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    Spanish minister accuses judges of ‘machismo’, faces uproar

    MADRID (AP) – Spain’s magistrate associations and main opposition party called on Thursday for the country’s equality minister to resign after she accused judges of “machismo” for reducing prison sentences under a new sexual aggression law that was never intended to have that effect.

    The “sexual liberty” law made sexual consent, or a lack of it, a key determinant in assault cases and revised the range of potential minimum and maximum prison terms, inadvertently making it possible for convicted individuals to have their sentences reduced on appeal.

    The legislation, popularly known as the “Only yes means yes” law, came into force last month. Now, one of Equality Minister Irene Montero’s signature projects is threatening to prove politically damaging.

    Revelations this week of the reduced sentences in at least 15 cases outraged the minister and supporters of the law, who argued that Spain’s judges needed more training to overcome ingrained gender biases.

    Montero accused some judges of not obeying the law, adding that the United Nations has said systematic sexism can lead jurists to misinterpret laws.

    Spain’s Equality Minister Irene Montero speaks with journalists in Madrid, Spain. PHOTO: AP

    “The problem is that we have judges who are not upholding the law,” she said, arguing that sexist stereotypes blind some judges to seeing gender violence.

    Judges who reduced sex crime sentences argue they were required to rule in the favour of defendants if the laws under which they were originally convicted have the potential penalties changed.

    In one case, a Madrid court recently lowered the sentence of a man convicted of sexually abusing his 13-year-old stepdaughter from eight to six years. In another, a court in southern Granada took two years off a 13-year sentence given to a man who threatened his ex-wife with a knife and assaulted her.

    Opposition parties and magistrate groups were infuriated by Montero’s remarks and blame the government and Parliament for passing a poorly drafted law. Two magistrate groups and the Popular Party called for Montero to step down.

    Member of Spain’s General Council of the Judiciary and president of its Observatory of Gender and Domestic Violence Angeles Carmona noted that more than half of Spain’s judges are women and that all undergo special training in gender violence. She said her observatory had warned lawmakers of flaws in the legislation’s writing and that Montero’s criticism risked undermining women’s trust in the justice system.

    “We had issued a warning in our report that what is happening could take place,” Carmona said. “(But) the justice system is not sexist… The judges are applying the law in impeccable fashion.”

    Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez appealed for calm and urged the judiciary to reach a consensus on how such appeals are handled.

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