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SPAIN: Spanish govt endorses clearer, tougher law on sexual consent

Spanish govt endorses clearer, tougher law on sexual consent

Spain’s government has approved sexual consent legislation that aims to crack down on sexual violence and harassment by codifying offenses and adopting new punishments


ABC News (06.07.2021) – https://abcn.ws/2TcjgQA – Spain’s government on Tuesday approved sexual consent legislation that aims to crack down on sexual violence and harassment by codifying offenses and adopting new punishments.


The bill endorsed at a Cabinet meeting says: “Consent is recognized only when a person has freely demonstrated it through actions which, in the context of the circumstances of the case, clearly express the person’s will.”


The legislation, popularly known as the “Only yes means yes” law, now goes to parliament for a debate and vote, probably in September.


Government spokesperson María Jesús Montero said the proposed law is “a decisive step forward” in the protection of women, which “makes us, without doubt, better as a society.”


“We have to transform our sexual culture, placing women’s consent at the center of how we see things,” Montero said during a news conference.


The changes contained in the bill follow outcries in recent years over court decisions in sex crime cases.


In 2018, five men were sentenced to nine years in prison each for the lesser crime of sexual abuse in a case that activists saw as a gang rape during the 2016 running of the bulls festival in Pamplona. “It’s not abuse, it’s rape!” protesters shouted at the time.


Spain’s Supreme Court increased the men’s sentences to 15 years after prosecutors appealed.


Spanish law punishes non-consensual sex but it is not clearly codified and relies on evidence of violence or intimidation to decide whether it a criminal act occurred and if so, the degree of punishment.


The government hopes the bill will remove the need for victims to prove they resisted or were subjected to violence. Any non-consensual sex will be regarded as aggression under the proposal. It sets out punishments that include prison terms of up to 15 years.


The bill also addresses for the first time sexual harassment in the street, identifying it as a minor offense that can be prosecuted on the evidence of the offended person. Convictions would be punishable by voluntary work and fines.


The legislation also would establish nationwide crisis centers for women that are open 24 hours a day year-round.


Women’s rights have been a political banner for Spain’s Socialist-led coalition government, which has a mostly female Cabinet.



Photo credits: REUTERS/Susana Vera

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SPAIN: Spanish High Court defends Christian television about homosexuality

Spanish High Court defends Christian television: opinions about homosexuality are not hate speech

In 2017, Revelation TV was fined with 6,000 euros for allegedly attacking the dignity of LGBT people. The judge says “critiquing ideas or positions” of others is a constitutional right.

Evangelical Focus (14.06.2021) – https://bit.ly/3vNwEI8 -The Audiencia Nacional (National Audience, the highest court in Spain) has decided to withdraw a fine of 6,000 euros imposed on cable television channel Revelation TV.

In September 2017, the state-owned National Commission of Markets and Competition (CNMC in Spanish) said the cable broadcaster with headquarters in the United Kingdom had attacked the dignity of the homosexual and transgender collective in one of its talk shows.

The complaint had been registered by a private person living in Spain after a programme was aired in which an evangelical pastor made comments that “could be considered as threatening against the dignity of the homosexual and transgender collective, although the channel in charge of the programme did not expressly incite to hate against those communities”, the CNMC said in a statement in June 2018 as it announced the fine.

After learning about the sanction, Revelation TV expressed its intention to appeal to the National Audience, as its Director, Gordon Pettie, told this news website. Now the highest court in Spain has announced it agrees with the Christian broadcaster and nullifies the fine.

No incitement to hatred

The high court magistrate of this case was Felisa Atienza Rodríguez, who underlined that even the CNMC admitted the channel had not incited to hatred, and that both the Christian  minister and the broadcaster acted under the protection of the right to freedom of expression.

“The expressions used by the pastor cannot be considered an attack against the human dignity or against the constitutional values”, the judge said, since they were made “in the context of an opinion programme, with a Christian ideology (…) without emitting opinions that incited to hate, expressing ideas around the controversial issues of the sexual identity of children”.

