WIDE+E in Spain and Europe: Feminism against patriarchal neoliberalism

By Nines Fidalgo

The response of the Spanish government to the economic crisis in Spain has been to push forward neoliberal policies combined with gender policies that directly curtail womens rights, such as a planned huge cutback in the right to abortion. This has decreased gender and social equality. But feminists and other citizens’ movements fight back to reclaim their rights. In this struggle they are supported by the social movements protesting around the world. It is a task for WIDE+ to promote international solidarity.

I live in a country in which between 2008 to 2013 almost a million jobs done by women have been discarded, and 2.7 million “men’s jobs” were lost. More than 6 million people are currently unemployed. For every 4 women or men you see on the street, 1 is unemployed. For the youth, it is 1 out of 2 persons, and 1 in 3 if they are immigrants.

The policy of the Spanish Government, encouraged by the European Union, has been to:

• take on the deficit of the banks, causing the housing bubble to burst;
• cut in rights and social services, driving, rather than restraining the rise in unemployment;
• use the crisis to privatize public services.

The state, according to its 2013 budget, has cut spending on health, education and care for dependent persons by 40 billion euros which is equal to the amount that has been allocated for the payment of interest on the debt that the state has unlawfully assumed as public debt from banks.

The dismantling of the welfare state services has increased the burden of family care that is mostly taken on by women, while discarding jobs in highly feminized sectors (e.g. in 2012, 173.098 jobs in the Health and Human Services were cut, which is 12% of the total), leading to pension cuts and doubling the gender gap in wages.

Added to this set of policies is the deliberate weakening of gender equality policies. Thus, rather than counteracting the neoliberal ‘treatment’, social, including gender, inequality is increased. In three years time we have gone to a situation where the Ministry of Equality is on the brink of closing the Institute for Women created 30 years ago. In a similar restructuring process, the Youth Council -a channel for participation of youth organizations- is being suppressed at the same time as it openly supported the right to abortion.

The government is the first to violate the laws of gender equality. It has not approved the Equality Plan, which obliges the Equality Act 2007 that calls for Gender Impact Reports. It has withdrawn Spain from UN Women and hhas taken more than a year of delay in filing the quadrennial report to the UN CEDAW Committee.

The government intends to repeal the 2010 law that allows abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. It even wants to go further back than what was achieved in 1985 by imprisoning women who have abortions for fetal malformation as does El Salvador with Beatriz and thousands of women. There is also a setback in the fight against gender violence, with the reform of the penal code and cuts in spending. This, along with unemployment, have caused a fall by 4% in complaints of violence against women during 2012.

Neoliberal management of the economic crisis has in three years de-legitimized political institutions. In March 2013, according to official data, 76% of the population believes that the politicians and with it corruption are one of the three main problems of Spain.

What is the social response? From September 2010 to now, public action has taken shape more than ever: there have been four general strikes and numerous demonstrations. In 2011 the Movement ‘15M’ –a grassroots collective driven by two significant movements: ‘Youth Without Future’ and ‘Real Democracy’- took a new generation to the streets and has introduced new policy approaches and forms of collaboration, including the current ‘Feminisms 15M’.

The feminist movement, in its diversity, has increased it focus on the economy and its impact on gender; it has come closer to the street, it has sought alliances with current social movements such as  ‘Citizen Tide’ and Tidal movements as ‘White’ or ‘Green’ and with working people or users of the Health and Education services. The feminist movement also has moved closer to the (women) human rights activists and professionals in the field of development cooperation. Together they have responded to plans of curtailing of the right to abortion and created Purple Tide  (Marea Violeta), in which feminists of diverse organizations, including development organizations, have come together 10 times since January 2012 in various cities, under the common denominator of the visibility of feminism as part of the protest and as the alternative.

The situation in our country is overwhelming. However, we should not forget that we are part of a similar development in Europe and the world. This development is not only about governments and neoliberal powers leading to loss of jobs and shrinking of public goods such as school and hospitals -a policy that has no heart for real people but only cares about wealth. The trend is also about defending citizenship and social movements who share our goals and struggles. Particularly we perceive support from Latin American feminist movements, as they have close hand experience with social movements fighting against neo-liberalism in their countries.

For the feminist movement in Europe, with WIDE+ Network as an important part of it, there is a task in this. we need to coordinate South-South and North-South solidarity.

By Nines Fidalgo, President of the Feminist Policy Forum and member of WIDE-Spain.

This article is translated into English by Gea Meijers. For the original Spanish version: http://wp.me/p2KSLS-Hf