Spain’s lower house of parliament approved the law on Thursday Sexual consent must be explicit, rather than what can be assumed to be given by silence or default – in a move that could classify non-consensual sex as rape, according to Spanish media.
The law was written after the country’s courts ruled that two cases of sexual violence in 2016 were not rape, sparking widespread public outcry.
Widely known as the “Wolf Pack” case, five men were accused of raping an 18-year-old woman during the annual running of the bulls in the city of Pamplona in northeastern Spain.
The men met the victim on a busy street during the festival, struck up a conversation and offered to walk her to her car. But instead, they took her to a building and filmed her sexually assaulting her.
Although the perpetrators were arrested the next day, they were initially convicted of the lesser offense of sexual assault, prompting thousands of people to take to the streets in protest. After another court upheld the decision in December 2018, Spain’s Supreme Court found him guilty of rape in 2019.
A woman was sexually assaulted by 5 men. A Spanish court said it was not rape.
In another case, in Manresa, near Spain’s second-most populous city of Barcelona, five men were accused of raping a 14-year-old girl in an abandoned factory while another watched and masturbated.
He was also convicted of sexual assault because under Spanish law at the time, to qualify as rape, the perpetrator must have used violence or threatened the victim. But since the victim was unconscious and did not put up a fight, the Spanish court ruled otherwise.
Spain will join at least 13 other countries in Europe with laws defining rape based on the absence of consent, according to Amnesty International. Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom are countries with versions of consent laws.
In the European Union, 1 in 20 women aged 15 or over, or about 9 million women, have been raped, according to a human rights organization in 2018. One in 10 women age 15 or older has experienced some form of sexual violence.
Miriam Berger and Siobhan O’Grady contributed to this report.