These positions, the ruling added, “might not be shared by everyone in society, but they do respond to the exercise of freedom of expression according to a religious perspective on the issue, and to the exercise of another fundamental right which is ideological or religious freedom”.

Criticism is not hatred, says judge

The freedom of expression, the judges of the National Audience say, “allows criticising ideas or positions with which someone disagrees, and these negative remarks cannot be described as an attack against human dignity of the people who do not share these ideas. The context in which these ideas were expressed has to be taken into account, and the fact that at no point they incite to hate against the homosexual or transgender collective”.

Back in 2018, Revelation TV told Spanish news website Protestante Digital that they would appeal. “We do not believe that during the programme anything was said that is not already in the Bible”, said then Gordon Pettie. “We therefore believe we are not guilty” of homophobia, he added, as he expressed his certainty that the court would agree with them, as it has now happened.

“We are Christian television that was born seventeen years ago, which belongs to a non for profit organisation”, Pettie said. “We speak about all kind of issues from a Christian perspective, we have worship music, Bible studies, preachings… Everything you would expect in a Christian television”, he said. The broadcaster is a member organisation of the Evangelical Alliance United Kingdom (EAUK).

Photo : An image of the online broadcasting website of Revelation TV.

Further reading about FORB in Spain on HRWF website

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SPAIN: Record 3,000 migrants arrive in Spain’s Ceuta enclave from Morocco

Euronews with AFP (18.05.2021) – https://bit.ly/3ymr1D0 – At least 3,000 migrants reached the Spanish enclave of Ceuta from neighbouring Morocco on Monday, a record in a single day, Spanish authorities said.


1,000 of them are presumed to be minors, according to a Spanish government spokesman.


Authorities say that the crossings began at 2 am in the border area of Ceuta known as Benzú and were then followed by a few dozen people near the eastern beach of Tarajal.


The daylight didn’t stop the crossings, as entire families with children, swam or boarded inflatable boats, said the spokesman.


“It was low tide and in some places, you could practically walk across,” he added.


The migrants were checked by Red Cross medics before being taken to a reception centre.


They were detained when they entered Spain, a police spokesman said earlier on Monday.


Last month, around 100 migrants swam to Ceuta in groups of 20 to 30. Most were deported back to Morocco.


The Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla have the European Union’s only land borders with Africa, making them popular entry points for migrants seeking a better life in Europe.


Migrants try to reach the enclaves either by swimming along the coast or climbing the tall border fences that separate them from Morocco.


The wave of arrivals came at a point of tension between Madrid and Rabat over the presence in Spain of the leader of the Western Sahara independence movement.


Rabat reacted angrily after it emerged that the leader of the Polisario Front, Brahim Ghali, has been treated at a hospital in Spain for COVID-19 since mid-April.


The Polisario Front has long fought for the independence of Western Sahara from Morocco.


Asked by reporters whether Morocco was relaxing controls on departing migrants, Spain’s foreign minister simply said she had no information.



Photo credits: Antonio Sempere/AFP

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SPAIN: Are the Canary Islands becoming a migrant limbo? See Euronews Video

See video here (8’30”)

By Valérie Gauriat


Euronews (30.04.2021) – https://bit.ly/3ucvIgz – The port of Tenerife, in the Canary Islands, is a major hub for tourism. It’s also host to a different kind of traveller.


Every night, police and security teams are on the lookout for migrants trying to hide in trucks that are ready to board cargo ships headed for the continent.


Juan Ignacio Llaño is the Fleet Director for Fred Olsen Express. He is one of the people who often finds these stowaways. He tells us that his team tries to “guarantee the security of all those concerned, above all the migrants”. He stresses that their desired destination is mainland Europe and “they will do anything to leave the islands, even it is at the cost of their own lives”.


Dozens of men are found every night in shipping containers at the port. A few of them will make it. The others will try again another day in the near future.


Most of those that don’t make it are sent back to the heights of Tenerife island to the archipelago’s biggest reception centre for migrants, Las Raices.



The media is not allowed inside the centre, but the atmosphere is gloomy there. A makeshift camp has been set up right in front of the gates.


