Sunday, 9 March 2014

Spanish women defend abortion & labor rights on International Women's Day

Saturday was International Women's Day and to celebrate, thousands were out in the streets of Spanish cities, including Madrid and Barcelona.  

They were protesting for both women's equality at work and also against the governments new draft anti-abortion legislation.

This year International Women's Day was more important than ever in the crisis-ravaged country.  Despite the fact that Spain "exited recession" in 2013 and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's claims that things are getting better economically, the 26 percent unemployment rate is still being maintained.

On top of this, women are claiming that the right wing government wants them to stay at home with the children - in fact, you could use the old term "barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen" as far as they are concerned.

According to one trade union spokesman yesterday, "Female unemployment has increased to a scandalous degree, with 200,000 women losing their jobs in the past year.''

Angela Barrios Manjon, 66, was part of the protest yesterday and she told AFP, "The labor reform and the abortion law are against women," she added. "The right wing wants women to stay at home and look after the children."

However the women were not only protesting women's unemployment, but also the Spanish government's new draft legislation to stop abortion in the country.

The existing law, which was introduced in 2010, allowed women to opt freely for abortion up to 14 weeks into the pregnancy. With the planned changes, however, abortion will only be allowed in cases of rape or a threat to the mother's health. The new draft law is expected to pass in parliament, where the Partido Popular currently hold the majority.

There have been delays in passing the legislation after dissent was heard from several high-profile party people. However, recently a proposal submitted by the opposition PSOE party to "immediately withdraw" the bill was rejected by 183 votes to 151. Reportedly, six lawmakers abstained from voting.

People against the abortion ban state it is likely to force women to seek back street operations, thus putting their lives at risk.

Several thousand protesters were seen marching through the center of Barcelona and Madrid, among other Spanish cities, banging drums and waving flags.  Banners in the crowd read,"No legislation in our wombs, no mistreatment of our bodies, no cutting of our rights" along with similar messages.

One Barcelona protester, Lara Rubio, 23, told AFP, "It is the first time I have come, but this year with the abortion reform it was more important than ever." 

While protesters were out in the streets, the government announced on Friday that it had approved a €3 billion ($4 billion) "strategic equal opportunities plan" to boost women's labor rights and protect them from violence.

Deputy leader of the ruling Partido Popular, Maria Dolores de Cospedal said at a conference on Saturday: "A woman can feel proud to know that her government is working for real equality for women."

"But a great deal remains to be achieved," she added, referring to access to equal salaries to men and to jobs.

However, the demonstrators and also the opposition Socialist party disagree with this magnanimous statement, with Elena Valenciano, the PSOE deputy leader, stating on television, "The Spanish right wing has never lifted a finger for women."

"Despite the trumpeting of the economic recovery, the job market for women in Spain is an ever-harsher reality."

An excellent photo gallery is available of the protests on 20minutos.

Protest in Madrid - March 8, 2014: