Far right Vox challenge Spain’s fight against gender violence

Two decades ago Ana Orantes gripped Spain when she recounted during a prime-time television interview the abuse she suffered at the hands of her ex-husband for 40 years.

Far right Vox challenge Spain's fight against gender violence
Photos: AFP

Thirteen days later her ex killed her by setting her ablaze.   

“I had to put up with it because I had nowhere to go. I had to put up with beating after beating,” Orantes recalled during the interview.   

She also told how she had filed 15 complaints against him without ever receiving any protection for herself or her eight children, and how after finally winning a divorce, the judge nevertheless forced her to live with her abuser.

Her brutal murder in 1997 shocked Spain and it spurred the government into taking action, culminating in the unanimous approval by the Spanish parliament in 2004 of Europe's first law that specifically cracks down on gender-based violence.

But now the progress in the fight against domestic violence since Orantes' death is under threat by the rise of anti-feminist far-right party Vox, which has made the repeal of this law one of its top priorities.   

Under the law, introduced by a previous Socialist government, victims of gender violence are entitled to free legal aid.

Special courts were established, and public prosecutors can press charges even if the victim does not file a complaint.   

The law also enables authorities to require men convicted of violence against their ex-wives and girlfriends to wear electronic bracelets that send a signal to police if they approach their victims.

'False' accusations

Photo: AFP

It had the support of over 80 percent of the population, said Marisa Soleto, the head of the pro-equality Women's Foundation.

“We would not have achieved half of what we did if the far right was at the level it is now,” she said.

In 2017, Spain's parliament unanimously passed a series of measures designed to bolster the original law, which came with a five-year budget of one billion euros ($1.1 billion).   

And since 2003 the government has kept a tally of the number of women murdered at the hands of a partner or former partner.   

After each murder, Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez sends a tweet condemning it.

But Vox, which entered parliament for the first time in April and surged to third place in the assembly in a repeat election on November 10th, argues that the gender violence law “discriminates” against men and encourages “false” accusations of abuse.

It wants the law replaced with legislation providing “equal protection” for men, women, children and the elderly in cases of domestic violence.   

Vox also calls for the removal of abortion from government-funded health centres and an end to public subsidies for what it calls “radical” feminist organisations.

'Biggest danger'

Photo: AFP

Such positions are not seen in other far-right parties in western Europe such as France or Italy, Soleto said.

“We must go to Poland to find something a little like it,” she added.    

Vox's stance has also pushed the main opposition conservative Popular Party (PP) further to the right on the issue amid fears of losing votes to the hard-right party.

“The biggest danger with Vox is that its discourse might be be legitimised by the right,” said Maria Silvestre, a sociology professor at the University of Deusto in Bilbao.

While the PP defends the achievements of the fight against violence against women, “its discourse has hardened in the face of Vox's one-upmanship”, said feminist journalist Ana Bernal.

PP leader Pablo Casado has called for all victims of violence to be protected “no matter what their gender or age”.

And in a March interview with the monthly women's magazine Telva, he said: “We should not fall for what the left says of protecting women more and more. What should we do, escort them in the streets?”

By AFP's Thomas Perroteau 


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Putellas becomes second Spanish footballer in history to win Ballon d’Or

Alexia Putellas of Barcelona and Spain won the women's Ballon d'Or prize on Monday, becoming only the second Spanish-born footballer in history to be considered the best in the world, and claiming a win for Spain after a 61-year wait.

FC Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas poses after being awarded thewomen's Ballon d'Or award.
FC Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas poses after being awarded thewomen's Ballon d'Or award. Photo: FRANCK FIFE / AFP

Putellas is the third winner of the prize, following in the footsteps of Ada Hegerberg, who won the inaugural women’s Ballon d’Or in 2018, and United States World Cup star Megan Rapinoe, winner in 2019.

Putellas captained Barcelona to victory in this year’s Champions League, scoring a penalty in the final as her side hammered Chelsea 4-0 in Gothenburg.

She also won a Spanish league and cup double with Barca, the club she joined as a teenager in 2012, and helped her country qualify for the upcoming Women’s Euro in England.

Her Barcelona and Spain teammate Jennifer Hermoso finished second in the voting, with Sam Kerr of Chelsea and Australia coming in third.

It completes an awards double for Putellas, who in August was named player of the year by European football’s governing body UEFA.

But it’s also a huge win for Spain as it’s the first time in 61 years that a Spanish footballer – male or female – is crowned the world’s best footballer of the year, and only the second time in history a Spaniard wins the Ballon d’Or. 

Former Spanish midfielder Luis Suárez (not the ex Liverpool and Barça player now at Atlético) was the only Spanish-born footballer to win the award in 1960 while at Inter Milan. Argentinian-born Alfredo Di Stefano, the Real Madrid star who took up Spanish citizenship, also won it in 1959.

Who is Alexia Putellas?

Alexia Putellas grew up dreaming of playing for Barcelona and after clinching the treble of league, cup and Champions League last season, her status as a women’s footballing icon was underlined as she claimed the Ballon d’Or on Monday.

Unlike the men’s side, Barca’s women swept the board last term with the 27-year-old, who wears “Alexia” on the back of her shirt, at the forefront, months before Lionel Messi’s emotional departure.

Attacker Putellas, who turns 28 in February, spent her childhood less than an hour’s car journey from the Camp Nou and she made her first trip to the ground from her hometown of Mollet del Valles, for the Barcelona derby on January 6, 2000.

Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas (R) vies with VfL Wolfsburg's German defender Kathrin Hendrich
Putellas plays as a striker for Barça and Spain. GABRIEL BOUYS / POOL / AFP

Exactly 21 years later she became the first woman in the modern era to score in the stadium, against Espanyol. Her name was engraved in the club’s history from that day forward, but her story started much earlier.

She started playing the sport in school, against boys.

“My mum had enough of me coming home with bruises on my legs, so she signed me up at a club so that I stopped playing during break-time,” Putellas said last year.

So, with her parent’s insistence, she joined Sabadell before being signed by Barca’s academy.

“That’s where things got serious… But you couldn’t envisage, with all one’s power, to make a living from football,” she said.

After less than a year with “her” outfit, she moved across town to Espanyol and made her first-team debut in 2010 before losing to Barca in the final of the Copa de la Reina.

She then headed south for a season at Valencia-based club Levante before returning “home” in July 2012, signing for Barcelona just two months after her father’s death.

In her first term there she helped Barca win the league and cup double, winning the award for player of the match in the final of the latter competition.