Spain’s cabinet on Tuesday approved a draft bill that strengthens the country’s laws against rape by requiring explicit consent for sexual acts, long sought by assault survivors and women’s rights groups.
Government spokeswoman Maria Jesus Monteiro said the proposed law “clarifies that silence or inaction does not mean consent, or showing opposition cannot be an excuse to act against another person’s will.”
The measure comes in the wake of five men’s infamous 2016 gang-rape of an 18-year-old woman at a bull-running festival in Pamplona, northern Spain, that shook the nation.
The men, who called themselves “wolf packs”, were initially convicted of sexual abuse rather than the more severe offence of sexual assault, including rape, as the court found no evidence that they used physical violence.
Two men film the attack, during which the woman is silent and passive – a fact the judges interpreted as consent.
The ruling highlighted how under Spain’s current criminal code, rape must involve violence and intimidation, and it sparked noisy protests across the country calling for reform.
Dubbed the “only if yes” law, the bill would define rape as sex without explicit consent, mirroring the pioneering law that went into force in Sweden in 2018.
It also proposes a prison sentence for work-related sexual assault and makes catcalling – the sexual assault of a stranger – a criminal offence for the first time.
The bill also qualifies forced marriage and genital amputation as criminal offences and tightens laws against pimping.
“This law puts consent at the centre, which means only you decide about your body and sexuality. It frees you from showing that you resisted, that there was violence or that you felt intimidated,” said Equality Minister Irene Montero.
The bill now goes to parliament for a debate and vote, probably in September.