Spain’s fem­i­nists face a far-right back­lash

Viet Nam News - - IN­SIGHT - Adrien Vi­cente

MADRID — Af­ter a year of mas­sive mo­bil­i­sa­tion, Spain’s pow­er­ful fem­i­nist move­ment is fac­ing a back­lash with the emer­gence of far­right party Vox which wants to re­peal mea­sures to fight gen­der vi­o­lence.

Sev­eral women’s groups have called a se­ries of protests against Vox, which won a sur­prise 12 seats in An­dalu­sia’s re­gional elec­tions last month af­ter cam­paign­ing on a na­tion­al­ist, anti-fem­i­nist agenda.

It is the first time that a far-right party has won rep­re­sen­ta­tion in a Span­ish re­gional par­lia­ment since the coun­try re­turned to democ­racy af­ter the death of long­time dic­ta­tor Fran­cisco Franco in 1975.

“What they want is a sud­den stop in the ad­vance of women’s rights. We will not take a step back­wards,” vet­eran Span­ish fem­i­nist Ana Maria Perez del Campo told a news con­fer­ence on Wed­nes­day.

Vox ini­tially de­manded the scrap­ping of tough laws pro­tect­ing women from gen­der vi­o­lence in re­turn for its cru­cial sup­port for a coali­tion gov­ern­ment in Spain’s most pop­u­lous re­gion made up of the con­ser­va­tive Pop­u­lar Party (PP) and cen­tre-right Ci­u­dadanos.

It ar­gues that mea­sures to fight gen­der vi­o­lence are “ide­o­log­i­cal” and “dis­crim­i­na­tory” against men.

The con­di­tion sparked ou­trage and it was ul­ti­mately dropped un­der an agree­ment Vox reached with the PP.

Re­verse gains

But Maria Sil­vestre, a so­ci­ol­ogy pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­sity of Deusto in Bil­bao, said Vox had sent the mes­sage that “we are the right which wants to change things.”

“All the ad­vances of re­cent years... they want to re­verse,” she said.

Formed in late 2013 by dis­grun­tled PP mem­bers, Vox wants the na­tional health ser­vice to cease pay­ing for abor­tions and an end to “sub­sidised rad­i­cal fem­i­nist asso­ciations”.

Around 50 women are killed each year in Spain by their part­ner or for­mer part­ner and there has long ex­isted cross-party con­sen­sus on mea­sures to fight vi­o­lence against women.

The Span­ish par­lia­ment in 2004 unan­i­mously passed Europe’s first law specif­i­cally crack­ing down on gen­der-based vi­o­lence that of­fered free le­gal aid and es­tab­lished spe­cial courts for vic­tims.

Vox “have en­sured that some­thing that was not dis­cussed is once again be­ing de­bated,” said Sil­via Clave­ria, a po­lit­i­cal sci­ence pro­fes­sor who spe­cialises in fem­i­nism at the Car­los III Uni­ver­sity in Madrid.

Sil­vestre said there was “clearly” a “re­ac­tion” to the fem­i­nist move­ment, which marked In­ter­na­tional Women’s Day in March with an un­prece­dented strike tar­get­ing gen­der in­equal­ity that was fol­lowed by over five mil­lion women and mas­sive street protests across Spain.

‘Pa­tri­ar­chal re­ac­tion’

The case of a group of five men dubbed “the pack” ac­cused of gang rap­ing a woman at Pam­plona’s fa­mous bull-run in 2016 has also sparked re­peated protests and fu­elled Spain’s own ver­sion of the #MeToo move­ment.

The men were found guilty of sex­ual abuse rather than the more se­ri­ous of­fence of rape, spark­ing a de­bate over Spain’s sex­ual of­fences leg­is­la­tion.

Women have also seen gains in pol­i­tics as well over the past year.

The cabi­net which So­cial­ist Prime Min­is­ter Pe­dro Sanchez ap­pointed af­ter he took of­fice in June has nearly twice as many women as men in min­is­te­rial posts, with women hold­ing key port­fo­lios like econ­omy and jus­tice.

“Every time there are ad­vances in terms of women’s rights, there is a sig­nif­i­cant pa­tri­ar­chal re­ac­tion,” said Yolanda Besteiro, the pres­i­dent of the Fed­er­a­tion of Pro­gres­sive Women.

She cited as an ex­am­ple mas­sive protests backed by Spain’s Ro­man Catholic Church against a 2010 law which eased ac­cess to abor­tion in­tro­duced by a pre­vi­ous So­cial­ist gov­ern­ment.

But Clave­ria said the anti-fem­i­nism move­ment rep­re­sented by Vox is dif­fer­ent from the one which protested against abor­tion and the pas­sage of same-sex mar­riage in 2004 in that it is a “more ‘modern’ sex­ism, in the sense that it con­sid­ers that men and women are al­ready equal.”

There­fore their ar­gu­ment is that spe­cial laws were no longer needed to pro­tect women’s rights. — AFP

Fem­i­nists have held mas­sive street protests across Spain. — AFP/VNA Photo

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