A person holds up a placard reading “Yes it is rape” during a demonstration in Madrid on April 26, 2018. Photo: Gabriel Bouys/AFP.
Five men from Sevilla who sexually abused a teenager in Pamplona in 2016 were given a nine-year sentence but found not guilty of “rape.” The sentence drew widespread condemnation in Spain, where thousands of people took to the streets to protest in more than half a dozen cities.
From the Basque Autonomous Region, where the incident took place and the sentence was read on April 26th, to Seville, Valencia, Valladolid, Madrid and Barcelona, thousands of Spaniards responded to the call of activists and campaigners to denounce what is deemed a lean sentence for an extremely violent crime.
Protesters chanted “Shame! Shame! Shame!” outside the Ministry of Justice in Madrid, accompanied by chants of “This is not abuse, this is rape!” Protesters also chanted the rallying call ‘I believe you,’ which has also become a sign of solidarity on social media and has gone viral in recent weeks (#YoTeCreo).
According to El Mundo, thousands of people protested into the night outside the Ministry of Justice in Madrid.
The gruesome crime has united much of Spain and smashed taboos surrounding sexual abuse and domestic violence. Thousands of women have shown their support for the 20-year-old victim, known as C., sharing their own stories of abuse with the hashtag #YoTambien. The case of the ‘The Pack,’ the five men accused of the rape, was seen as a litmus test of the justice system vis-a-vis women’s rights.
Irene Montero, a spokesman for the left-leaning Podemos party, tweeted (below) that “if the judges don’t understand, we’ll explain with millions in the streets.”
The five accused, who are all from the southern city of Seville, allegedly filmed the incident with their smartphones and then bragged about it on a WhatsApp messaging group where they referred to themselves as La Manada, or ‘The Pack’ in English.
Women protesters used the slogan and sang the chant: “We are the pack!” outside the courtroom in Navarre and at demonstrations across Spain.
Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said that while the judge’s sentences must be respected, the authorities need to analyze what had happened “to avoid such behaviour happening again in this country.”
A spokesman for the Basque government called the sentence “incomprehensible” while a spokeswoman for the regional government in Navarre said it will appeal. Spain’s public prosecutor had been pushing for a 22-year sentence.
The Navarre court’s ruling that the crime amounted to “abuse” but not “rape” – a distinction which is defined by the use of “aggression and intimidation” in Spanish criminal law – is what angered protesters the most. The fact that one of the accused is a former police officer and another a military cadet has further stoked the sense of injustice.
The sense of outrage spread to Barcelona, where citizens set aside any political divisions to protest ‘The Pack’s’ sentence with a demonstration outside the Palace of Justice.
Protests were also well-attended in Valencia.