Key to Europe

On Thursday 1st of August, an 18 year-old woman was allegedly raped by a group of six men between 18 and 36 years-old in Bilbao, Spain. They raped her, they threw 17€ on her, and left her alone. On Monday 5th of August, it was announced that two of them are going to prison while the other four are free with the condition to go every day to the court premises.

In the beginning of July, we also got to know the resolution of the case of ”La Manada de Manresa”. After presumably raping a 14 year-old girl, six men were accused of “sexual abuse” and not “sexual aggression”. The difference between both crimes is the fact that in Spanish law “sexual abuse” does not regard intimidation or violence, resulting in a milder sentence that does not relate in any case to a rape case.

These are two cases of gang rapes of the 37 that happened in the last eight months, double as much as in 2017 or 2018. In many of these instances law is not taking rape seriously. After the first “Manada” (the “wolf-pack” in Spanish) from San Fermines, many more cases of raping “manadas” are happening in Spain, and the number is rising in a worrisome pace. Presumably some reasons for this are the lack of fear from the abusers’ side with regard to the consequences of such acts, the rise of Spanish political parties that openly deny the existence of gender violence, or the media coverage placing the change of behavior and responsibility on the victim.

The case in Bilbao resulted in the local police department distributing leaflets advising women not to walk alone in certain streets late at night, or to meet men through dating apps, as the crime took place after the victim decided to meet one of the men of the gang she got to know through a popular dating app. These measures are not only taking away rights from women, as everyone should be free to walk alone on the street or to date anyone through a dating app without being worried to be raped, but also they focus on the aforementioned change of behavior of the victim rather than the aggressor’s, sending the message that it was the fault of the former.

We, as AEGEE, stand against such cases, and firmly believe that law should act more strictly to prevent such events from happening again. Acts like this go against the values of our organisation, but most importantly, they violate basic human rights. These cases are allowed to happen not only because of the flaws of law when it comes to condemning sexual violence, but also because of a general lack of gender awareness, education and adequate policies ensuring that sexist behaviors and structures are not perpetuated.

So as to tackle the issue of sexual harassment, in AEGEE we decided to take a step forward and work on educating young people on sexual harassment and consent, to ultimately create a safe space for everyone in youth organisations. It is of the utmost necessity that all decision-makers are aware of the urgency of such matter and undertake the necessary measures in order to fight it, such as, but not only:

– Include gender equality education in schools

– Educate public servants on gender equality

– Target specific campaigns to tackle gender mainstreaming

– Consult civil society organisations working with victims of violence against women

– Emphasize the specificity of violence against women and the need to address it

We, the members of AEGEE, condemn gender violence and violence against women, as well as this kind of juridical sentences, which normalise and legitimise sexual violence. We call upon all decision-makers and politicians not only in Spain, not only in Europe, but everywhere in the world to react with the strictness that is required in such cases in order to prevent more “manadas” to act freely without fear of the consequences.

Furthermore, we urge the European Union to ratify the Istanbul Convention of the Council of Europe on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, as a first step towards actively combating gender violence at a European level.

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