Five men accused of raping a 14-year-old girl have been acquitted by a Barcelona court, prompting outrage around the world and a planned protest in Manresa, Spain this weekend. The court ruled that because she was ‘unconscious’ the act was not rape.
Under Spanish law, there are two charges for ‘offending the sexual freedom of another’, sexual assault and sexual abuse. Sexual assault includes rape and carries a heavier sentence, however it must include violence or intimidation. Sexual abuse on the other hand is considered a lesser crime with a lighter sentence.
In this case, the five men were charged with sexual abuse because they did not need to use violence to rape the victim – since she was unconscious. The horrific verdict means the men face 10 to 12 years in prison as oppose to 15 to 20 were they actually convicted or rape.
‘I am not a judge and I do not know how many years in prison they deserve, what I do know is that it is not abuse, it is rape,’ Barcelona's Mayor Ada Colau tweeted in response to the news.
The case has prompted outrage and further scrutiny of Spain’s flawed rape laws. Because, not only have women’s rights organisations argued there was intimidation used in the case – thereby making it eligible for a rape conviction - but the fact you have to prove violence or intimidation at all to convict for rape is hugely problematic.
Now, activists are calling for a protest against the court decision in Manresa on Saturday, at 1pm local time. Many have taken to social media to protest using the hashtags JusticiaPatriarcal (Patriarchal Justice) and NoEsAbusoEsViolacion (It's not abuse it's rape).
The case has become known as the Manresa Wolf Pack (Manada de Manresa) because of its similarities to a 2016 attack that initially caused investigation into Spain’s laws around rape. The original wolf pack case made the news when five men were convicted of sexual abuse after they dragged an 18-year-old women into a residential building before raping her.
Since the police report recalled her appearing ‘passive or neutral’, the men were not charged with rape. The decision was overturned by the Spanish Supreme Court this year when the men’s convictions were upgraded to sexual assault and their sentences increased to 15 years.
Despite the ongoing review into Spain’s rape law, cases like this prove an immediate need to change the flawed definition of rape. Last year, Sweden changed their laws to redefine rape as sex without consent – as Denmark is currently doing the same. It’s time the rest of the world followed that lead.