Robert Mesa says it’s a symbol. He’s part of a group of residents who come to give a helping hand to those he says have nothing. He tells us that the migrants “wanted to protest about how bad the conditions are inside and also about them being in the Canary Islands for months without anyone telling them a thing about what will happen”. He points out that many of them have passports and have applied for asylum. Some even have invitation letters from family members who can host them in various european countries. Despite all that, they are still not allowed to travel.



More than 20 000 people making the dangerous Atlantic crossing from Africa’s northern western coast landed in the Canary Islands last year. Many were dispatched to hotels in Gran Canaria, the main island, as reception centres were overwhelmed. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the hotels had plenty of room for the migrants.



However, the tourist resorts have now emptied, as thousands were either repatriated or made it to the European continent. Those that weren’t so lucky as to reach the mainland, have been stranded by the lockdown.


Calvin and Unntove run several hotels and restaurants on the island. They hosted hundreds of migrants at the peak of the crisis. They have decided to keep their doors open to dozens of them.


Ousmane is one of their protégés. He arrived from Senegal seven months ago. His dream is to give his family a better future. His wife and baby girl are in Senegal. He has never met his daughter before because when she was born he was already in Gran Canaria. “They’re why I’m doing everything to succeed”, he says.


Ousmane never misses any of the language courses provided in one of the hotels run by Calvin Lucock.


The 19 year old is patiently waiting for a reply to his asylum request. Like most of his companions at the hotel, he dreams of moving to the continent. He calls for Europeans to help the migrants on the Canary Islands get to the Spanish mainland. “I have faith that sooner or later I will earn my future”, he adds.


In order to help the young men build a future, the couple that took them under their wing, has recently launched a foundation, Canaria Mama Africa. “Mama Africa” is also what the guests call Unntove, the woman they consider their second mother. “They have so much hope coming to Europe” she tells us, “I really hope that we can contribute to be a part of a journey for them that that hope will be fulfilled, instead of broken”.


To Calvin, there are only two ways to address the challenge of so-called illegal immigration. Though expulsion is one option, he believes integration is a key way to resolve the migrants’ woes. But either way, things need to speed up he says. And insists that “doing nothing isn’t a solution because then you just end up with people living on the street, and that becomes a different challenge”.


For some of the local population, it’s one challenge too many.


Alex is a member of the Spanish far-right party, Vox. He receives regular complaints from residents who say their lives are disrupted by the presence of the uninvited travellers.


He takes us to a residential area where he says people are now afraid to walk out of their homes, since several reception centres were opened there. One of them is a former convent, bordering the house of a resident who wished to remain anonymous, due to fear of reprisals. From her patio, she has a direct view on the windows of the convent. She says that “there are always problems” with the migrants, as there are often conflicts. She does not feel safe. “Every time you leave your house, they can catch you, they can rob you, they can rape you, and so on and we’re not used to living like this”, she adds.


Tensions reached a peak a few months ago when violence between residents and migrants erupted near a former school that’s now a reception centre, in one of the neighbourhoods of the capital Las Palmas. Things have since cooled down.


For Alex though, stronger steps must be taken by both the Spanish State and the European Union to avoid such situations:


“The first thing they have to demand is for people trafficking to stop, and for motherships to be removed. Secondly, using us as a front to stop immigrants getting to Europe, so that they all stay in the Canary Islands, is not the solution. This only results in a huge waste of public funds which costs the taxpayers, when people here don’t have work”.


For the Spanish government’s representative in the Canary Islands, Anselmo Pestana Padrón, the European pact on migration and asylum is yet to be implemented. Based on solidarity and responsibility, the pact that was proposed in September 2020 aims to create more efficient and fair migration processes whilst reducing unsafe and irregular routes.


To Anselmo, “Europe can’t just look at territories, which are borders, as if migration was their problem. It’s Europe’s problem. And if there’s a territory that is overwhelmed, and where migration generates a social problem, given that there’s an economic crisis also in the Canary Islands, Europe has to show solidarity”.


For fear of being repatriated, many migrants have left the reception centres, and live in the streets of Las Palmas.


