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Spain moves to toughen sex assault laws after ‘Wolf-Pack’ scandal

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By Alasdair Sandford
Spain moves to toughen sex assault laws after ‘Wolf-Pack’ scandal
Copyright  REUTERS/Marcelo del Pozo/File Photo

Spain’s socialist government is planning to introduce legislation that would require consent to be explicit.

Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo says the proposals are inspired by a new law introduced in Sweden, which makes it clear that any sexual act without explicit consent is treated as rape.

“If a woman does not say ‘yes’ explicitly, that means ‘no’,” Calvo – who is also Minister for Equality – told a parliamentary commission on Tuesday.

The development follows a scandal over a court ruling in the so-called “La Manada” (“Wolf-Pack” case). A group of five men were convicted of sexual abuse but cleared of rape after assaulting an 18-year-old woman at the Pamplona bull-running San Fermin festival in 2016.

The judges’ verdicts were based on cellphone videos in which the victim was not seen to be objecting. Under Spanish law, an assault must involve “intimidation” or “violence” to be considered as rape.

A public outcry and street protests over the case were repeated last month, when the five were released on bail pending appeals against their nine-year jail terms.

“We cannot return to a situation where, via an interpretation, what is understood to be a serious crime against women is not considered as such,” said Carmen Calvo.

Spain is not alone in Europe in – until now – not recognising sex without consent as rape. The countries which do are Belgium, Cyprus, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, the UK and now Sweden.