Spanish government backtracks on sexual consent law – POLITICO

MADRID — The Spanish government is working to close a loophole in a law it introduced that has inadvertently led to reduced prison sentences for sex offenders and created new tensions between left-wing coalition partners .

The Sexual Freedom Guarantee Act – also known as the Only Yes Means Yes Act – means that it is no longer necessary to show that violence or intimidation was used in a sexual assault. Introduced in October, it aims to favor the victims of such attacks and guarantee consent in sexual relations.

However, the legislation allowed over 200 convicted sex offenders to have their prison terms reduced, and many of them were released, as a broader definition of sexual assault introduced into the law led to a reduction in minimum sentences.

After months of pressure from the opposition, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez of the Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) said the government planned to review the law to close the loophole. Government spokeswoman Isabel Rodríguez of the PSOE said the law needed “technical adjustments”.

But the PSOE’s junior coalition partner Unidas Podemos (UP), which controls the Equality Ministry which has been the driving force behind the legislation, has resisted such a change. He insists that the law is technically sound and that the reduction of sentences is the fault of the socially conservative magistrates.

“When a new law comes into force that brings about a major change…it takes time to work and of course there are judges who continue to apply a sexist and patriarchal approach and they do not apply the law correctly”, says Ione Belarra, Minister of Social Rights of the UP. She claimed that the PSOE’s “legs are shaking” on the matter.

Meanwhile, the wave of sentence reductions continues to draw heavy criticism from the right-wing opposition.

Conservative People’s Party (PP) leader Alberto Núñez Feijóo said Sánchez “will go down in history as someone who brought the feminist struggle back to Spain”.

There has also been criticism from senior PSOE officials, such as Emiliano García-Page, president of the Castilla-La Mancha region, who asked: “How many sentences [reductions] must there be in front of someone in the [Equality] The ministry that promoted the law is starting to think it may have made a mistake? »

Despite its public reluctance to review the law, the UP is discussing with the PSOE legal formulas to end the trend of sentence reductions – for example, by again increasing prison terms for sex offenders. However, UP is concerned that the changes to the law proposed by its partner could undermine the notion of consent enshrined in the legislation. Sánchez hinted that his party would seek parliamentary support elsewhere – perhaps even from the opposition PP – if an agreement was not reached.

It is the latest in a series of issues over which the PSOE and the UP have clashed since the formation of Spain’s first modern-era coalition government in 2020. The supply of weapons to Ukraine, transgender legislation and the monarchy have all generated tension between them. in the past, but this crisis is particularly damaging.

“It’s part of an ongoing rivalry – sometimes explicit, sometimes less so – between the PSOE and the UP for control of the feminist question,” said Pablo Simón, a political scientist at Carlos III University in Madrid.

“Clearly this is very bad for the government,” he added. “The reduction in sentences for sex offenders as a result of this law impacts the electoral prospects of the left in general.”

Although the coalition should survive this latest storm, its political impact could soon be felt, with regional and municipal elections in May and general elections by the end of the year.


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