The official name is the Act of the Consolidated Guarantee of Sexual Freedom, although it is known only as the Act of Sexual Freedom and above all, the “Yes Only Yes” Act.
After more than a year of bureaucracy, it was approved on Thursday (25/8) by the Congress of Representatives in Spain. 205 votes were cast in favor and 141 against.
After being signed by the king, it will be registered in the official state gazette and will come into effect in a few weeks.
The left-wing coalition that governs Spain guarantees one of the most avant-garde laws in the world in favor of women’s rights.
However, his critics believe that he is innocent and violates the presumption of equality before the law.
Below, understand the key points of the Sexual Freedom Act.
The law has its roots in the controversial “La Manada” case.
This is the name of the WhatsApp group of five people who gang-raped an 18-year-old girl during the San Fermin festival in Pamplona, Spain in 2016.
A Spanish judge convicted them only of sexual abuse, but not of violence or intimidation, but this was later corrected and the Supreme Court increased the 9-year prison sentence for rape to 15 years.
The case sparked protests across the country and a demand from Spanish society to reform laws to protect women from sexual assault and tougher penalties for those who commit them.
The current Spanish government, avowedly feminist, has since begun drafting new legislation that marks important changes in the treatment of sex crimes and in helping victims.
“Yes only yes” refers to the law’s most important and most controversial provision: consent before any sexual contact.
“According to the circumstances of the case, consent shall be understood to exist only when freely expressed by acts clearly manifesting the will of the person,” the text of the law reads.
Therefore, sexual conduct without consent is considered aggression and punishable with different penalties depending on the circumstances and aggravating factors of the case.
It presupposes that sexual assault does not involve the use of force or that the victim attempted to resist.
“No woman has to prove that there was violence or intimidation in an attack to be considered an attack. We recognize all attacks as sexual violence,” Spanish Equality Minister Irene Montero told reporters.
Changes in regulations
The new law removes the current distinction between sexual abuse and sexual assault.
Therefore, any sexual contact without the other person’s consent is an assault and is punishable by 1 to 4 years in prison.
There is also a downside factor to chemical submission.
The use of drugs or drugs to reduce or nullify the victim’s will, which until now was considered abuse, becomes aggression.
Murders, street harassment and more
With regard to murders for sexual violence, the new law seeks to distinguish the killing of women related to sexual violence from other types of crimes involving death.
“Sexual femicide” would be considered “a very serious violation of human rights related to sexual violence, which should be exposed and a specific response should be given to it.”
Street harassment is now punishable as a misdemeanor and the justice system can apply sanctions to perpetrators if the victim reports the case.
This type of behavior is punishable by 5 to 30 days of house arrest, community service for the same period, or a fine.
Digital sexual violence, which refers to sexual extortion through networks or consensual pornography, will also be prosecuted.
It also provides for a ban on obscene advertisements, which includes vetoing advertisements that present a humiliating or discriminatory image that uses women’s bodies or parts thereof, or that involve stereotypical and offensive behavior.
This statistic can also help ban ads that promote prostitution or are deemed racist, homophobic or discriminatory.
Victim support and sexuality education
The law provides generous financial assistance and preferential access to public housing for victims of sexual assault who earn less than the local minimum wage (currently €14,000 per year, R$70,000 per year).
It also plans to establish at least 50 24-hour crisis centers across Spain where victims, family members and close friends can receive psychological, legal and social support.
There are currently two – one in Madrid and the other in Asturias in the north of the country – and the Spanish government has already allocated 66 million euros (roughly R$330 million) to the project.
The new Sexual Freedom Act will make sexuality education compulsory at all levels of education and university work linked to teaching, health and the judiciary.
Additionally, sex offenders must receive mandatory sex education.
Critique of law
Since it was first discussed a year ago, the law has received criticism from the right wing, judges and a section of society through networks.
In 2021, 21 judges of Spain’s judicial body, the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ), unanimously approved a report that questioned fundamental aspects of the law.
The judges found that the principle of the presumption of innocence could be at stake: defining what constitutes consent — rather than its absence — forces the accused to prove that the victim said “yes” before the sexual encounter.
The main opposition Popular Party (PP), which voted against the Congress, expressed similar concerns.
Meanwhile, the far-right Vox party views the law as “ideological and sectarian” and believes it “opens the door to the use of false accusations” to gain benefits such as regularization in the case of illegal immigrants.
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