opinion
Text in which the author defends ideas and reaches conclusions based on his / her interpretation of facts and data

The thrill of prohibition

The return to power of the right under Mariano Rajoy has been accompanied by a highly ideological agenda that aims to restrict civil liberties

Governments can approach the issue of abortion in one of two ways: by restricting access, or increasing it. The first shows a lack of trust in the electorate, seeing people as a threat, while the second is based on a belief that each of us is able to make up our own mind.

A long and slow process of recognition of liberties - denied for decades under a military regime in cahoots with the Roman Catholic Church - had put Spain among the European vanguard in terms of civil rights.

The previous government's same-sex legislation, which angered the Catholic Church, is an example of a law that provides many people with new options without restricting those of others. A marginalized minority was given the same rights as everybody else.

The return to power of the right under Mariano Rajoy has been accompanied by a highly ideological agenda that aims to restrict civil liberties. This has been shown in the government's response to the crisis, using the excuse of austerity and the demands of Brussels to worsen living conditions. We are now seeing the next phase of this ideological offensive, ushered in by the government's recent approval of legislation that removes a woman's right to choose whether to terminate a pregnancy, instead putting her under a humiliating system of tutelage.

Same-sex legislation provides many people with new options without restricting those of others

Rather than using its power to increase opportunities for people, Rajoy's government has opted to restrict rights and liberties, reflecting the right's mistrust of the electorate, its suspicions about women, its contempt for losers, and its obedience to religion.

The new legislation, and the way that it has been introduced, reeks of paternalism. Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón's comment that for the first time women "will not be guilty of abortion" is an inadmissible insult. This law converts women into minors, hugely limiting the circumstances by which they can make a decision that is of concern to them alone, and conditioning their criteria to the double or triple tutelage of people they are not even allowed to choose. Is this in any way a sign of respect toward women? Surely this approach merely reinforces fanciful ideas about certain religious beliefs that see women as weak, untrustworthy, and transmitters of sin.

Rajoy has set a conservative restoration in motion. And while it is true that he has been saying that this is what he intends to do for some time now, it is still hard to believe that a man so averse to noise would dare to go so far. His seeming indolence apparently hides the mentality of a militant neo-conservative, determined to outdo his predecessor at the head of the PP, José María Aznar, in imposing reactionary policies.

Rajoy began by weakening workers' rights to the advantage of business. Now he is doing the same with women. The process of converting Francoist legislation into laws supposedly designed to protect us when in public is nearly finished, and will be used to prevent people from exercising their legitimate right to protest at a time when there is widespread anger, and the country is on the verge of erupting into mass social unrest.

There is no denying that the way we behave is heavily influenced by the ideologies of our ruling elites, and that the ideas that we should all look out for number one in a life-or-death struggle, or that there is no such thing as society, have put down deep roots.

But the crisis has begun to eat away at our indifference, and people are increasingly seeing that working with others is the only way to bring about change. The affront felt by many people as they watch the imposition of conservative ideology based on prohibition, and a return to the past, could prompt a significant number of us to shake off our fear. My question is the following: Where are the defenders of civil liberties and other freedoms that in a party covering such a wide spectrum must surely exist? Why are they saying nothing?

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