Feminist groups and jurists protest oytside the Ministry of Justice against the reform of the law of 'only yes is yes' promoted by the PSOE, which is being processed this week in Congress, in Madrid, 19 April 2023. EFE/ Borja Sánchez-Trillo

Spanish Parliament raises prison sentences under ‘Only Yes means Yes’ law

Madrid, Apr 26 (EFE).- The Spanish Parliament on Wednesday approved raising prison sentences for sexual assault crimes when the victim suffers violence or intimidation.

The reform to the sexual freedom law – known as the “only yes means yes” (‘solo si es si’) law – comes after months of heated debate in Spain and has caused a rift between the Socialist Party (PSOE) and Unidas Podemos (UP), the two leftist parties in the coalition government.

The Senate (upper house) endorsed the modification of the sexual freedom law  after the change had been passed by Congress.

The Minister for Equality, Irene Montero, participates in the event “Did you consent or not? Only yes is yes”, organized by Podemos, in Madrid, 5 February 2023. EFE/ Sergio Perez

The legislative change was tabled by the PSOE, the majority party in the governing coalition, which needed the Conservative opposition People’s Party (PP) to vote in favor for it to pass. Only 19 MPs voted against, 232 senators voted in favor, and four abstained. The UP, which had pushed for the law, voted against the reform.

The PP voted in favor and again called for the resignation of the Equality Minister Irene Montero (UP).

The reform comes just seven months since the law came into force last October.

The sexual freedom law, which was intended to increase protection for women, has inadvertently led to hundreds of sex offenders having their sentences reduced, with some convicts being released early from prison.

Prime minister Pedro Sánchez speaks during the plenary session of the Senate in Madrid, 25 April 2023. EFE / Kiko Huesca

This month, prime minister Pedro Sanchez apologized for the loophole, saying that “no lawmaker, even those who voted against this law, is in favor of reducing sentences.”

The legislative change approved on Wednesday can only be applied to sex offenders who are sentenced after the reform comes into force.

UP voted against the reform because it believes that it puts the idea of “consent” in sexual relations being a determining factor in whether a crime has been committed at risk.

The sexual freedom law establishes that any sexual relation without free and clear consent is considered assault, even if there is no explicit violence or intimidation. EFE