Are equal opportunities up to scratch in Spain?

Spain was a member of the Human Rights Council from 2010 to 2013, and is standing for a second term this year: check its candidature here to become a member for the period 2018–2020. Before we find out if we do get one of the two vacant seats, the CEDAW (Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women — United Nations body) will re-examine Spain’s equal opportunity policies, focusing on two main topics: refugee women and gender-based violence.

This is not the first time we are being inspected by an international body. In Summer 2015 both the Human Rights Council and the CEDAW analysed our policies. The report of the Working Group ‘on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice’ concluded that gender equality in Spain is at ‘risk of retrogression’ and highlights that violence continues ‘at an intolerably high level’ (within the framework of partner relationships).

Likewise, the CEDAW Committee noted concern about the negative effects on women (in all spheres of life) of the austerity measures taken by the government party to address the financial and economic crisis. The report clarifies that “even in times of fiscal constraints and economic crisis, special efforts must be made to respect women’s rights, sustain and expand social investment and social protection and to employ a gender sensitive approach, giving priority to women in vulnerable situations and avoiding retrogressive measures.”

This remark is particularly relevant and justified, since the budget funding for equal opportunity policies was 20.9% during the last parliamentary term (2012–16), with a 47.6% cut with respect to the 2009 budget. In 2016 the budget investment for equal opportunities and combating gender-based violence was only 0.01% of the total budget.

According to a macro survey on gender-based violence carried out by the Spanish government in 2015 (link in Spanish), 10% of women older than 16 years old have suffered physical violence at least once, 25% of them have suffered psychological control violence, 22% emotional violence, 8% sexual violence and 11% economic violence. It seems Spain has not followed all the CEDAW recommendations. However, in November 2016 all parliamentary groups asked for a government pact on this matter (gender-based violence). (Link in Spanish).

This pact includes a proposal with 16 different measures to act against gender-based violence, such as: better protection for victims; include specific education in the curriculum at schools and universities; training for staff dealing with these issues at courts and tribunals; boost the public awareness of these matters and, of course, fight against human / women trafficking as well as prostitution.

We shall see if our policies improve and therefore our next inspection obtains better results.

“The abuse of women and girls is the most pervasive and unaddressed human rights violation on earth,” Jimmy Carter once said. Gender-based violence should not be a matter of State ever again. But, as Ban Ki-Moon pointed out, “I call on men and boys everywhere to join us. Violence against women and girls will not be eradicated until all of us -men and boys- refuse to tolerate it.”