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CRIME

‘Only yes means yes’: Spain moves to tighten consent laws against rape

Spain's cabinet approved a draft bill on Tuesday that strengthens the country's laws against rape by requiring explicit consent for sex acts, a move long demanded by assault survivors and women's rights groups.

'Only yes means yes': Spain moves to tighten consent laws against rape
Demonstrators shout slogans in Pamplona in 2018 during a protest against the acquittal of the 'wolf pack' rapists. Photo: Ander Guillenea/AFP

The proposed law “makes clear that silence or passivity do not mean consent, or that not showing opposition can not be an excuse to act against the will of the other person,” government spokeswoman María Jesús Montero told a news conference after the cabinet meeting.

The measure comes in the wake of the notorious 2016 gang rape of an 18-year-old woman by five men at a bull-running festival in Pamplona in northern Spain that shocked the country.

The men, who called themself “the wolf pack”, were initially only convicted of sexual abuse instead of the more serious offence of sexual assault which includes rape, since the court found no proof that they had used physical violence.

Two of the men filmed the assault, during which the woman is silent and passive — a fact the judges interpreted as consent.

The ruling highlighted how under Spain’s existing criminal code, rape must involve violence and intimidation, and it led to noisy demonstrations across the country to demand reform.

Dubbed the “only yes means yes” law, the bill will define rape as sex without clear consent, mirroring pioneering legislation which came into force in Sweden in 2018.

READ MORE:

Spain: All sexual acts that don’t begin with a ‘yes’ deemed illegal

The bill also proposes jail penalties for work-related sexual harassment and makes catcalling — sexually harassing a stranger in the street — a criminal offence for the first time.

It also qualifies forced marriage and genital mutilation as criminal offences and stiffens laws against pimping.

The bill still must be approved by parliament, with a vote expected in the chamber in September.

Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez heads a minority government but he is expected to cobble together enough support from smaller regional parties to pass the bill.

Spain is considered a pioneer in the fight against violence against women after it in 2004 approved Europe’s first law that specifically cracked down on domestic violence.

That law made the victim’s gender an aggravating factor in cases of assault.

Only about a dozen European nations have changed their legal definition of rape as sex without consent, according to Amnesty International.

They include Belgium, Denmark, Germany and Ireland.

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LIFE IN SPAIN

Is Spain going cashless?

Card payments are on the rise in Spain, but many Spaniards still use cash in their day-to-day life. Scandinavian countries are heading in the digital direction, but could Spain ever go cashless?

Is Spain going cashless?

¿Con tarjeta? is something you asked a lot in Spanish shops and bars, and according to recent statistics, it’s on the up.

Card payments increased by 23.56 percent in Spain during the second quarter of 2022, according to data from the Bank of Spain.

Card payment transactions have been steadily rising in Spain since the start of COVID-19 pandemic because physical money – especially coins – were considered unsanitary.

This is part of the reason why both the rise in the number of card transactions (23.56 percent) and in the amount paid for on card (25.05 percent) have reached record highs.

The number of cards in circulation has also risen by 1.44 percent to 87.9 million, meaning there are almost double the amount of bank cards than there are people in Spain.

In perhaps what might allude to the current cost of living crisis, credit cards have increased by 7.1 percent, and debit cards fallen by 2.95 percent. 

Cash withdrawals also increased by 2.37 percent in the second quarter, with 170.8 million ATM withdrawals across Spain.

Still, that figure is far lower than the pre-pandemic figure, when a staggering 900 million cash withdrawal operations were registered in 2019.

Despite the underlying trend towards digital payment, experts believe the shock of inflation and cost of living crisis could cause a short-term uptick in cash payments in Spain as a means of controlling spending.

According to Helena Tejero, a Director from Banco de España, using cash is “a good way to keep the money that comes out of the wallet at bay” and it could become more common as Spaniards tighten their belts in the face of inflation.

READ ALSO: How Spain’s cost of living increase is worse than in France and Germany

Cash only

Card payments may be on the rise, but for many Spaniards cash is still a daily part of their lives.

According to Banco de España, 64 percent of purchases in Spain are paid for in cash.

Around 1 million people in Spain are, according to a Study of Consumer Payment Attitudes in the EuroZone, living in “financial exclusion” where they can only access cash.

This is most common in rural Spain where many villages and hamlets.

The number of ATMs in Spain has also been falling since 2008. According to the Banco de España, there are now 58.4 percent fewer cash points than in 2008, although Spain is still the country with the second highest proportion of ATMs per person in the EuroZone, with 58 cash points for every 100,000 inhabitants.

READ ALSO: Spanish banks’ ATMs are disappearing or being replaced

Cashless future?

Though card payments are rising in Spain, it is still a long way off countries such as Sweden and Norway, which are all but cash-free societies.

READ ALSO: Reader’s story: How I adapted to Sweden’s cashless society

In Sweden card payments (whether its card or mobile phone) make up more than 90 percent of all transactions in the Scandinavian countries. Next-door in Norway, just 3 percent of purchases are made with cash.

Financial experts point to some of the benefits of transitioning to a cashless society, including a reduction in crime as there is physically less money to steal, but also the creation of a more robust and far-reaching digital paper trail, which makes financial crimes such as money laundering more difficult.

On the other hand, many people feel moving away from cash comes with its downsides. For many bank cards and online banking is a steep technological learning curve, it leaves you with no other option in the case of technical issues and, as the Banco de España suggested, for some people the lack of physical cash can make controlling spending more difficult. 

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