There is no room for interpretation here: only “yes” means “yes”. This motto, born in Spain six years ago after La Manada was repeatedly raped, has since been echoed on posters, on walls, on the streets and on social media by hundreds of thousands of women. And this Thursday it becomes law, The all-encompassing guarantee of sexual freedom. The Congress of Deputies, with 201 votes in favor, 140 against (all deputies from PP and Vox) and 3 abstentions from a mixed group (Albert Botran and Mireia Vehi from the CUP and José María Mason from the Cantabrian Regionalist Party), approved this regulation, which thickens the feminist demands and changes the paradigm of sexual violence: the focus will no longer be on how women react or how much they resist aggression, but on their will. Consent, expressed freely and clearly, becomes the core of sexual abuse treatment. Now the process remains in the Senate.
Norma is one of the stars of the term in terms of Equality and is one of the most avant-garde in Europe. His approval represents, in the words of Provincial Minister Irene Montero, “a decisive step towards changing our country’s sexual culture, removing guilt and fear, abandoning rape culture and creating a culture of consent,” he said in an appearance ahead of the vote. This came after almost 11 months of difficult legislative procedures between coalition partners and investment groups, and together with the so-called trans-law (still in progress), it was one of the ones that caused the most clashes between the two parties in government.
During their speeches in plenary this Thursday, Socialist MPs and Podemos recalled the “patience”, “tremendous work” and “effort” needed to achieve this law, which, when it comes into force, will affect and protect women living more than 24 million in Spain. It is estimated that about 400,000 sexual assaults occur each year. “We are going to trade violence for freedom and fear for desire,” Montero added in his speech.
The right to free sexuality
To move towards this culture of “well-treatment”, as the Minister also defines it, the rules include not only a range of measures in various areas to guarantee women’s right “to their sexual freedom”, but also “redress”. victims” and recognizing victims of sexual violence, victims of sexual exploitation and trafficked persons for the purpose of sexual exploitation as victims of sexist violence for the first time. This notion of violence also includes female genital mutilation and forced marriage.
In the criminal realm, it includes chemical exposure as an aggravating circumstance of sexual assault, which is still considered abuse; killings due to sexual violence will be considered sexist violence, for which specific statistics are being finalized; criminalizes street harassment and also includes digital violence. It also includes changing the juvenile penal law so that in cases where the aggressors are under 18 years of age, punishments always include the additional measure of completing sex education and equality education programs.
Advertising of pornography will also be banned; Mechanisms are envisaged to ensure that victims of sexual violence have the same access as victims of gender-based violence to penetration income; economic assistance will be provided to victims of sexual violence who earn less than the minimum wage; and sex education will be mandatory at all stages of education. In addition to some round-the-clock crisis centers that have already taken their first steps and will provide psychological, legal and social assistance to victims and their families.
Gap closing rule
The protocols, measures and funding that surround the foundation of the law is a change in perspective on sexual violence. Until now, what is meant by consent, how this consent is perceived or how it is proved in court, are issues that sometimes went to the periphery, provoked protest not only in society, but also in political circles, and even provoked internal debates in the Courts. . This happened in processes with questions such as “did you close your legs properly?”, “how were you dressed?” or “did you resist enough.”
During the course of the trial in La Manada, this gap between the judicial system and society’s perception of sexual violence became visible. The outrage of the feminist movement at the first verdict of the provincial court of Navarre, which characterized the events as ongoing violence on the understanding that there was no violence or intimidation, materialized in demonstrations and rallies in dozens of Spanish cities and towns.
Women’s demonstration in Madrid in front of the Ministry of Justice on June 22, 2018 after the court decision to release members of La Manada became known.ANDREA COMAS (COUNTRY)
The public did not understand how Justice could interpret the multiple penetrations of five men into an 18-year-old girl in a cabin of only three square meters with a single exit as violence. The court of Navarre saw in the summary of this case someone who did not say “no” and did not resist, so the aggressors did not have to use force, verbal or physical intimidation to subdue her. She, the victim, repeated the same thing in all her statements, that she closed her eyes and resigned herself, that she did not say anything, that she did nothing, that she did not scream, that she was in shock.
According to the current Criminal Code, without violence and without intimidation, this story fits into sexual harassment. Was there agreement? The current legislation already provides for punishment for sexual acts without it, but does not contain a definition of the concept, so the testimony of the victim was left to the discretion of the justices of the peace. This change in the single “yes is yes” law, which includes a specific definition of consent, was one of the issues that generated the most controversy, not only among right-wing groups, but also within the Judicial General Council (CGPJ). ) – one of the deliberative bodies that issue reports on organic laws – which did not support this concept.
The argument of those opposed was that it “shifted the burden of proof,” as popular MP Marga Gonzalez reiterated in Congress this Thursday: will have to prove that he did not do it, and not vice versa. But this issue has already been considered, when lawyers, specialists, technicians and part of the Ministry of Equality itself opened the discussion that only yes is yes.
Even then, after the CGPJ report, Government Delegate Against Gender Violence Victoria Rosell explained that “no legal definition can shift the burden of proof because it cannot affect the constitutional right, the presumption of innocence”; and that “it is for the prosecutor or the prosecution to prove, not the defence.” He also recalled that the argument was “similar” to the one used by the judiciary and “many lawyers” in handling the 2004 law on gender-based violence.
As a result of these debates, three slogans were born, which now bring together the essence of this law. “Sister, I Believe You” about the need to change the judicial system, which understands sexual violence with its characteristics and in its context; that is, justice always includes a gender perspective, and the development of the rules themselves responds to this.
“It’s not abuse, it’s rape”, which required understanding that violence or intimidation need not be indirect for a violation to occur; and the norm makes the crime of maltreatment disappear and will treat any attitude without consent as aggression. And “only yes is yes”, about the perception of agreement, that nothing but “yes” means “yes”, or doubt, or silence. Because the reaction to an attack is, on the one hand, innate and can range from blocking to violence; on the other hand, because strength is not always needed to subjugate someone.
Sofia Castagnon, United We Can’s deputy congressional spokesperson, recalled during her speech that not so many years ago, when the popular Jorge Fernandez Diaz (2011-2016) was the Minister of the Interior, the concept was far from the current one: “Women were told that we will have some responsibility [si sufrían una violación] if we had not followed the instructions of the Ministry of the Interior.” This new norm goes in the opposite direction, not only to eliminate the victim’s guilt or responsibility for their own transgression, but to place their desire at the center of their decision. Because “yes,” said the MP, “is a very sexy word.”
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