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Spain declares that ‘only yes means yes,’ thanks to its 34-year-old equality minister

August 26, 2022, 11:57 AM UTC
Spain's equality minister Irene Montero at the Congress of Deputies on Thursday, as the country passed legislation redefining consent.
Alejandro Martinez Velez—Europa Press via Getty Images

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! The head of F1 thinks it would take a meteor to get a woman on that race track, Nasdaq has competing interests when it comes to climate change disclosures, and only yes means yes in Spain. Have a restful weekend.

– Yes means yes. In Spain, it’s now law that “only yes means yes.” The country’s congress yesterday passed legislation declaring that consent for sexual activity must be affirmative; silence or lack of objection is not enough.

The legislation stems from a horrific tragedy. In 2016, five men raped an 18-year-old at Pamplona’s bull-running festival. During the men’s trial, their attorney argued that a video of the victim—in which her eyes were closed and she was immobile—was proof of consent.

Originally, the five attackers in the “wolf pack” case were convicted of sexual abuse, a lesser charge than rape, because they didn’t use another form of physical violence during the assault. In addition to redefining consent, the new law makes clear that lack of consent, not dramatic violence, is the defining factor in a charge of rape.

Thirty-four-year-old Spanish equality minister Irene Montero was a driving force behind the legislation. “It’s a victorious day after many years of struggle,” she told the Guardian. “From now on no woman will have to prove that violence or intimidation was used for it to be recognized for what it is.”

Spain’s equality minister Irene Montero at the Congress of Deputies on Thursday, as the country passed legislation redefining consent.
Alejandro Martinez Velez—Europa Press via Getty Images

Montero’s Equality Ministry has been particularly active lately. The branch earlier this summer debuted an ad campaign urging Spanish women to visit the beach with the tagline “all bodies are beach bodies”—although that campaign faced backlash for doctoring images and featuring some women without their permission. The ministry helped push through landmark legislation on transgender rights in Spain about a year ago and helped increase paternity leave for new fathers to 16 weeks.

Of all these efforts, this week’s legislation may be among the most impactful yet. The victim of the 2016 attack remains anonymous, but her mother shared a statement: “This law is the result of the bravery, perseverance and dignity of a girl who knew how she wanted to live without being judged by anyone.”

Emma Hinchliffe

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