MADRID – The clash between Spain’s ruling coalition parties, PSOE and Unidas Podemos, over the ‘only yes is yes’ law, has reached a critical point on the eve of International Women’s Day on March 8.
PSOE presented the reform, but Unidas Podemos announced it would vote against it. The parties appear to disagree on the amendments. The reason for the reform is that the Council for the Judiciary has revealed that the application of the current law has led to a reduced sentence for 721 perpetrators of assault and the release of 74 criminals.
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Therefore, the PSOE considers the law flawed and wants to eliminate “undesirable effects”, while Unidas Podemos disagrees. The purple party maintains that the law is sound, but that its misapplication by some judges is the problem. The tension between the two parties is emphasised as they both support feminism.
Gender equality in decision-making bodies
The government has also stated that it intends to introduce a bill for gender equality in decision-making bodies such as boards of directors of major companies and the Council of Ministers. The PSOE has stressed that “all progress towards gender equality has always had the stamp of the PSOE” and that “there is no socialism without feminism and no feminism without socialism”.
“Betrayal of Feminist Movement”
However, Podemos warns that if the PSOE joins “the right and the extreme right” in pushing through the reform of the ‘Solo si es si’ law, the party will take a “step back” on women’s rights. That would be a “betrayal of the feminist movement”.
Undesirable effects of the law
The PSOE is trying to remove the “undesirable effects” of the ‘only yes is yes’ law, which came into effect in October 2020. The continuous reduction of sentences since the introduction of the law is of great concern to the party. The law stated that any sexual act without explicit consent would be considered rape. The PSOE is now trying to establish violence and harassment as an aggravated sub-type, reintroducing some of the previous punishments. The party denies that this would jeopardise the current law and is only trying to make “normative adjustments” to address problems with the law.
However, Unidas Podemos rejects the proposal, fearing it would lead to “the victim having to prove violence to prove aggression”.
Government under pressure
Speeches on the eve of International Women’s Day were dominated by the pre-election atmosphere. The government is under pressure to deliver results for the feminist movement. While the parties are at odds, the government has vowed to continue working for gender equality.
PSOE Secretary for Equality Andrea Fernandez said the priority is to protect the victims let down by the current law. Therefore, the government hopes to reach an agreement to reform the law and bring justice to victims of sexual assault.