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Spaniards are voicing outrage after five men were acquitted of rape on the grounds that their 14-year-old victim had been unconscious at the time.
The Barcelona-based court ruled Thursday that the men were guilty of the lesser crime of sexual abuse and sentenced them to 10-12 years and fined them 12,000 euros ($13,300).
It ruled that their act could not be considered sexual assault since the girl was unconscious after consuming alcohol and drugs and so they did not need to use violence or intimidation, a requirement for a rape conviction in Spain.
Spain’s deputy prime minister, Carmen Calvo, said that while her government does not comment on court decisions it has set as a priority a modification in the law to make clear consent necessary for sexual relations to occur legally.
The attack occurred in the town of Manresa, near Barcelona, in 2016 when the girl and the men went into an abandoned factory to drink.
The court said that since the victim was unconscious during the attack, she “could not accept or reject the sexual relations” and that the men “could carry out those sexual relations without the use of violence or intimidation.”
Barcelona mayor Ada Colau and other left-wing politicians and feminist groups have condemned the ruling, as well as clamoring for the law to be strengthened in the victim’s favor.
“Another senseless verdict by the patriarchal Justice that doesn’t want to understand that only a Yes means Yes,” Colau wrote on Twitter. “An unconscious 14-year-old girl was gang raped. I am not a judge and I don’t know how many years of prison they deserve, (but) what I do know is that this is not abuse, it is rape!”
Marisa Soleto, of the feminist group Fundacion Mujeres, said that “this is just one more piece of proof for the necessity to change the penal code.”
A similar 2017 ruling sparked widespread protests when five men were found guilty of sexual abusing a woman but acquitted of rape for an attack in Pamplona. Spain’s Supreme Court later overruled the lower court and convicted them of rape.