English Defence League members staging a demonstration in support of Dutch MP Geert Wilders in March 2010 in London. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images
On the 3rd of September, 2019 a political delegation from Iran visited the Spanish congress. The Iranian protocol dictated that men could not shake hands with women. Because of these requirements, the far-right party VOX announced that they were not going to join the meeting due to the discriminatory treatment imposed on women who were relegated to a secondary role. They also found it both unacceptable and unbelievable that members from the other political parties were attending. The matter was partially solved with the cancellation of the session to avoid Spanish women politicians that embarrassing situation.
Gestures such as the one mentioned above, may lead us to think that VOX is a political force leading the defence of women’s rights. But the truth is that the behaviour of the far-right party has been very controversial, to say the least, in many aspects concerning women’s issues. Just 2 days after the incident mentioned above, VOX stated that they were not going to sign the agreement on violence against women at the City Hall of Madrid since it assumed the a priori guilt of a sector of society (i.e. men) as well as excluded any mention of the violence exerted against men, the elderly and children since it just involved a group of measures exclusively focused on violence against women.
When asked about their rejection of the agreement on the Spanish public TV channel, Iván Espinosa de los Monteros, the speaker of the party in the congress, contended there are more infanticides carried out by women than by men in Spain and there is no need to talk about “gender violence” let alone to have specific laws on it. This inflammatory statement caused a great deal of infuriated reactions especially on social media. Many expressed their astonishment, frustration and rage. In fact, Espinosa de los Monteros is wrong even about the data: the figures provided by the National Institute of Statistics show that the gender of the murderer is not a relevant factor. But, what was more devastating was the use of this heinous example to justify their vilification of the law on violence against women. After all, one of VOX’s main obsessions since they burst into the political scene has been the demonization of the feminist movement.
Far-right politician Francisco Serrano, currently the main representative of VOX in Andalusia and author of books such as the “Gender dictatorship” (2012) and “Practical guide for mistreated parents. How to survive the gender dictatorship” (2019), is perhaps the most belligerent on the matter. The former judge has displayed a wide range of phrases to describe the feminist movement or as he calls it “gender jihadism” “gender ideology”, “feminazis”, “female-chauvinism” or “feminist supremacy”. Serrano’s main obsessions are twofold: on the one hand, the use of the funds invested by the state to solve the problem of violence against women – he claims that some of the money that the organizations is not used to help mistreated women but go to organizations that make ‘clitoris maps’ – and, on the other hand, the number of fake legal claims made by women on domestic abuse. The former judge contends that just 5% of the reports on domestic violence are true.
Of course, VOX will insist that they are the party who defends women’s dignity more fervently than any other. But calling for non-revisable life sentences for rapists is insufficient when a political party is promoting deep hatred towards feminism and even suggesting political measures that are detrimental to all women.
Violence must be rejected, judged and condemned categorically. However, what VOX refuses to accept is the existence of a kind of violence specifically perpetrated against women as a result of centuries of dominance of a toxic system of patriarchy that is deeply rooted structurally and institutionally and which perceives women as secondary citizens or as men’s property.
By trying to rename the law on violence against women as “the law on intrafamiliar violence” what they are denying on the one hand is the existence of a kind of violence exerted on women for the mere fact of being women – the gender factor – not for their role in the family unit, and on the other hand, they are making invisible the problem under more generic labels. The notion of “intrafamiliar violence” would exclude cases such as rapists killing their female victims, sex workers murdered at the hands of their pimps or customers, or women killed by their male colleagues because they did not want to date them, just to mention some of the horrific cases that have happened unfortunately in Spanish society in the last years. None of these situations happened within the confines of the family. None of these women would be protected by VOX’s law of “intrafamiliar violence”.
The number of victims for gender violence started to be counted officially since 2003 and up till now the number is 1024. 48 women were killed in 2018 and up to the 22rd October the number of victims in 2019 is 49. Still these figures are not enough for VOX to admit there is a specific type of violence exerted on women for the mere fact of being women. The party’s daily rhetoric to deal with this delicate topic is not contributing to solve this social scourge but belittling a serious problem in Spanish society while they focus their efforts to vilify a sector of the feminist movement with measures that have dire consequences for all women.
Dr Carmen Aguilera-Carnerero is a Senior Fellow at CARR and Lecturer in English and German Philologies, University of Granada. See her profile here.
© Carmen Aguilera-Carnerero. Views expressed on this website are individual contributors and do not necessarily reflect that of the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right (CARR). We are pleased to share previously unpublished materials with the community under creative commons license 4.0 (Attribution-NoDerivatives).
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