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Rape Sentencing in Spain Gives Women Hope

Spain’s Supreme Court has finally sentenced five men to fifteen years in prison for raping a woman during the running of the bulls festival in Pamplona three years ago. The festival is a popular tourist attraction that involves participants trying to dodge bulls in the street on the way to the bullfighting ring. This decision is considered a landmark case for women’s rights in the country.

The men charged had originally tried to present the victim as a consenting sexual partner who suffered no lasting damage. However, the court ruled that the woman, who was 18 at the time, had an “attitude of submission” only because she was intimidated and couldn’t escape from the men.

The decision overruled those made by the lower courts that found the men guilty of sexual abuse instead of rape. Sexual abuse is seen differently in Spain and is defined as not involving violence or intimidation. The initial nine-year sentence for each of the men led to mass protests across the country. A debate then opened up about whether the court system was biased against women in cases of sexual assault after one of the judges believed that the men shouldn’t be charged with anything except stealing the woman’s cellphone.

The Supreme Court stated that the woman “at no point consented to the sexual acts carried out by the accused.” Since the beginning of the trial, the men have referred to themselves as a “manada,” a term often used to describe a wolf pack. This has angered women’s rights groups, but they see the Supreme Court’s ruling as a step forward for women in Spain who would like to report a rape or assault but are intimidated.

Inmaculada Montalban, a judge and former president of a legal committee that fights gender violence, is happy to see a stricter ruling. “In my view, the credibility of the judicial system has increased,” she said.

The initial assault occurred in July 2016, when the five men attacked the woman in the early morning hours, using their phones to film the assault.

The men had been in prison for two years before being released in June 2018. They were ordered to give up their passports and report to court three times a week until the case had been reviewed by the Supreme Court. While most of the men are serving 15 years, one man, a police officer, is serving 17 years for stealing the victim’s cellphone.

The Pamplona wolf pack’s lawyers didn’t immediately comment on the final outcome, yet throughout the trial they maintained that the victim should have just said “No” and insisted that the men had not been given the right to a fair appeal because of the mass protests and pressure from society.

Several politicians have approved the Supreme Court’s ruling, including Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez who said that, “Spain continues to make progress in protecting the rights and freedoms of women — and will not stop. Because we believed her, we believe you. Because we want you alive, free, without fear.”

Featured Image by paul.hartrick on Flickr.

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