By Sonia Elks
LONDON, July 18 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Spain is to introduce a new rape law that will criminalise sex without explicit mutual consent after a public outcry over the assault of a young woman at the Pamplona bull-running festival.
Five men were cleared of gang-raping the 18-year-old woman during the 2016 festival and convicted of the lesser crime of sexual abuse, in part because the victim reportedly remained silent during the attack.
"If she says no, it means no; and if she does not say yes, it also means no," Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez told parliament as he made the pledge on Monday, according the El Pais website.
The proposed legislation is aimed at removing ambiguity in rape cases, and is similar to a law that recently came into force in Sweden.
It means Spain will join a small number of countries, including Britain and Canada, where lack of consent in sex is considered a crime without the need to show threats or physical violence.
An Amnesty spokesman said the rights group was "very happy to hear about the announcement in Spain and the government's willingness to recognise in law that sex without consent is rape".
Virginia Gil, director of Spain's Aspacia Foundation, which campaigns against violence, gave the move a cautious welcome, but said a lack of detail made it hard to know whether it would be effective in protecting victims.
"It will be a step forward if there is a comprehensive treatment of this kind of violence," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Gil said a package of measures was needed, including more action on violence prevention and steps to ensure social and legal support for victims.
At present, the country's law says the crime of sexual aggression or rape includes specific violence, such as threatening the victim with a knife or dealing physical blows.
The Pamplona case involved five men, including a former police officer and a former soldier, who later joked about the incident on a Whatsapp group called "The Wolf Pack".
A Spanish court handed the men nine-year sentences, but they were released in June pending appeals, bringing the case back to the headlines and prompting further protests.
(Reporting by Sonia Elks, Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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