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Spain: Standstill or retrogression in women’s rights? – UN experts state the challenge

Spain / Women’s rights

19 December 2014

MADRID (19 December 2014) – A United Nations expert group on discrimination against women today warned that Spain’s efforts to integrate women into public, political and economic life and to eradicate domestic violence are been threatened by policies adopted in the wake of the economic crisis.

“Spain has established a groundbreaking legal and institutional infrastructure for gender equality. Prior to the economic crisis, this process had started to bring significant gains for women,” said Frances Raday, who currently heads United Nations Working Group on discrimination against women in law and in practice.

“Whether this process is at a standstill or is in a state of retrogression is now in question,” Ms. Raday noted at the end of the expert group’s first official visit* to examine the issue of discrimination against women in Spain. “There are signs that the system has not withstood pressures and policies adopted.”

The Working Group’s delegation, comprised of Ms. Raday and Eleonora Zielinska, stressed that measures crucial for the socio-economic empowerment of women have been undermined. Women comprise around 70 per cent of part-time workers in Spain, and almost 60 per cent of them say they have been unable to find full-time employment.

“In many autonomous communities, institutions and services essential for work life balance were reduced, restricting women’s opportunities and forcing some to return to traditionalist domestic roles,” Ms. Raday said. “In contrast, certain autonomous communities made a policy decision to maintain those services in spite of severe budget difficulties.”

Despite the considerable efforts deployed in law, policy and administration, the prevalence of gender based violence in Spain remains alarming, with 125,000 reported intimate partner violence cases last year and a continuation of tragic killings of women and children by violent men. In 2013, 54 women were killed, some in spite of the woman’s repeated requests for protection and for cancellation of visitation rights or custody.

“The response by social workers, police, prosecutors and the courts and their gender-sensitive awareness and capacity building have not been proved adequate,” Ms. Raday said. “Gender-based violence is deeply rooted in macho culture and patriarchal attitudes, which are reproduced in media and internet, influencing in particular the behaviour of young people.”

“These have not been properly diagnosed and addressed,” the human rights expert stressed. “Instead, the Government has removed the mandatory citizenship course, which contained education on gender equality and elimination of violence against women.”

The Working Group’s delegation underlined that Spain’s efforts to integrate women into public, political and economic life and the commitment to eradicate domestic violence are unswerving, and praised the Government for its legislative and policy initiatives to expand existing legal equality measures.

They regretted however. “The political will has not carried through to secure a high profile for gender equality in education, training and awareness raising which are necessary to prevent retrogression and bring about transformative equality,” Ms. Raday said.

Ms. Raday and Ms. Zielinska welcomed the withdrawal of the recent bill on sexual and reproductive rights which would have limited women’s access to safe legal abortion.

During its ten-day visit, they met with Government officials at national and regional levels, representatives of civil society organizations, as well as experts and academics. They visited Madrid, Andalusia, Basque Country, and Navarra to gather first-hand information on issues related to discrimination against women in different contexts, including migrant women and women in ethnic minorities.

The Working group will present a comprehensive report with its conclusions and recommendations to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2015.

(*) Check the full end-of-mission statement:

The UN Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice was created by the Human Rights Council in 2011 to identify, promote and exchange views, in consultation with States and other actors, on good practices related to the elimination of laws that discriminate against women. The Group is also tasked with developing a dialogue with States and other actors on laws that have a discriminatory impact where women are concerned.

The Working Group is composed of five independent experts: the Current Chair-Rapporteur Frances Raday (Israel/United Kingdom), Eleonora Zielinska (Poland) Alda Facio (Costa Rica), Kamala Chandrakirana (Indonesia) and Emna Aouij (Tunisia). Learn more, log on to:

UN Human Rights, country page – Spain:

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