May 3, 2018
On April 26, Spanish judge Ricardo González sentenced five men accused of gang rape to nine years for committing sexual abuse while clearing the men of the real crime: sexual aggression or rape. The gang rape accusation steams from 2016 when the five men attacked an 18 year-old woman during the traditional San Fermín festival in 2016.
The judge’s decision to acquit the five men—known in the public consciousness as La Manada or the Wolfpack—sent shockwaves through Spanish society, enraging public opinion and further tarnishing the image of the judicial branch.
But even before the verdict, legal scholars, politicians and activists criticized the Spanish legal system for infringing on freedom of speech and other hard-won democratic rights. In fact, singing a rap song critical of the King can now land anyone in jail in Spain. On February, for instance, Spain’s Supreme Tribunal sentenced rapper Valtónyc to three years and six months for “incitement to terrorism and verbal threats to the Spanish Crown", reports El País.
The conservative government of Mariano Rajoy is also under criticism for politicizing the legal system as it persecutes the pro-independence movement in Catalonia.
Ever since the verdict, tens of thousands of people, including women and men, have rejected the verdict via social media and massive street mobilizations across the Spanish State. The anger over the verdict led to the creation of the #YoTeCreo (I believe you) hashtag and immediately after became the slogan of a movement that seeks justice for the young woman raped by La Manada and other women betrayed by the justice system.
Even religious women are reacting in anger to the rape acquittal. La Vanguardia reports that on April 28 Las Carmelitas Descalzas de Hondarribia nuns expressed their solidarity with the woman who was victim of rape and other victims. In a statement, they characterized the verdict as an “injustice.”
For many feminist activists and independent commentators, the judge’s use of legal language minimizes sexual violence against women. Many women feel betrayed by the legal system as a result.
Other sectors of society are also expressing concern about the verdict. For example, healthcare professionals weighted in on the verdict. On May 2, a public letter signed by 2000 psychologists and psychiatrists criticized the judge’s verdict, according to ElDiario.es.
Some Reactions from Social Media: