A loophole in what is supposed to be a stronger rape law has let some offenders off with reduced sentences
Spain is reviewing its strict new 'yes means yes' rape laws after several court rulings saw at least 15 convicted sex offenders receive lesser sentences, judicial authorities told the press earlier this week. Four walked free entirely.
The law classifies any non-consensual sex as rape, while previously the use of force or threats was necessary to merit that charge. It imposes stricter punishments for gang rape and drugging, and classifies catcalling and street harassment as crimes rather than misdemeanors.
However, it also reduces both maximum and minimum sentences for cases that do not involve violence or intimidation, offenses previously classified under the lesser heading of "sexual abuse."
As a result, hundreds of convicted sex offenders have applied to have their sentences reduced since the legislation took effect last month. In one case, a teacher who paid for sex with his pupils was released after his sentence was reduced. A man sentenced to eight years in prison for sexually abusing his 13-year-old stepdaughter had his sentence reduced to six years.
"After some sentences that were handed down, I think that this issue needs to be studied," Treasury Minister Maria Jesus Montero told the Senate on Tuesday. "Because obviously, it was not the objective of the law that the sentences for child abuse could be lowered. Quite the opposite."
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has defended the new law, reminding critics that it was meant to "give more guarantees to women in the face of any kind of sexual aggression" and urging patience. "Let's wait to see what the courts and prosecutors say about this," he told the media on Wednesday. The Supreme Court will rule on several cases related to the new law in the next month.
The law was adopted in response to what were widely perceived as overly lenient sentences handed down to five men convicted of gang-raping an 18-year-old woman at the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona in 2016. They were convicted of the lesser crime of sexual abuse rather than rape and sentenced to nine years in prison, triggering protests across the country. The court ultimately overturned that verdict in 2019, convicting them of rape and sentencing them to 15 years. Their lawyer has confirmed he plans to seek a sentencing reduction for one of them.