Tuesday, September 27

Congress definitively approves the ‘only yes is yes’ law, which puts consent at the center


In Spain, an average of one rape is reported every five hours. Every year there are up to 400,000 incidents of sexual violence against 350,000 victims, the vast majority of whom are women and girls. Within this magnitude, it was a violation that lit the fuse of a movement of rage and vindication that put sexual violence at the center of the agenda. It happened in 2016, on the first night of the San Fermín festivities, in Pamplona. Six summers later, a feminist wave and a change of government, Congress has definitively approved this Thursday the Organic Law of Comprehensive Guarantee of Sexual Freedom. The text has gone ahead with 205 votes in favor, 141 against and 3 abstentions.

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The norm was already on the verge of being definitively approved in July. Then, on the 19th, the plenary session of the Senate hosted a debate of more than four hours after which the approval was taken for granted. However, an unexpected mess with an amendment that had previously been approved in Congress but returned to the Senate by mistake, delayed its approval. The amendment, by Junts, which only involved adding a letter to a word, had the support of several groups, although it was the PP that, surprisingly, gave it the definitive accolade. Immediately, Senator Javier Maroto celebrated on Twitter that the law had to be reviewed again in Congress.

During the parliamentary debate this Thursday, there have been several allusions to this delay. Like the one made by the deputy of United We Can Sofía Castañón, who assured that this law “crucial for the life and freedom of women” had already been debated in depth and “should be being executed now”. Also the deputy of Ciudadanos Sara Giménez criticized the maneuver to delay the approval based on “a single word”. Ella Giménez celebrated the text, which she, she has said, offers tools for the judiciary to give “a proportionate and fair response” and adapts the recommendations of the Istanbul Convention, a reference in the matter.

The PSOE representative Laura Berja also spoke of a “completely necessary” law to comply with the “civil rights of the majority of the population” and international agreements. Both Berja and Castañón alluded in their speeches to the feminist movement, which they thanked for its drive and work. More critical was Mireia Vehí, from the CUP, who lamented the lack of opportunity to improve certain aspects of the norm. “It leaves everything in the hands of the Penal Code,” she said, a statement that Castañón later refuted, which alluded to measures that address health, action protocols or education. Vehí mentioned the phenomenon of pricks to women and the sexual terror that it tries to instill: “It is urgent to treat masculinity from a feminist perspective.”

The strongest criticism came from the right. The PP deputy Marta González assured that the law generates insecurity while she criticized that it would not serve so that the investigation of whether or not there was consent does not fall on the victim. However, she did not object to the protection and reparation system because it is similar to the one already contemplated by the 2004 Law on Gender Violence. From Vox, Carla Toscano used racism and attacks on feminism to criticize the law. “Let’s see if the feminist thing is that you have to close the door in the face of people who come to Spain to attack women,” said Toscano, who has come to affirm that the rule of ‘only yes is yes’ “criminalizes to one race, the white. Her racist comments have made the ERC deputy María Carvalho Dantas ask the president of the Chamber, Meritxell Batet, to withdraw her.

The rights have already tried to overthrow the norm: when its process began in Congress, PP and Vox presented amendments to the entirety, which did not go ahead due to lack of support.

24-hour service centers

The new law unfolds a framework of measures with which it intends to launch a care model similar to the one that began with the Comprehensive Law on Gender Violence in 2004 but, in this case, for victims of sexual violence. On the one hand, the rule implies a change in the Penal Code so that consent is at the center of the classification of crimes of sexual violence: abuse disappears and, therefore, the need to prove that there has been violence or intimidation to classify the crime as sexual assault. Now, any act without consent will be considered sexual assault. There will also have to be specialized courts.

On the other hand, it also unfolds a whole itinerary of attention and reparation for those who suffer sexual violence. It establishes, for example, the creation of a network of service centers open 24 hours every day of the year. The goal is for there to be at least one per province by 2023, although they currently only exist in Madrid and Asturias. The Government has already transferred two lines of credit to the communities so that they can start them up, money that comes from the European recovery funds.

As already happens in the case of gender-based violence, denouncing it will not be essential to be able to access the rights and aid provided by law, nor to be accredited as a victim. It will serve with a report from Social Services, health or specialized centers.

Hours before the debate, the Minister of Equality, Irene Montero, assured in the courtyard of Congress that this Thursday was a “day of victory”: “Finally our country recognizes that consent is what has to be at the center of all intercourse. No woman will have to prove that there has been intimidation or violence for her assault to be recognized.” Montero has also highlighted the implementation of comprehensive care and reparation itineraries for women who suffer sexual violence. “The cry of ‘only if it’s yes’ and ‘sister, I do believe you’ becomes law. I want to thank the entire feminist movement and all the victims of sexual violence who have fought so that the Government can take this step and we can say that ‘only yes is yes’ also in our laws”, she remarked.



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