At sunset, dozens of men come out of the shadows to line up for food handed out by Somos Red, a network of local residents who try to help them as best they can. But this has its limits says Roberto Gil, one of the volunteers. The islands’ economy has been hard hit by the sanitary crisis, and “the citizens don’t have the resources to distribute food and clothes, we are saturated”, he stresses. Still, “we can’t let people live, sleep, and eat in the streets!” he exclaims, concluding that this situation is “a time bomb” that “will explode”.


As the night falls, groups of men prepare to huddle into the small tents they set up on the beach for the night. They will be dislodged by the police at dawn.


Doua is one of the men sleeping rough there. He tried to leave the island four times with all the legal documents required to do so. He shows us his passport, several plane and boat tickets, as well as an international protection form. But he was turned back at each attempt. He would have stayed in Senegal, he says, if there was work, but there isn’t any. He leaves us with a message that is shared by all the other migrants we met:


“Help us to leave this island, please”.


Photo credits: Euronews

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SPAIN : Politicians condemn Xmas attack against evangelical church

 “Christ, Mary and Spain – Get out, Protestant and Lutheran rats”, read one of the signs hanging on the windows of an evangelical church in Santander. The bishop of Cantabria and several parties expressed their condemnation.

Protestante Digital  (11.01.2021) – https://bit.ly/3qz6BlQ – On 25 December, four bags with dead rats and three paper sheets with extremist Catholic messages appeared hanging on the façade of an evangelical church in the northern region of Cantabria (Spain).


The messages found early on Christmas day by members of the Iglesia Nueva Vida (New Life Church) of the city of Santander were: “Christ, Mary and Spain – Get out, Lutheran rats”, “God did not die on a cross to feed traitors like you”, “Catholic, Apostolic and Roman Spain: out Protestant and Lutheran rats”.


Pastor Julio García Celorio denounced what he described as a “hate crime” and shared images of the action on his social media. He also told Spanish news website Protestante Digital that there were no recent situations that could make the church think who or why this incident would have happened.


García Celorio is a well-known evangelical leader in the region of Cantabria who has been involved with prison ministries and is founder of an NGO that helps the re-integration of people at risk of social marginalisation. The church often works alongside public and private initiatives in the are of social justice. García is also the current President of the Evangelical Council of Cantabria.


Catholic bishop expresses “clearest condemnation”


Hours after the church reported the attack, the Spanish Evangelical Alliance condemned the attack, calling for religious freedom to be respected, and adding: “We will not respond to hate with hate. But to help a coexistence shaped by respect and dignity, it is needed that these incidents are condemned by those who have social, political and religious representation. We will personally contact those groups”.


The Bishop of Santander was one of the first to react to the incident, “our clearest rejection and condemnation to these actions which in no way can have place in a believer in Jesus Christ”. The statement, signed by Bishop Manuel Sánchez Monge, added that such actions “open wounds” between Christians and offered “all our support to all members of the Iglesia Nueva Vida and to its pastor (…) wishing that this time of Christmas brings us back to the essence of the gospel”



Unusual political support for the evangelical church


Three days after the incident, the President of the Cantabrian Parliament, Joaquín Gómez, received the pastor of New Life Church to express him the support of the Spanish authorities in the region.


Earlier, the national spokesperson of the People’s Party (Conservatives) in the Spanish Congress, Cuca Gamarra, wrote to the Spanish Evangelical Alliance condemning the “attack of heartless people against the temple of this evangelical church. Such incidents have no place in our society. Coexistence, tolerance and respect to plurality are common values through which we can find each other. Every aggression is a direct threat for our democratic values”.


The leader in Madrid of right-wing nationalist party Vox said on her Twitter profile that “religious freedom in Spain is threatened. These are the consequences of the silence of many in the face of the attacks by totalitarians against the fundamental rights”.


Members of Socialist Christians (a movement inside the ruling Social Democrat party) also reacted to the events, saying that “such events are the tip of an iceberg (…) The emergence of movements in the extremes is dominating the discourse in our country”, they lamented, a reality that “threatens our democracy”.



Photo: The messages printed on papers and three bags with dead rats found in the Nueva Vida evangelical church in Santander, on 25 December 2020. / Nueva Vida

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