Congress approves the sexual freedom law that enshrines the 'only if it is yes'

The feminist cry filled the streets after the rape committed by the five members of 'the herd' in the Sanfermines of 2016 and inspired the law to which Congress has given the green light this Thursday. The Organic Law for the Comprehensive Guarantee of Sexual Freedom, known as the 'only yes is yes' law, picked up the gauntlet of “it's not abuse, it's rape” that women cried out in the face of the legal vicissitudes of the case. And today, more than two years after the start of the process and after a rough final phase that was about to frustrate him due to the dissent on prostitution, the text has been backed by a large majority, with the only votes against being PP and Vox and the abstention of the CUP.

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Although it is not yet the final approval and must now go through the Senate, no relevant changes or ups and downs are expected that will once again jeopardize one of the key projects of the Government, which has garnered 201 votes in favor, 140 against and three abstentions. The law converts any sexual act without consent into sexual assault and designs a comprehensive framework of measures for victims in the style of the one that already exists for those of gender-based violence since 2004. In Spain, a sexual assault is reported every four hours, but it is calculated that under the tip of the iceberg there are at least 400,000 incidents a year.

The rule has been waiting. Six years have passed since the rape occurred in Pamplona, ​​which opened an unprecedented debate in our country on the regulation of sexual crimes and more than two years since Irene Montero first brought to the Council of Ministers the initial version of the law. The coronavirus pandemic had not even broken out then. Along the way, the negotiation between the ministries and the delay of the advisory bodies in issuing their reports lengthened the process, which was also prolonged with the debate of the more than 400 amendments presented by the groups.

A paradigm shift

“Today is a very important day for women in our country. The 'only yes is yes' and the 'sister I do believe you' finally becomes law. We are going to change violence for freedom and fear for desire. Spain is from today a freer and safer country for all women", said the Minister of Equality before recalling the moment in which sexual violence "came out of darkness and loneliness" through movements such as #MeToo or the #Tell it. Montero has focused on the fact that it is "a decisive step to change the sexual culture of the country" and move "from the culture of rape" to that of "consent".

The case of 'the herd' worked as a catalyst for thousands of women to break the silence about the sexual violence they suffered and helped denounce their revictimization and put the focus on justice and the Penal Code, which the law reforms. The goal is to inaugurate a paradigm shift online with what is required by the Istanbul Convention: sexual abuse will cease to exist; any act without consent will be considered sexual assault (with an attenuated type taking into account the less seriousness of the act and also several aggravating circumstances). This implies that it will no longer be necessary to prove violence and intimidation, which is the condition that is now required for sexual assaults, and which is often interpreted strictly by the courts.

The rule aims to inaugurate a before and after in Spain's treatment of sexual violence. It incorporates a definition of consent and tries to consecrate the 'only yes is yes' to judge them: silence is not a yes, if there is no clear expression of the will to have sexual relations, there is no consent and the absence of will or movement, does not mean that there is.

The prostitution debate

The law has garnered some objections from the Government's partners and several parties have lamented that some of their demands have been left out. Bel Pozueta, from Bildu, has criticized "the punitivism that runs through it" and Joseba Agirretxea, PNV deputy, "its centralizing tone", but in general, the debate in the plenary session has been marked by good words towards the law, which “It will come to provide the protection” that women like Nagore Laffage or the victim of 'the herd' “didn't have”, recalled Pozueta. For her part, Pilar Valluguera, from ERC, has defined it as "paradigmatic" and of "extraordinary importance".

Although the two articles relating to prostitution they were finally left out, the subject has occupied much of the debate. The CUP has abstained, considering that the inclusion of the amendment that declares illegal advertising about prostitution has meant the breaking of the agreement to leave this issue out of the norm, while parties such as the PNV, ERC, Bildu or Ciudadanos, who already claimed it at the beginning, have celebrated that the debate, which divides the parties, takes place in a different frame.

The one that has spent a good part of its time in the gallery to lament the withdrawal of these articles from the law is the PSOE, has submitted a bill with the aspects of pimping and locative third parties that generated so much debate. “It is a law that falls short because we do not respond to all forms of sexual violence. A law that guarantees sexual freedom should not leave out the victims of prostitution”, assured the deputy Laura Berja before receiving a long applause from the socialist group, which has committed itself to the abolition of prostitution.

The deputy of the Popular Party Marta González has also criticized that "there is not a single reference to prostitution" in the rule. However, the criticism did not stop there. The popular ones, who presented an amendment to the entire text and have voted against it, consider that it is a "biased" law and do not share one of its central issues: the elimination of sexual abuse. Vox, for its part, has deployed its usual discourse denying sexist violence: "The soul of the law is hatred of man", its spokesperson Carla Toscano has come to say.

The measures of the law

The objective of the regulation is that sexual violence, which disproportionately affects women, is considered a social and structural problem, as was the case with the Comprehensive Law against Gender Violence of 2004 and, in the same way, become a central part of public policies. To do this, it deploys a range of measures in all areas, including the continuous specialization of all legal operators or the creation of a network of 24-hour comprehensive care centers for which the Government has already enabled credits for the communities.

It also contemplates public prevention and awareness policies, sexual education in the classroom and protocols to prevent and detect this violence. There are some measures that have been included in this last phase of the negotiation between the parties, among them, the declaration of advertising on prostitution as illegalthe reform of the 2004 law to guarantee "stable financing" of the State Pact against Gender Violence or the obligation for political parties and social organizations to have protocols against sexual violence.

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