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Settling debt with oral sex is ‘legal’, Spain’s Constitutional Court rules

Spain’s Constitutional Court has rejected a woman’s appeal against a sentence that did not consider it a crime for a former relative to ask her for oral sex as a means of paying back €15,000 she owed him.

constitutional court spain
Spain's Constitutional Court ruled that the woman's appeal did not justify "special constitutional significance". Photo: K3T0/Wikipedia

In a bizarre legal case, Spain’s Constitutional Court has rejected the appeal of a Spanish woman who filed a sexual abuse and coercion complaint against her ex-brother-in-law at the Provincial Court of Palma de Mallorca in late December. 

The woman, 38, told the regional judge she had felt forced to perform oral sex on her former relative after he requested that she pay him back €15,000 she owed with fellatio.

She explained how due to financial difficulties she had asked her ex-husband’s brother, with whom she’d maintained a good relationship, to transfer the money to her account, something he agreed to do without initially stipulating when and how she should pay him back. 

At a later date, the man reportedly told her that due to the favour she owed, she had to give him “two or three blow jobs a week and be his floozy whilst the debt was outstanding”, something she felt “psychologically obliged to do” and went ahead with on five occasions.  

The accused, 58, maintained his innocence, arguing that they’d reached “a deal to have sexual relations in return for lending her €15,000 without interest” and that “demanding compliance with a previously accepted deal does not constitute a crime”.

He told the court that when his ex-sister-in-law changed her mind about the sexual encounters and he asked her for financial reimbursement instead, only then dud she decide to file a complaint. The woman for her part also accused her former relative of sending her a letter in which he wrote “either you pay or I’ll sue you”.

The Balearic judge found no evidence of sexual abuse or coercion, concluding that “it was a freely agreed relationship” between the two and that the arrangement ceased “when there was no consent” on the woman’s behalf, without this opposition having “any consequence other than claiming the debt”.

When the plaintiff then decided to appeal the matter at Spain’s Constitutional Court, judges again washed their hands of it, arguing that the case did not justify “special constitutional significance”, one of the requirements that protection claims must meet in order to be accepted.

In other words, Spain’s Constitutional Court, an independent body from the State which has the final say on all matters relating to fundamental rights and breaches of them, doesn’t necessarily consider that paying back financial debt in sexual favours is illegal if agreed to by both parties.

For some legal sources, the fact that they’ve shelved the appeal does not mean that Spain’s Constitutional Court endorses oral sex as a form of payment as they have not actually delivered any verdict on the matter.

The same applies to the Balearic high court’s decision, as their ruling referred to whether the man’s actions represented sexual abuse or coercion, not wether sexual acts are a legal means of debt payment. 

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MONEY

How much can I save on my Spanish electricity bill now that VAT has been cut?

With welcome news that Spain will cut VAT on electricity from 10 percent to five percent to shield consumers from soaring inflation, how much can you expect to actually save?

How much can I save on my Spanish electricity bill now that VAT has been cut?

On Wednesday June 22nd Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced a further reduction in VAT on electricity prices.

Speaking to the Spanish parliament, Sánchez explained that the VAT reduction, from 10 percent to five percent, would be approved at a cabinet meeting this weekend.

But this isn’t the first time that the Spanish government has taken direct action to tackle skyrocketing electricity prices.

Last year it also slashed the VAT rate on electricity 21 percent to 10 percent to try and soften impact of rising electricity price rises on consumers facing price increases across the board.

Facing criticism for his government’s record on helping consumers, Sánchez blamed “a war at the gates of Europe” for the rises, and said the latest cut will form part of a package of measures to try and stem the effects of inflation, which hit a staggering 8.7 percent in May, the highest level in Spain for decades.

READ MORE: Spain to cut electricity tax by half to ease inflation pain

But how much can you actually expect to save on your electricity bill following the news?

How much will I save?

While a cut to the VAT rate paid on electricity is welcome, in reality it seems the difference to electricity bills will be minimal.

According to experts, lowering VAT from 10 to 5 percent will mean savings of around €4 a month for households with an average consumption (270 kWH per month and a contracted power of 4 kW) on the regulated market.

Let’s look at an example. A household with consumption at 270 kWH per month would have paid €95.43 in the last 31 days. If VAT had been applied at 5 percent, as it will be under the government’s proposed cut, their monthly bill would have worked out €4.30 cheaper.

For comparison, if the government had not stepped in at all and no tax reductions of any kind had been applied, that same receipt would have been €109.6. 

How much will it cost the government?

Cutting VAT, although welcome and much needed by most consumers at the moment, does come at a cost. Officials from the Hacienda believe that lowering VAT to 5 percent will cost the public coffers up to €460 million in the next three months alone. 

Hacienda estimates that the government has so far spent €3.8 billion on all tax cuts to lower electricity bills.

Is it enough?

Is another VAT cut enough to recoup the difference and negate rising prices? Simply put, if wholesale electricity prices (something the Spanish government has no control over) continue to rise at the rate they have been, the prices passed onto the consumer will most likely make the cuts to VAT negligible.

At the start of June, the daily price of electricity began at €210/Mwh, but by this week this Thursday it had already climbed to €272/mWH – a 29.5 percent spike since the beginning of the month equivalent to €62 extra on bills.

With no end to war in Ukraine or the volatility on the energy market in sight, the Spanish government is searching for ways to ease the burden on consumers. Labour Minister Yolanda Díaz recently proposed slashing the price of monthly public transit passes by 50 percent and offering €300 to people hit hardest by rising prices.

READ MORE: Spain eyes €300 handouts for most vulnerable and further fuel reductions

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