Protests in Spain at the lenient sentence for attackers echo the determination of women globally to force society and the state to give them justice

Tens of thousands have protested in Spanish cities in recent days, outraged by the decision of a court in Navarre to clear five men of gang rape, convicting them instead of the lesser offence of sexual abuse. The defence claimed it was consensual, since the woman had not fought back. The court concluded that video shot by the attackers showed the victim surrounded and subjugated to their will, her eyes shut, silent but for cries of pain. Yet they concluded that there was no violence or intimidation, as Spanish law requires for a finding of rape. One judge wanted to acquit the men of everything except stealing her phone.

Prosecutors are appealing against the decision; politicians have rushed to denounce it. Madrid has said it will re-examine sexual offences legislation. In a tweet, Spain’s national police force wrote “No means no” 12 times. As in many places, years of campaigning has helped to change official and public attitudes for the better. How can it be that there is still so far to go?

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