Institutional Violence against women in Spain

By Rosabel Agirregomezkorta (CEIM)

Since the PP’s (Spanish right wing party) arrival to power in 2011 -in a context of severe systemic crisis provoked by the speculative neoliberal system- human rights have been at stake. Specially the rights of women and vulnerable groups have been suffering permanent and continuous attacks.

Numerous initiatives led by the government show that a patriarchal neoliberal offensive is carried out. In the field of education the government is supporting sex-segregated schools and promoting (the funding of) religious private education in detriment of public education. One of the biggest changes is a law change that allows private segregationist colleges to receive public funds, which was not possible till now. In another field, they are reducing public investment in the health sector and pushing for privatization like in the case of Madrid, but not only there. In Madrid all health services such as hospitals are being privatized. This affects women’s access to key services. Regarding development cooperation the funds have been severely reduced, which has led to the disappearance of 30% of NGDOs. And the government has dismantled the existing model that was based on decentralized cooperation and on Zapatero`s gender equality and human rights approach.

The government has also directly targeted gender equality policies by closing shelters for battered women and pushing for male leadership into feminist’s and women’s rights organizations. They wanted to impose a new criterion to women`s organizations applying for funds. This criterion requested male presence at the women`s and feminist`s associations Boards alleging that not including men into these spaces is a form of “gender discrimination”. The women’s rights organizations succeeded in halting this initiative.

And of course the projected reform of the current Sexual and Reproductive Law[1] by the Minister of Justice, Gallardón, is a red line for feminist organizations as it removes the “sexual-affective education” from schools, attacks the women`s right to choose for abortion and threatens women to go into hiding again putting their lives in risk.

Obviously civil society -mainly women`s and feminist organizations- are calling out all these initiatives. They do that in a way that articulates their diversity and capacity in raising a shared voice that totally opposes and rejects such policies. Moreover, feminists and women`s organizations are not alone, and Gallardón`s reform attempt is being contested by other voices that could hardly be branded as feminists. Judges, progressive lawyers and medical associations, as well as other political parties and politicians, have argued that the proposed reform would be a risk to the women`s health and against the law.

All these policies are being accompanied by other measures aiming at discouraging social participation and protest, criminalizing social movements[2] along with a media campaign aimed to discredit social movements. Here again, feminists are being especially targeted, calling them “femi-nazis” as opposed to a submissive, domestic female role model that is presented as desirable and that is functional to the in-crises economic system. This conservative, heterosexual and Opusian (Opus-Dei) imaginary is being publicly supported by the official Church representatives and the so-called “pro-family” groups.

El País. Massive Demostration held in Madrid on February 1st 2014

Taking all of this into account, Spain faces a context of institutional violence against women, where the Spanish state is leaving much of the population unprotected, dropping out of their needs and interests. The state is violating its main function which is to ensure people`s well-being and protection, especially of those most vulnerable. This violation is also reflected in the monitoring of the progress on the elimination of all forms of inequality and discrimination, as reflected on the ongoing CEDAW shadow report ( endorsed by more than 150 organizations, the largest amount of organizations involved in the CEDAW shadow process so far in Spain.

The Spanish government not only does not meet its responsibilities but actively promotes social, economic and gender inequalities, discrimination and, therefore, violence against women.

European feminist and social activists must unite to raise our voices and stop this trend, because, unfortunately, this is not an isolated trend but is knocking the doors of Europe[3].

1] The reform would replace the Organic Law 2/2010 of 3 March, on Sexual and Reproductive Health and abortion, adopted in 2010 (based on deadlines for abortion), for the present “Draft Law on protection of the life of the unborn and the rights of the pregnant woman”, approved by the Minister`s Cabinet on December 20, 2013. Take note of the denomination and its approach: “the life of the unborn” and “the rights of the pregnant woman”. See the Draft Law at:

2] During the drafting of the Public Safety Act (known as The Gag Rule), the government considered, among other things, organizing a public protest or concentration through the internet as a “crime of membership to a criminal organization”. This draft could also consider nonviolent active resistance as an “assault against authority”. Both cases could eventually be punished by imprisonment of two to four years and fines of up to 600,000 Euros. Finally and after many protest, the Public Safety Act was approved by the Ministers Cabinet in November 2013, but with some changes as it was questioned by the Consejo General del Poder Judicial, the major Judiciary organism in Spain.

3] Women in Austria act in solidarity with the Spanish women to stop the violence- you can join too!
Women across Europe unite against the push for a rollback of women’s rights. The platform 20000frauen have sent out letters to the Spanish embassy and organized in February a protest rally in front of the Spanish Embassy. Together with Spanish activists they delivered a loud statement against the proposed criminalization of abortion.
The platform has a letter of protest written in Spanish, German and English. It encourages these to be sent to the Spanish Government (for download at:

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