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Bowdoin College

Publication Date

Spring 2023

Program Name

Spain: Policy, Law, and Regional Autonomy in Europe


To follow through on their ratification of the Istanbul Convention and public outcry after La Manada case, the Spanish Government passed the Organic Law of Comprehensive Guarantee of Sexual Freedom, also known as the law of only yes is yes (or la ley del solo sí es sí) - which came into effect on October 7, 2022. This law changed the Criminal Code by removing the distinction between sexual assault and sexual abuse, which previously caused victims to endure the difficult process of proving that there was violence and intimidation. By moving all sexual acts without consent under the category of sexual assault, the fusion of a previously two-category system caused the range of sentences to expand. This change reduced certain sentence minimums, allowing incarcerated sexual offenders to obtain sentence reductions through Article 2.2 of the Criminal Code. Specifically, as of April 14th, 978 sexual offenders have had their sentences reduced, and 104 have been released from prison. Therefore, this paper aims to comprehensively explain why la ley del solo sí es sí subsequently enabled sentence reductions for convicted sexual offenders. Through analyzing recent newspaper coverage and interviewing those familiar with the topic, this paper concludes that the reductions in the minimum penological framework, in combination with the lack of an explicit transitory provision, enabled judges to apply the law differently depending on if they followed Article 2.2 of the Criminal Code or the transitory provision of 1995, 2010, and 2015. Finally, this paper concludes by explaining the future of the law, specifically the recent reform and upcoming Supreme Court plenary session set to resolve the legal debate.


Criminal Law | Domestic and Intimate Partner Violence | European Languages and Societies | Legal Studies | Sexuality and the Law


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