In Brief

Mass protests in Spain over bull-running gang rape acquittal

Spanish government considers changing sex crime laws amid national outcry

Tens of thousands of demonstrators marched in the Spanish city of Pamplona on Saturday in a third day of protests over the acquittal of five men of gang rape.

The men - who called themselves the Wolf Pack in their WhatsApp group - were cleared on Thursday of the rape of an 18-year-old woman during the city’s bull-running festival in 2016. All five were convicted of the lesser charge of sexual abuse, a verdict against which the victim is appealing.

Despite prosecutors asking for sentences of more than 20 years, the men - Jose Angel Prenda, Alfonso Cabezuelo, Antonio Manuel Guerrero, Jesus Escudero and Angel Boza - were each jailed for nine years.

Under Spanish law, evidence of violence or intimidation must exist for the offence of rape to be proved, The Guardian reports.

But as an editorial in top-selling Spanish newspaper El Pais points out, that legal nuance is was “not always easy to establish”. The existing laws raise “the painful question of just how much a person needs to fight to avoid being raped without risking getting killed, and still get recognised as a victim of a serious attack against sexual freedom while ensuring that the perpetrators do not enjoy impunity”, the newspaper says.

That sentiment has been echoed across Spain following last week’s trial verdict. Police say “between 32,000 and 35,000 people” took part in the demonstrations in Pamplona this weekend. Protests were also held in Barcelona, Valencia and Madrid, with marchers carrying banners that read “it’s not sexual abuse, it’s rape” and “no one judges our opinion”.

The Spanish hashtag #cuentalo, meaning “tell it”, has also been widely tweeted in recent days, as people “shared their own stories of abuse in solidarity” with the victim,  says the BBC.

Meanwhile, an online petition calling for the disqualification of the judges who passed the sentence had been signed by more than 1.2 million people by Saturday, news website The Local reports.

In response to the unrest, Spain’s conservative government said it would consider changing laws relating to rape and sexual assault.

A number of high-profile figures are backing the calls for action. Ana Botin, the head of Santander, one of Spain’s biggest and most influential banks, tweeted that last week’s ruling was “a step back for women’s security”. Madrid mayor Manuela Carmena said it “does not meet women’s demand for justice” and called for the country’s supreme court to overturn the decision.

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