The Spanish far-right party Vox has been blocking regional and local governments from issuing institutional declarations against gender violence for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, which is being observed today, November 25.
The fight against gender violence has traditionally had cross-party support – Spanish parliament unanimously approved the gender violence law in 2004, and the state pact against gender violence in 2017. But this consensus has been broken by Vox, which won 51 seats in Spain’s lower house, the Congress of Deputies, at the November 10 repeat general election, and gained representation in eight regional governments and in 365 city councils (4.5% of the total) at the vote in May.
Vox, which is led by Santiago Abascal, has refused to back any initiative against gender violence, claiming that “violence does not have a gender,” and that the gender violence law is a “failure” – even though it has led to 631 convictions. Without unanimous support, city halls and regions cannot pass institutional declarations against the problem.
Last week, Madrid City Hall confirmed that for the first time in 14 years it would not be issuing a joint declaration against gender violence because of Vox. The far-right party also blocked Madrid’s regional assembly from securing unanimous support to approve a declaration. The city halls of Córdoba, Seville, Granada and Jaén, in Spain’s southern region of Andalusia; as well as the regional governments of Valencia, Castille and León, and Murcia, have also been stopped from passing measures against gender violence due to Vox.
Nearly 60 women have been murdered by their partners or ex-partners this year
Spain’s acting Equality Minister Soledad Murillo said Vox’s refusal to support the fight against violence was “very serious.” The center-right party Ciudadanos (Citizens), which is in power in many regional and local governments thanks to the support of Vox, also criticized the far-right party’s position. “It is a real shame that parties like Vox are not able to leave campaigning to the side, even when faced with the serious issues like gender violence.”
Since official records began in 2003, 1,027 women in Spain have been killed by their partners or former partners – 59 just this year. Since 2013, 34 children have been killed by their fathers or their mother’s partner, and another 275 left orphaned.
On Monday, a 29-year-old man was arrested for allegedly murdering his partner in Tenerife, in Spain’s Canary Islands. According to sources close to the investigation, the man stabbed the 26-year-old woman in the neck with a knife.
Sexual violence and attempted murder on the rise in Catalonia
To mark the International Day of the Elimination of Violence against Women, the Catalan regional police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra released new data on the number of gender violence victims in the region. According to the Mossos, eight women have been killed by their partner or former partner this year, and 100 women are currently under protection because they are at risk of gender violence. Cases of sexual abuse and attempted murder against women in the region have risen 40% this year, according to the Mossos. Catalan police have arrested 4,538 men for assault this year – a rise of 2.6% upon last year’s figures.
A number of female attendees present this morning at an event to mark today’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women in Madrid’s City Hall got up and left the room during a speech made by the council’s spokesperson for the far-right Vox party, Javier Ortega Smith. Other women in the room also cried out “Shame!” and stamped the floor and booed in protest.
“I am calling for a pact against the silence of denial,” the far-right party leader said on Monday, before going on to trivialize gender violence by speaking about women who murder men and women who attack other men or women.
According to Ortega Smith, there is a consensus to silence the fact “that there are women who are unprotected [by existing gender violence laws], women who suffer violence at the hands of their lesbian partners.”
After he finished speaking, Ortega Smith returned to his seat, where he was challenged by a woman in a wheelchair, who, with tears in her eyes, called for “respect for women.”
The woman was Nadia Otmani, the president of an association that works to help abused migrant women in Spain. Otmani has been in a wheelchair since 1997, when she was shot three times by her brother-in-law while trying to defend her sister.
“My sister was a victim,” she said after the incident. “And let it be known, I have never taken a cent from the Spanish state. Now [Vox] have arrived and are attacking us with everything. I could tell you how many women we have lost, how many children we have lost… They are declaring war on women,” she added.
English version by Melissa Kitson.