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.”


Unspeakable grief: A husband, wife and three children wiped out in Sri Lanka

Updated 23 April 2019
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Unspeakable grief: A husband, wife and three children wiped out in Sri Lanka

  • The Gomez family gather for funeral of a husband and wife and their three sons
  • They were brutally killed as they attended Easter Sunday Mass at Colombo’s St. Joseph’s Shrine

COLOMBO: The dark wooden coffins, sitting side by side, attested to one family’s unspeakable grief.
The Gomez family gathered Tuesday to say a final farewell to five loved ones — a son, a daughter-in-law and three young grandsons — brutally killed as they attended Easter Sunday Mass at Colombo’s St. Joseph’s Shrine.
“All family, all generation, is lost,” said Joseph Gomez, the family patriarch, as tears welled in his eyes. Dozens of family members and neighbors were gathered in his simple home, where the sound of hymns sung by mourners gently wafted in the background and candles flickered beside three coffins. The bodies of two grandsons have yet to be recovered.
Across Sri Lanka, Tuesday was a national day of mourning as families began to lay to rest the more than 320 victims of the bomb blasts that struck a half-dozen churches and hotels in the island nation.
For the Gomez family, the loss was unfathomable: A 33-year-old son, Berlington Joseph, the young man’s 31-year-old wife Chandrika Arumugam, and their three boys, 9-year-old Bevon, 6-year-old Clavon and baby Avon, who would have turned 1 next week. A funeral card with a photo of the family clutched in his hands, the elder Gomez wailed: “I can’t bear this on me, I can’t bear this.”
“My eldest son, my eldest son,” he sobbed as he laid bouquets of red roses and brightly colored daisies on the largest coffin. Next to it was a tiny coffin, a photo of little Avon tucked into a wooden frame nearby.
The coffins, draped with long white tassels, were then carried to a Colombo cemetery and lowered into side-by-side graves.
At St. Joseph’s Shrine, dozens of mourners gathered outside, lighting candles and praying in unison for the victims of Sunday’s blasts as heavily armed soldiers stood guard.
At St. Sebastian Church in Negombo, a funeral service was held Tuesday for victims killed there as they worshipped, led by Cardinal Malcom Ranjith. The church was heavily guarded by hundreds of army, air force and police troops, and soldiers were deployed every 15 feet along the streets of the city some 20 miles north of Colombo.
Throughout the country, people observed a three-minute silence for the victims of the near-simultaneous attacks at three churches and three luxury hotels, and three other related blasts, the deadliest violence to strike Sri Lanka in a decade.
The Sri Lankan government has blamed the attack on National Towheed Jamaar, a little-known local extremist group, and on Tuesday, the Daesh group also claimed responsibility, though it provided no proof it was involved and has made unsubstantiated claims in the past.