Despite the Far Fight, Spanish Feminists Are Here to Stay
Spain is facing unprecedented times. Last year, the failure to convict nine men of the gang rape of an 18 year old woman by giving them the lesser charge of sexual abuse caused thousands of furious women to take to the streets in protest. It sparked the country’s own #MeToo movement, with millions sharing their personal tales of abuse on social media using the hashtag #cuentalo (tell it).
Meanwhile, the populist party Vox has become the first far right party to win seats in government since the death of dictator Franco in 1975. The party has become known for its antifeminist stance due to its inflammatory rhetoric (in January this year, during a TV interview party leader Santiago Abascal made the astounding claim that 87% of complaints of domestic violence were unfounded, when in reality only 0.01% are false and its policies, which include repealing gender violence laws and getting rid of subsidised “radical feminist groups.”
What’s clear is that women’s rights have become a hotly debated topic. “The way the subject is approached has changed” says Gemma Cernuda, author of Ellas Deciden (Women Decide). “Now it’s something that you talk about. You can hear about it on the streets, in bars, and on buses, everyone is talking about it and has an opinion. It’s on the agenda.”
The rise of Vox has been something of a wake up call, she says. “It means we won’t relax. Suddenly you realise that there are people who believe men have to control women, or women have to stay at home and can’t wear certain clothes because they’re provocative.”
“Most people are more open-minded, but when you see political parties like Vox and people following them, you think “wow, have we been sleeping?””
Gemma says Vox has gained popularity because a certain section of the Spanish population felt they were not accounted for by the Popular Party (PP), the right wing party that was most recently in power from 2011 to 2018, when it came to light it had received illegal funding since 1999. It has become one of the country’s biggest corruption scandals, with the former treasurer of the party jailed for 33 years. A week later Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy was ousted with a no confidence vote, after which he resigned.
The case inevitably caused the party to plummet in elections – last Sunday’s (April 28) vote saw the party win just 66 seats compared to the Socialist Party’s (PSOE) 123. It also helped Vox gain 24 seats in government after a campaign that waged war on multiculturalism and immigration alongside feminism.
“The women’s march on March 8th was huge. It was a way to show the world that we are here, and we are here to stay”