Sánchez government faces impasse for reform of law ‘only yes is yes’ in Spain

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Sánchez government faces impasse for reform of law ‘only yes is yes’ in Spain

Solo Sí Es Sí (only yes is yes) is a feminist law that set out to change the way the world views sexual assaults against women. But, in the midst of cases like that of Daniel Alves, arrested on charges of rape in Barcelona, ​​what could have been a showcase has become a legal, political and philosophical nightmare for the government of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, which is rushing to try to amend the legislation.

The Ministers of Justice and Equality, Pilar Llop and Irene Montero, are fighting among themselves to enforce their amendment proposals. Sánchez hoped that they would reach an agreement by this Friday (3), but that did not happen.

The new date for delivery of the government’s proposal is next Tuesday (7), the deadline for it to be appreciated by Parliament in the next legislative round and, with eventual approval, prevent more people convicted of sexual harassment or assault from being released “without to want”.

The fact that the law ended up benefiting some sexual offenders is a problem that has haunted the country since November last year, when the first three convicts were released — two had been arrested in the Balearic Islands for sexual assault without penetration and another for an attempted of rape in Galicia.

This Thursday (3), it was learned that the number of people affected by this revision of sentences already exceeds 400, which has been used massively by political opponents to criticize a government that is already facing popular pressure. The figure approaches 10% of sex offenders in the country, which were 3,689 in 2021.

Even though their crimes and convictions took place much earlier, they were favored by the retroactive application of the new law and, according to the new view, had already served the necessary sentence.

The way for a law to protect women to have slipped in this way is complex. Previous legislation divided cases into two types of sexual crimes: abuse or aggression —respectively, without and with the use of violence or intimidation. In the new text, the first designation has disappeared, with any case where there is no consent being defined as sexual assault, regardless of the degree or hue of the situation.

As for the penalties, abuse could yield from one to three years in prison and aggression from one to five. Now, however, the unified aggression provides for sentences of one to four years.

“I don’t know if it was a conceptual error. You would have to ask the legislators and the Ministry of Equality. But I, like many of my colleagues, was surprised,” he told the Sheet Magistrate Ignacio González Vega, specialist in the Penal Code and member of the group Judges for Democracy. “The sentences were reduced because, unlike other penal reforms, this law does not have a transitional device that establishes the rules to be applied by judges in conflicts between the old and new legislation.”

To solve the legal problem, the suggestion made by the Minister of Justice, Pilar Llop, from the same party as Sánchez (the socialist PSOE), is simple: increase the penalties “if the aggression is committed through violence or intimidation”.

However, this idea clashes with the very idea of ​​Solo Sí Es Sí, according to the Equality Minister, Irene Montero, a member of Podemos, also a left-wing party that is part of the government president’s coalition.

Montero —who saw the approval of the text, on May 26, 2022, as a great victory— says that reintroducing violence and intimidation as dividing points in the application of sentences would mean putting the focus back on how much a woman resisted an aggression, not in the crime committed by man.

Llop counters by saying that his proposal does not touch on the philosophy of the law, that is, on consent. According to her, Article 1 would be maintained: “Consent will only be understood when it has been freely expressed through acts that, in view of the circumstances of the case, clearly express the will of the person”.

The Minister of Equality, on the other hand, maintains that, even if “the word consent is not deleted” or the part of the article that deals with it is not deleted, “in practice it would be like this”. She has already made four counterproposals to Llop, which have not materialized.

Montero believes that tinkering with the criminal part of the law is not the solution and that measures in the judicial sphere will help “settle down the law” and make sure that “magistrates can interpret it correctly”.

The two sides have been meeting since December to see how the flow of reduced sentences and releases can be stopped. But the heart of the debate, consent, remains a red line.

In an interview with the RNE network this Friday, the Minister of Equality acknowledged the lack of progress in the negotiation and that the “strong discrepancy” between her Podemos and the PSOE remains. Bombarded from all sides, Montero was forced to deny that she will resign. But Sánchez’s Socialists have already warned that, if a consensus is not reached, they will hand the proposal to Parliament alone.

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