GENEVA (21 February 2023) – UN experts* today welcomed the adoption of new comprehensive anti-discrimination and feminist legislation in Spain, which guarantees and facilitates access to sexual and reproductive rights in the country.
The experts said the new overarching measures ensure safe and accessible abortions provided by national health agencies; eliminate so-called “reflection processes” arbitrarily imposed on women; ensure access of all women (including lesbian, bisexual and unmarried women) to assisted reproduction techniques; and introduce menstrual leave as the first European country to do so.
The legislation also makes comprehensive sexual education a part of all mandatory years of schooling, and further protects the bodily autonomy of young women in particular.
“The history of feminism is a story of persistence in the face of social injustice,” the experts said. Described as a fundamental feminist achievement, the legislation was adopted as part of an ambitious agenda for social progress.
The measures regarding sexual and reproductive rights were enacted alongside comprehensive legislation addressing violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex characteristics. The provision of equal parenthood rights for lesbian mothers, a ban on genital mutilation for intersex children, and measures to end so-called “conversion therapy” perpetrated against LGTBI persons are some of the specific features of this national program to promote social inclusion in the health, employment, education, culture and business sectors.
The experts noted that the legislation aligns the Spanish system of recognition of gender identity with the UN-identified best practice of self-identification. Contrary to some erroneous narratives, the new system ensures legal security through the possibility of judicial review, adequately placing the burden of proof on the questioning party and the State, and not on trans and other gender-diverse individuals. In this way, arbitrary, humiliating, and damaging obstacles to legal recognition have been removed.
“The regulations were adopted through a thoughtful and participatory parliamentary process that took six years, and which considered UN expert advice,” the experts said. They said the legislation was adopted on the same day that the European Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, renewed her call for a complete end to harmful practices of “conversion therapy” throughout Europe.
The experts urged other States to follow suit. “Such legislative measures address deep-rooted causes of widespread human rights violations against women and girls and LGTBI persons” they said, encouraging State and non-State actors to engage in evidence-based discussions and deliberations on these issues.
“Countries must guard against the populist allure that regressive forces may find in exploiting anti-abortion, anti-education and anti-trans discourse,” the experts said. They pointed to attempts to erase the inherent ties between the struggle against violence and discrimination faced by all women and girls (including lesbian, bisexual and trans women) and gay, bisexual and trans men, as well as other gender-diverse and intersex persons.
The experts saluted the role of survivors of violence and civil society throughout the process.
“Every time we observe the adoption of a law, public policy or jurisprudence that promotes equality, we are immediately reminded of the work of human rights defenders, survivors, and activists,” they said.
“They were the ones who provided their stories, compiled the evidence, and carried out the work of advocacy and persuasion so that Spanish authorities could fully embrace the idea that these legislative measures are key elements to ensure that every person can live free and equal in dignity and rights,” the experts said.
*The experts: Ms. Dorothy Estrada-Tanck (Chair), Ms. Ivana Radačić (Vice-Chair), Ms. Elizabeth Broderick, Ms. Meskerem Geset Techane and Ms. Melissa Upreti, Working Group on discrimination against women and girls; Ms. Tlaleng Mofokeng, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; Ms. Farida Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on the right to education; Ms. Alexandra Xanthaki, Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights; Mr. Victor Madrigal-Borloz, Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
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