Spain: one woman killed every three days by domestic violence

On Sunday I was watching a roundtable discussion hosted by Christiane Amanpour on This Week. She had three women as guests one of which was Cecelia Attias, former wife of France’s President Nicholas Sarkozy. The discussion theme was that society would function better if more women occupied civic positions in society.

In support of this theory, Amanpour quoted the example of Rwanda. There, post the genocidal war of 1995 between Tutsi and Hutus, women now occupy at least 50% of the parliament and over 50% of President Kagame’s cabinet is female.  Now 16 years after the war, it seems that Rwanda is doing much better by all indicators – health, economics, etc – than its neighbouring nations. Amanpour put this statistic to Attias for comment and I suspect she was surprised, as were the other roundtable guests, by Attias’ answer.

Attias countered by refering to Spain. In Spain half the government is composed of women and women are involved in all levels of the community but it suffers from this astounding domestic violence record. The representation of women in civic society came about as a result of a Law on Gender Equality that was passed in 2004 by the newly elected government of socialist Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. The law provided among other things, that women should be appointed to key positions in the administration, created special courts and issued drastic instructions to crack down on domestic violence.  But still seven years later this appalling statistic persists.

Amanpour and Attias appeared to quickly agree that the problem might actually be from a different source in Spain – not a lack of women in civic society but instead, a lack of law enforcement. However, one has to ask, what more can be done? If the Prime Minister himself has issued precisely this directive “crack down on domestic violence”, and yet it persists, perhaps it is not enforcement that is the problem either.

Despite its strongly Catholic population, Spain is one of the more progressive, liberal societies in Europe. It is one of the few countries in the world where homosexuals can get married and it is called a marriage not a civil union. Homosexuals can also adopt children. Politicians also enjoy a degree of tolerance, not typically being required to resign for extra-marital affairs or for having visited a prostitute. National serious newspapers, such as El Pais or ABC, publish explicit adult advertisements on a daily basis and afternoon television – that is to say prime television viewing time for kids after school – commonly features sex scenes.

It is a small snapshot, but it paints a clear picture of attitudes between the sexes in Spain. With women marginalized from their essential roles in marriage and child-rearing, and its leaders granted implicit permission to betray their spouses without repercussions, perhaps it is this country’s attitude towards its women that is killing them?

Eye on Europe

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