Feminism is the word in Spain’s electoral campaign

Prosecutors in Barcelona asked the bus to be stopped when it came to the Mediterranean city, charging it incites hate and discrimination, but a judge refused to do so, citing freedom of expression. (AFP)
Updated 06 March 2019
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Feminism is the word in Spain’s electoral campaign

  • Unions, feminist associations and left-wing parties have called for a work stoppage for two hours on March 8
  • But virulent anti-feminism rhetoric has also made its entrance

MADRID: Women’s rights have taken center stage in election campaigns for Spain’s left- and right-wing parties as International Women’s Day approaches even as ultra-conservative groups hit back at what they dub “radical feminism.”
Unions, feminist associations and left-wing parties have called for a work stoppage for two hours on March 8, hoping to recreate the strike and mass protests seen nationwide to mark the same day in 2018.
But things are different this year.
Political parties are already busy campaigning for upcoming snap general elections on April 28 and European, regional and municipal polls on May 26.
The ruling Socialist party, center-right Ciudadanos and the conservative Popular Party (PP) have all raced to pledge to do their bit against gender inequality in a country with a strong feminist movement.
But virulent anti-feminism rhetoric has also made its entrance, with far-right party Vox and an ultra-conservative association that chartered a bus with the slogan “#StopFeminazis” coupled with a picture of Hitler wearing pink lipstick.
Feminism — defined as the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes — like poverty or wealth redistribution, are usually more the remit of the left, says Cristina Monge, sociology professor at the University of Zaragoza.
Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has made them a central theme of his campaign.
On Friday in its cabinet meeting, the socialist government — which has the most female ministers in Spain’s history — approved a number of progressive measures.
Among them, a gradual increase in paternity leave so that it equals maternity leave by 2021, and more transparency on salaries in companies.
They aim to reduce the gender pay gap, which stood at 14.2 percent in Spain and 16.2 percent in the European Union in 2016, according to the latest Eurostat figures.
But Spain’s right-wing parties have also embraced feminism for years, even if they have not called to mobilize on March 8.
Center-right party Ciudadanos on Sunday unveiled a manifesto for “liberal feminism” that defends gender equality and “doesn’t exclude men.”
Conservative PP meanwhile has glossed over a speech by its leader Pablo Casado criticizing abortion and is pledging to reduce the gender pay gap and help women enter the labor market.
“Let’s not let them speak in our name,” said outgoing parliament speaker Ana Pastor in a PP campaign video — in reference to the left.
“That’s tangible proof that feminism is here to stay and sells” politically, Professor Monge said. “Many right-wing people... won’t tolerate that their party oppose it.”
In Spain, 77 percent say a strike on March 8 is justified, according to a survey by polling firm Metroscopia published Monday.
That, however, is five percentage points less than a year ago, particularly among those on the right as Vox’s popularity increases.
The far-right party, which could play a decisive role after elections in helping other right-wing parties secure a majority in parliament, opposes a law against gender violence that it feels is “ideological” and “discriminatory” toward men.
The bus chartered by conservative, Catholic association HazteOir (“Make yourself heard“), which compares feminists to Nazis, has been driving around the country for several days.
It is protesting against a law fighting gender violence, another for gender equality and yet more for LGBT rights, arguing these all discriminate against men.
Prosecutors in Barcelona asked the bus to be stopped when it came to the Mediterranean city, charging it incites hate and discrimination, but a judge refused to do so, citing freedom of expression.
Meanwhile the “Women of the World Global Platform,” a Spanish initiative that groups together conservative associations from around the world, has called for a counter-protest in central Madrid on March 10.
International Women’s Day “has converted into a day for those who reject femininity as well as masculinity, complementarity, maternity and dedication to the family,” spokeswoman Leonor Tamayo said in a statement.
“But we want to celebrate it, confirm it and reclaim it.”


You die! Up to 23 dead as arsonist sets Japan anime studio afire

Updated 4 min 39 sec ago
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You die! Up to 23 dead as arsonist sets Japan anime studio afire

  • Fire started in three-story building in Japan’s ancient capital
  • Kyoto Animation, better known as KyoAni, was founded in 1981 as an animation and comic book production studio

TOKYO: A man screaming “You die!” burst into an animation production studio in Kyoto, Japan, and set it on fire early Thursday, authorities said, killing seven people and leaving at least 16 more presumed dead.

The blaze injured another 36 people, some of them critically, Japanese authorities said. Most were workers at Kyoto Animation, known for mega-hit stories featuring high school girls.

The fire started in the three-story building in Japan’s ancient capital after the suspect sprayed an unidentified liquid accelerant, Kyoto prefectural police and fire department officials said.

Seven have been confirmed dead with severe burns, said fire department official Satoshi Fujiwara. Six people also found on the first and second floors were presumed dead, Fujiwara said.

On the third floor, more than 10 people were found unresponsive, he said. Some of them were found on the stairs, where they apparently collapsed while gasping for air and trying to go out to the roof.

The suspect was injured and taken to a hospital, officials said. Police are investigating the man on suspicion of arson.

 

 

Survivors who saw the attacker said he was not their colleague and that he was screaming “(You) die!” when he dumped the liquid and started the fire, according to Japanese media reports. They said some of the survivors got splashed with the liquid.

Footage on Japan’s NHK television showed gray smoke billowing from the charred building. Other footage showed windows blown off.

“There was an explosion, then I heard people shouting, some asking for help,” a female witness told TBS TV. “Black smoke was rising from windows on upper floors, then there was a man struggling to crawl out of the window.”

Witnesses in the neighborhood said they heard bangs coming from the building, others said they saw people coming out blackened, bleeding, walking barefoot, Kyodo News reported.

Rescue officials set up an orange tent outside the studio building to provide first aid and sort out the injured.

Fire department officials said more than 70 people were in the building at the time of the fire and many of them ran outside.

Kyoto Animation, better known as KyoAni, was founded in 1981 as an animation and comic book production studio, and its hits include “Lucky Star,” “K-On!” and “Haruhi Suzumiya.”

With at least 23 killed or presumed dead, the fire was the worst mass killing in Japan since a man stabbed and killed 19 people at an assisted living facility in western Tokyo in 2016.

A fire in 2001 in Tokyo’s congested Kabukicho entertainment district killed 44 people in its worst known case of arson in modern times. Police never announced an arrest for setting the blaze, though five people were convicted of negligence. In 2008, 16 people died in a blaze at a movie theater in Osaka, near Kyoto.