Spain’s new sexual consent law reduces sentences for nearly 800 sex offenders

Spain’s new sexual consent law reduces sentences for nearly 800 sex offenders

Socialist Party scrambling to reform bill

By Alyssa McMurtry

OVIEDO, Spain (AA) - Spain’s judicial body said Thursday that 721 sex offenders have seen their sentences reduced and 74 of them have been released from prison since the country enacted a new sexual consent law in October.

Known as the “only yes means yes law,” the pioneering legal reform aims to ensure consent in sexual relations and removes the need for victims to prove that violence or intimidation were used in a sexual assault.

When it was passed, the law was celebrated by Spain’s progressive left-wing government as a huge leap forward for women’s rights.

In practice, however, the law created consequences that caught the government off guard.

In removing the need for victims to prove that violence was used, it reduced minimum sentences, something that has benefited nearly 800 rapists and sex offenders of the 1,572 who have asked to have their sentences revised.

In February, Spain’s Socialist Party announced that it would try to reform the bill, causing deep rifts with the junior coalition party Unidas Podemos, which has stood by the law.

The head of Unidas Podemos originally blamed judges for reducing the sentences, saying they were using “sexist and patriarchal” approaches.

On Wednesday, Spanish Equality Minister Irene Montero, a member of Unidas Podemos, recognized the need to “respond to the victims” affected by the legal change.

“We have to be able to respond because I understand that these sentence reductions are causing concern, but that doesn’t mean the law was poorly designed,” she said in an interview with TV3.

“The main problem we have in this country isn’t reducing someone’s sentence by six months. The main problem is that the majority of sex offenders haven’t set foot in a police station or courtroom in their lives,” she added.

Given the division with its coalition partner, the Socialist Party is currently scrambling to find other parties to support the reform of the “only yes means yes law.”

Meanwhile, conservative Popular Party leader Alberto Nunez Feijoo has accused the government of setting back the women’s movement and is vowing to revoke the bill if elected in national polls this year.

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