• Feminist groups demand ‘Equality Ministry’, reform of gender-violence law
• Congress likely to reform law, but budget cuts leave initiatives underfunded
As Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of the conservative Partido Popular (PP) prepares to name his cabinet ministers on Thursday, feminist organisations in Spain are calling for the re-establishment of a Ministry of Equality (Ministerio de Igualdad), first created in 2008 under the Socialist administration of then-President José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero but dismantled two years later amid budget cuts by Rajoy’s first PP government.
There are already signs that the current legislative session may yield a reform of Spain’s 2004 law against domestic violence Ley Integral de Medidas contra la Violencia de Género, which the centre-right Ciudadanos party made one of its priorities in the deal it struck with Rajoy to support his bid to form a government. Broad support in Congress for reform of the law seemed to be indicated by a moment of silence for the victims of gender violence observed by all parties assembled in Congress on 29th October for the vote that re-elected Rajoy as Spain’s prime minister.
Women’s-rights activists have criticized the 2004 law for only penalizing violence against women by their domestic partners or ex-partners, but not violence directed at women by men with whom they have no relationship. Demands from feminist groups in Spain include reform of the law to include all violence specifically directed at women and that additional measures be adopted to penalize sex slavery, forced marriages and genital mutilation, in accordance with Council on Europe’s Istanbul Convention on combating violence against women.
Advances in the areas of gender equality and the fight against gender-violence may be limited by the PP’s tendency to underfund initiatives in both areas, say activists. Women’s rights groups note that the Rajoy government’s funding of gender violence initiatives has fallen from 34.3 millon euros in 2010 to 25.2 million euros for 2016. While the 2016 figure represents a 6 percent increase over the 2015 level, the government is again under pressure from the European Commission to contain federal spending and it is considered unlikely that Rajoy will put forward budgets that include increases in funding for gender equality or gender violence issues.