The socialist parliamentary group has registered this Monday in Congress the initiative to reform the well-known law of ‘only yes is yes’ and has done so alone after failing to reach an agreement with United We Can. The negotiations between the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Equality lasted throughout the weekend without success, for which the PSOE has given way to the front outside its coalition partner, a scenario that had already been warned by part of Ferraz in case of not reaching a consensus.

Moncloa decided to speed up the deadlines to try to avoid an image of rupture within the Executive on such a sensitive issue. For days now, the departments of Justice – in the hands of the PSOE – and Equality – controlled by Podemos – have been exchanging documents and the technical work intensified at the end of last week, without success. The Justice proposal maintains the current forks (lower than before the ‘yes is yes’) in the general rate. And it adds in each article a higher gradation (similar to that of the previous legislation) for cases in which there is violence, intimidation or annulment of the will. These are concepts that, for the Ministry of Equality, mean modifying the heart of the law because, in their opinion, they affect the basis of consent.

At that point the talks were blocked throughout the past week and, according to negotiating sources, it has been impossible to unravel them. The express request of Pedro Sánchez was to urgently present a technical reform of the law that would allow the Executive to send a message of action in the face of the political crisis that the application of the law has generated, with hundreds of criminal reductions for sexual offenders and including twenty releases.

The parliamentary group has gone to the registry of Congress this Monday morning with its own Proposition of Law and later the spokesperson Patxi López has offered details of it in an appearance before the media, as El País has advanced. The text, to which has had access, includes in its explanatory statement that the reform aims to avoid the “unwanted effect” of an “automatic application” of the minimum sentences within a broader fork and thus enable, that in “serious cases there is no possibility of low sentences.”

What does the proposal say?

The Socialists affirm that their initiative “respects” the model “focused on consent”, which they refer to as the “heart of the norm”, but they defend that it must be shielded “in favor of the victims”. The formula used to prevent “unwanted punctual drops in sentences” is to recover the circumstances of violence, intimidation or annulment of the will as elements that determine the existence of more serious acts and, therefore, with higher sentences.

The initiative justifies that there are “particularly serious modalities” due to the very nature of the conduct —whether due to the use of violence or intimidation or because the victim has his will annulled— that contain a “seriousness comparable to the use of violence or intimidation.” It is not, in his opinion, “aggravating circumstances surrounding the crime, but (…) they are in the conduct itself.”

It is a scheme similar to the one that existed before the ‘yes is yes’ law, although those circumstances were those that were then used to differentiate between the crimes of abuse and aggression, which in the registered text are still merged under the name of aggression. The PSOE Secretary for Equality, Andrea Fernández, stated this Monday at the presentation of the initiative in Congress that “the best way to defend the law is to recognize that it is not working properly.” “We are not going to change the model, consent is not going to be altered,” she asserted.

“The increase in sentences is a political decision and in that you have to have courage, determination and do what has to be done,” the Minister of Justice, Pilar Llop, later stated. In a meeting with journalists, she has accused United We Can of “blurring the problem” which, according to sources in her department, are reductions in sentences that have not been socially accepted. “We build laws, not stories. Judges apply laws, not stories. And what changes people’s lives are the laws, not the stories, ”the head of Justice asserted when asked about her discrepancies with her government partners.

The proposition keeps the current ranges (lower than before ‘yes is yes’) in the general type. And it adds in each article a higher gradation (similar to that of the previous legislation) for cases in which there is violence, intimidation or annulment of the will. Thus, the basic type of sexual assault maintains the penalty of one to four years, but recovers the fork of one to five years (which is what was in the old Penal Code) when the assault is committed using the aforementioned circumstances of violence, intimidation or annulment of the will. The same scheme is followed for the rest of the articles that punish sexual crimes, such as rape or assaults in which there are aggravating circumstances, such as group action.

The lack of agreement with United We Can makes Feijóo’s PP an essential partner to carry out the reform of the law, a political situation of maximum discomfort for the PSOE in the midst of the pre-campaign of the regional and municipal elections.

In addition, behind the scenes, the scenario complicates the stability of the coalition. From Podemos, in recent days, the hypothesis of a resignation of the Minister of Equality has been insistently ruled out, even in the event that her emblematic law of the legislature was reformed without an agreement. In the PSOE they have not given wings to the possibility of a dismissal that would de facto break the government agreement. However, if the legal reform that the PSOE will register this Monday ends up being applied against the criteria of the Equality Minister herself, all the parties agree that it would mean, in practice, the intervention of Irene Montero’s department and an explicit discrediting by the President of the goverment.

The reaction of Equality

The minority partner of the Government found out about the PSOE’s decision by reading the newspaper this morning. “We didn’t know anything,” they acknowledge in the training. We can see “inexplicable” that the socialists are going to go ahead with a proposal that, as they understand, returns to the Penal Code prior to the law. The same system, they say, that gave rise to the sentence of La Manada and that spread among feminists the cry of “it is not abuse, it is rape.” “We wanted to preserve unity. It has been the PSOE that has confirmed through the media that it is going to go unilaterally. It is incomprehensible that what they want to do with the votes of the Popular Party. Our obligation is to defend consent at the center of the Penal Code”, party spokeswoman María Teresa Pérez stated this Monday at a press conference.

The position of Podemos and by extension in the Ministry of Equality has not changed. They maintain that despite the fact that the article on consent is maintained in the new wording, the differentiation between whether there was violence or intimidation to impose greater penalties returns de facto to the previous model. “When subtypes are raised that put violence or intimidation at the center, you are returning to the Penal Code of La Manada. That violence is what defines the criminal type is contrary to the Istanbul Convention, if you were paralyzed you were a second-rate victim because you could not prove your condition unless you had marks. The victim was the one who had to prove that she had suffered violence, ”explained the spokeswoman this morning. We can accuse the PSOE of a solitary movement after refusing to move a single centimeter in its position before the six proposals that have been put forward.

The confederal space -which unitarily maintains the same position- is now going to look for a way to “protect” the center of the law in the parliamentary processing of the norm proposed by the PSOE. Today, his government partner would not have his numbers, but the president of the UP group in Congress, Jaume Asens, has stated that a new stage is now opening. In the formation led by Ione Belarra, they believe that the scenario is similar to that of previous parliamentary debates that have also generated tensions in the Government, such as the trans law without going any further. The caveat now is that it is a flagship standard of the Ministry of Equality, but defended at the time by the Prime Minister and that now the Socialists want to modify without the consent of their partner. The spokesmen for Podemos have refused to answer this Monday when asked about a possible break in the coalition if the PSOE manages to carry out its reform.


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