Spain's govt moves ahead with reforms to backfiring sexual consent law

Conor Faulkner
Conor Faulkner - [email protected]
Spain's govt moves ahead with reforms to backfiring sexual consent law
Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez in July 2022. Photo: Pierre-Philippe MARCOU/AFP.

Spain's fraught sexual consent law, which has caused the release of over 100 sexual offenders and reduced the sentences of almost 1,000, is being reformed despite divisions within government. Here are the main changes. 


Spain's 'Solo sí es sí' (Only yes means yes) law, which has caused uproar across the country after it lead to the release and reduction in sentences for sex offenders, is to be reformed with cross party support but division within the governing coalition.

The amendments have been approved by the Spanish Justice Commission and now await a final vote in the Spanish Parliament.

The changes are supported by both Pedro Sánchez's Socialists (PSOE) and the main opposition party Partido Popular (PP).

The law, which was spearheaded by Equalities Minister and Podemos member Irene Montero, has caused friction between the governing PSOE-Podemos coalition, and the fact that these changes are supported by PP but not by Podemos, as well as other smaller leftist groups including ERC and Bildu, brings those divisions to the forefront again.

PP, PNV and Junts all support the changes, while far-right Vox abstained. There will be a vote in the Spanish Congress on Thursday 19th April.


The consent law, which came into force in October 2022, has led to 103 offenders being released from prison, as well as 943 having their sentences reduced, according to sources from the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ) speaking to Spanish outlet 20minutos.

Put simply, the 'only yes means yes' law effectively removed the legal distinction between sexual abuse and rape. That is to say, by grouping rape and abuse together, the law has widened the range of potential penalties for both crimes.

In Spain changes to laws must be applied retroactively, meaning that all defendants sentenced with the old minimum penalty are now within their legal rights to request a review of their sentences because, if they had been sentenced under the current law, it could have plausibly been lower.


The PSOE-led amendments to the legislation aim to increase minimum sentences in order to try and prevent retroactive reductions and releases, as well as overturning a number of clauses in the original bill that had inadvertently decriminalised certain offences. 

Here are the main changes:

Minimum sentences: The headline amendment is an increase in minimum sentences in order to prevent reductions and releases being retroactively applied.

The main change revolves around the distinctions between offences and types of sexual assaults with or without violence. Whereas the original law grouped types of abuse and aggression together, the PSOE-led changes introduce the following range of sentences.

Non-penetrative sexual assault without violence or intimidation will warrant between 1 and 4 years, whereas with penetration the penalty will now be between 4 and 12 years.

For sexual assaults with violence or intimidation, the sentences will now be between 1 and 5 years and between 6 and 12 years in prison.


Sexual assaults on minors: The reforms also create a new section on sexual assaults of children which also bolsters mimimim sentences. Offences without violence and intimidation go from 6 to 12 years to 8 to 12 years, and with violence and intimidation from 10-15 years to 12-15 years in prison.

'Degrading treatment': One of the amendments proposed by PP and supported by PSOE is to overturn the decriminalisation (made "by mistake" in the previous law) of the responsibility "of the legal person for inflicting degrading treatment on another person."

Distribution or public dissemination of pornography: The "distribution or public dissemination" of pornography that incites sexual aggression against minors under 16 years of age is also re-criminalised as part of the changes.


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