The legislation, known as the “Only yes means yes” law, has been passed by the Spanish Senate in an attempt to address the legal difficulties sexual assault victims have faced in trying to prove intimidation or violence was used against them.
It has its roots in the national outcry over a gang rape that shocked the country during the San Fermin bull-running festival in Pamplona in 2016.
Initially, a court found the five men accused in the case known as “La Manada” (The Pack) guilty of sexual abuse, but not rape, because the unconscious victim wasn’t proven to have objected to what was happening.
Under the new law, silence or passivity won’t be considered as indicating consensual sex, which will require an explicit expression of agreement from the partners.
Lawyers from the conservative Popular Party, which is the main opposition party, and the far-right VOX party voted against the legislation.
The initial sentences in the San Fermin case prompted widespread protests across the country and calls for Spain to join other countries in Europe in legally defining rape as sex without consent.
Spain’s Supreme Court later overruled two lower courts and sentenced the five defendants to 15 years in prison for rape.