidation to be considered sexual assault. If there was no proof of violence, the act was considered sexual abuse and not rape with lesser penal measures.
This issue started to raise an outcry during the 2016 ‘Wolf Pack’ or Manada case where an 18-year-old woman was gang-raped by 5 men at the Pamplona bull-running festival. The men were initially convicted of ‘sexual abuse’ on the basis of the video which was filmed by two of the five men in which the woman is shown as quiet and nonresistant- which was interpreted by the judges as consent.
This verdict caused a huge nationwide protest which led the government to revise its criminal law. Known as the ‘yes means yes’ law where any non-consensual sex is now considered rape. It also dealt with sex offenses against children, punished catcalling towards women, and proposed re-education of offenders. It brought Spain in accordance with the 11 other European countries.
This law has created a sexual assault helpline and specialized children’s homes for underage victims. In 2019, three years after the original assault by the ‘Wolf pack’ gang, the Supreme Court changed its verdict and increased their sentence from 9 years to 15 years.
Loopholes in the current law
The lawyers argued that the original sentences should be reduced because the Spanish criminal code states that when a new law is introduced, new penalties contained within it can be retroactively applied to convicted criminals if they stand to benefit.
Augustin Martinez, a lawyer for the ‘Wolf Pack’ gang, was working to get a reduced sentence for one of the five convicted of the attack. Lawyers have won reduced sentences for the offenders in at least 8 other cases and at least 4 sex offenders can now leave jail early, according to the Spanish media.
In some cases, the lawyers are exploiting the loophole by arguing that the new law established minimum and maximum sentences which allowed for a general reduction of jail sentences when new criminal legislation comes into force in Spain.
In a recent case, a man who was sentenced to eight years for sexually abusing his 13- year- old stepdaughter had his sentence cut by 2 years.
In another case, two sex abusers went free after completing their 2 years in jail rather than a 3-year term.
Before the law was passed Spain’s General Council of the Judiciary warned this might happen.
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Revision Of the law
Spain’s Equality Minister Irene Montero, who steered the new law into effect, defended it by saying “machismo may make some judges apply the law incorrectly”. Her comment provoked the profession where now 55% of the judges are women, so using ‘machismo’ as a blame can be seen as an insult.
Spain had ‘gender equality’ as a major focus since Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez took power in 2020.
Since the law has an unjustified loophole that has allowed lawyers to miss apply it, is going to be set for modification. The issue needed to be reviewed “because evidently the goal… wasn’t to lower the sentences for abuse of minors – quite the opposite”, said Finance Minister María Jesús Montero.
This loophole has left Spaniards irate as it is reducing the sentences for assaults on women and children.