Women’s groups in Spain take to the streets to protest against gender violence

Demonstrations were held in several cities, with demonstrators rallying together to call for an end to killings of women and girls: 37 victims have been recorded just this year

Demonstrators gather in Madrid to protest against gender violence.Photo: ANDREA COMAS

Women’s groups across Spain took to the streets on Thursday to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, which is celebrated on November 25. While last year’s demonstrations were limited by coronavirus restrictions, this year protestors were out in force, rallying together to call for an end to gender violence.

The marches took place in several cities in Spain under slogans such as “We want to be alive,” “They did not die, they were murdered” and “Not one less.” The slogan chosen by Spain’s Equality Ministry for the demonstration was “Together.”

In Madrid, there were two separate protests: one organized by the Madrid Feminist Movement and a second by the 8M Assemblies of the Madrid region, whose group name references International Women’s Day, on March 8.

In the first protest, women gathered on the streets of the Spanish capital to march from Plaza de Cibeles square to the landmark Puerta del Sol square. According to estimates from the central government’s delegation in Madrid, around 1,200 people attended the protest. The demonstrators waved purple flags and played drums as they chanted slogans such as “Without a putero [a man who frequently uses prostitutes] there is no trafficking,” and “My womb, my vagina cannot be bought or rented.” These chants were both in reference to the future sexual violence protection law, popularly known as the “Only Yes Means Yes” law, which will punish “non-coercive pimping” and categorize surrogacy as gender violence.

Leading the Madrid march was Elena de León Criado, the president of the Madrid Federation of Women’s Associations, who carried a sign with the message: “We’re fed up with violence against women. Solutions now!” León Criado said the federation wanted Spain’s current gender violence law to include forms of gender violence that occur outside of relationships – a move that would bring Spain in line with the Istanbul Convention on violence against women. These measures are included in the State Pact Against Gender Violence, which was signed on Thursday by all Spain’s political parties except the far-right Vox.

Henar Sastre, the spokesperson of Plataforma 7N (a reference to a protest organized by women’s groups that came to occupy the center of Madrid on November 7, 2015), which is part of the Madrid federation, said the goal of Thursday’s protest was “to re-politicize the issue of violence. We have become used to having 30 women murdered a year, which is what happened in the last 11 months,” she said.

A protester in Madrid holds a sign with the message: “There would be more of us if you hadn't killed us.”
A protester in Madrid holds a sign with the message: “There would be more of us if you hadn't killed us.”Andrea Comas

In the second act, the 8M Assemblies of Madrid organized around 30 small demonstrations in different areas of the Madrid region. One of these was held in the Lavapiés neighborhood in the city of Madrid, with protesters performing El violador eres tú (or, You are the rapist) – a feminist chant created in Chile by the women’s group Las Tesis. “We want to decentralize the feminist fight and paint all the streets and neighborhoods in purple,” said Arantxa López, the spokesperson of the Lavapiés 8M Commission, who described the group’s actions as “complementary” to the main march.

In the city of Valencia, in the eastern Valencia region, thousands of people also flooded the streets to protest gender violence. The march was led by victims of gender violence, disabled women and three columns of protesters, each with a different symbol on a sign.

“We are fed up with sexist violence, with patriarchal justice, that sexual assault is on the rise, with the rapes of younger and younger girls, we are fed up with poor treatment and sexist violence,” said Xelo Álvarez, from the Feminist Coordinator of Valencia, which was one of the groups that organized the march. According to EL PAÍS’s estimate (neither organizers nor the police provided official figures), around 5,000 people took part in the protest, including the deputy premier of Valencia and the central government’s delegate in the region.

A protester in Madrid holds a sign with the message: “Love is not pain.”
A protester in Madrid holds a sign with the message: “Love is not pain.”Andrea Comas

Other marches were also held in the cities of Seville in the southern region of Andalusia; Bilbao and San Sebastián in Spain’s Basque Country; Valladolid in Castilla y León; and Barcelona in Catalonia.

So far this year, 37 women in Spain have been killed by their partners or former partners, while 1,118 have been murdered since 2003, when official records began. Of this figure, 45 were under the age of 21, according to a recent report from the CGPJ legal watchdog.

As a result of gender violence, 24 children have been orphaned this year, and 330 since 2013. One of these orphans is Joshua Alonso Mateo, whose mother was killed by his father two years ago. Last Wednesday, he received a Resilience Award from the Equality Ministry for his work in campaigning against gender violence. Since 2013, 44 children have also been murdered by their father or their mother’s ex-partner. This year, two small girls, aged six and one, were kidnapped and murdered by their father in Spain’s Canary Islands in a case that shocked the country.

From January 1, Spain will also begin to count the murders of all women, regardless of whether they were killed by a partner or former partner. This list, which will be parallel to the official toll on gender violence victims, will keep track of all women killed due to sexual violence, women who have been assaulted until their death in a family context and victims of so-called vicarious violence, when children are hurt to inflict pain on the mother.

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