Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Spain on Monday evening to take part in marches called across the country for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. This year, the marches had a clear target: the far-right party Vox, which denies the existence of gender violence.
In Madrid, around 8,000 people took part in the march, according to Spain’s National Police. The men and women could be heard shouting: “Listen Vox, the victims have a voice.”
In Barcelona, around 10,000 people protested, according to the local police force. One banner read: “We are the granddaughters of all the witches they never managed to burn.”
In Valencia, municipal sources put the number of protesters at 20,000. “We will not let the far right block gender-equality policies,” said Rosa Solbes, a feminist from the journalist collective Les Beatrius, during the march.
In Seville, between 3,500 and 4,000 people took part in the march, according to police estimates. The protesters marched through the center of the city chanting: “Not one less,” and “Get sexists out of the courts.”
Vox has been heavily criticized for its refusal to recognize the existence of gender violence, which has claimed more than 1,000 lives in Spain since official records began in 2003. The far-right party has been using its new position in regional and local governments to block institutional declarations against gender violence.
At the march in Madrid, which was attended by various members of the Socialist Party (PSOE) caretaker government and led by interim Equality Minister Carmen Calvo, organizers read out a statement that attacked the “intrusion of far-right parties and organizations in our country, with their sexist and denial-driven discourse.” The organizers warned that the “patriarchy was rearming itself” with “backwards and discriminatory” claims.
But the sharpest criticism came from gender violence victim Nadia Otmani, who was shot three times by her brother-in-law while defending her sister and left paralyzed. From her wheelchair, she confronted Vox’s spokesperson in Madrid, Javier Ortega Smith, during an event earlier on Monday to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women in Madrid City Hall. “Don’t use gender violence to do politics,” she said. Ortega Smith did not look her in the eye while she spoke.
Madrid Mayor José Luis Martínez-Almeida, from the conservative Popular Party (PP), also criticized the position of the far-right party. “What you have done here today isn’t politics, it’s politicking,” he said. Outside Cibeles Palace, the headquarters of Madrid City Hall, men and women, called by Spanish artist Yolanda Domínguez, held up signs with images of some of the 1,028 women who have been killed by their partners or former partners since official records began in 2003.
The most recent victim is Sara, a 26-year-old who was killed on Monday by her partner Jaime in Tenerife, in Spain’s Canary Islands. Her grandmother had tried to save her but was unable to. Since 2013, 34 children have been killed by their fathers or by their mother’s partner, and 275 have been left orphans.
The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women was created in tribute to the three Mirabal sisters, who were murdered by the dictator Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic in 1960, to raise awareness of all violence suffered by women, including institutional violence, trafficking, genital mutilation and sexual violence.
With reporting by Laura Cercós (Barcelona), Noor Mahtani (Madrid), Cristina Vázquez (Valencia), Eva Saiz (Seville) and Pilar Álvarez (Madrid).
English version by Melissa Kitson.