Rape law designed for progress?

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Spain is changing their rape laws. Pedro Sanchez has told parliament his centre-left government will introduce a new law on sexual consent to reduce ‘ambiguities’ in rape cases.

Under Spain’s new law, Consent will have to be explicit ‘ Yes means yes and anything else means no’. Sex without explicit consent would, therefore, be deemed as rape.

A recent case which has brought the ‘ambiguities’ of rape cases to the public attention. Is the La Manada (wolfpack) verdict. The (wolfpack) case included five men accused of gang-raping an 18-year-old woman. The three judges delivered a verdict clearing the five defendants of rape but sentenced them with the lesser offence of sexual abuse.

This verdict sparked outrage across the country, with protests against the ‘lenient’ verdict occurring throughout the country. For many of the protesters, their outrage was not purely based upon the verdict of the (wolfpack) case. Rather, protesters denounced what they call a patriarchal judiciary amid signs reading ‘ Do we have to die to prove rape?’.

However, the (wolfpack) acquittal was in line with Spanish legislation. ‘whoever offends against the sexual freedom of another person, using violence or intimidation, shall be punished for sexual assault (rape) with a sentence of imprisonment from one to five years’. The three judges did not believe violence or intimidation has taken place.

Two out of the five men filmed the assault. The 18-year-old women can be seen to be silent and passive. This is what the judges interpreted as ‘consent’. one judge even claimed that what had taken place was consensual sex. adding these events had occurred in a general ‘ atmosphere of fun’.

Patrica faral do cabann, a law professor from the University of A Coruna, who helped draft the law, said the proposal understood consent not just as something verbal but also, as expressed in body language.

The new law will now mean that prosecutors will no longer have to prove violence occurred, or that the victim was in a vulnerable situation in order to establish rape.

Sweden has recently passed very similar legislation to what Spain is proposing. However, the Swedish bar association has said the changes were not going to lead to more convictions. Anne Ramberg, Secretary General added ‘the new legislation has not lowered the burden of proof since the prosecutor has to prove that a crime was committed and they will have to prove consent’.

On the 1st of July when Sweden’s new rape legislation became established. They became only the 10th nation to recognise sex without consent as rape. For me, this is a shocking reality.

According to Euronews, ‘About 215,000 violent sexual crimes were recorded by the police in the European Union (EU) in 2015’. ‘A third (80,000) were rapes. I personally find these statistics interesting. The term ‘violent’ is used to describe the sexual offences recorded. Thinking back to Spain’s (wolfpack) case how many similar cases have been downgraded across the EU because there was not a ‘violent’ element involved. Spain’s new law could go some way to changing views on rape.

However worryingly, according to Eurostat, Police in England and Wales recorded the highest number of violent sexual offences (64,500, of which 35,800 were rapes).

It is important to note that different nations record their data differently.

However, again I find this statistic interesting. England and Wales do consider sex without consent as rape. For me, Spain’s new law is a positive for their citizens, however, will not, in my opinion, change their rape convictions. Having a law in place does not necessarily alter an individuals behaviour if they feel the act they are committing is justifiable.

Figures have been published in a report commissioned by the European Union into gender-based violence. Researchers asked 30,000 citizens of different EU countries whether they thought forcing someone to have sex against their will is acceptable. The Independent concluded that ’27 per cent of respondents across the EU thought forced sexual intercourse was acceptable in at least one set up circumstance’. ‘12% said it was acceptable if the victim had taken drink or drugs, 11% said it was acceptable if the victim voluntarily went home with someone and 10% said it was acceptable if they did not fight back.

For rape figures to be brought considerably down. I feel more EU nations need to follow Spain and join the other 10 nations which now consider sex without consent as rape. There are too many inconsistencies with how rape is viewed across the EU. This leaves what is rape and what isn’t open to interpretation.

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