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

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.”


US Embassy in Kabul warns of extremist attacks against women

Updated 18 September 2020

US Embassy in Kabul warns of extremist attacks against women

  • The “Taliban don’t have any plans to carry out any such attacks,” spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed said
  • Peace negotiations underway in Qatar, where the Taliban maintain a political office, are in the initial stages

KABUL, Afghanistan: The US Embassy in Afghanistan is warning that extremists groups are planning attacks against a “variety of targets” but are taking particular aim at women.
The warning issued late Thursday doesn’t specify the organizations plotting the attacks, but it comes as the Taliban and government-appointed negotiators are sitting together for the first time to try to find a peaceful end to decades of relentless war.
The “Taliban don’t have any plans to carry out any such attacks,” spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed told The Associated Press on Friday.
Peace negotiations underway in Qatar, where the Taliban maintain a political office, are in the initial stages with participants still hammering out what items on the agenda will be negotiated and when.
Washington’s peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said at the start of negotiations last weekend that spoilers existed on both sides. He said that some among Afghanistan’s many leaders would be content to continue with the status quo rather than find a peaceful end to the war that might involve power sharing.
According to the embassy warning, “extremist organizations continue to plan attacks against a variety of targets in Afghanistan, including a heightened risk of attacks targeting female government and civilian workers, including teachers, human rights activists, office workers, and government employees.”
The embassy did not provide specifics, including how imminent is the threat.
The Taliban have been harshly criticized for their treatment of women and girls during their five-year rule when the insurgent group denied girls access to school and women to work outside their home. The Taliban rule ended in 2001 when a US-led coalition ousted the hard-line regime for its part in sheltering Al-Qaeda, which was responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States.
One of the government-appointed peace negotiators, Fawzia Koofi, a strong, outspoken proponent of women’s rights, was shot last month in Afghanistan, but escaped serious injuries and attended the opening of negotiations last weekend. The Taliban quickly denied responsibility and Khalilzad again warned of the dangers to the process.
The United States has said that perhaps one of the most dangerous extremist groups operating in Afghanistan is the Islamic State affiliate, headquartered in the country’s east and held responsible for some of the most recent attacks. The IS affiliate has declared war on minority Shiite Muslims and has claimed credit for horrific attacks targeting them.
The United Nations as well as Afghanistan’s many international allies have stressed the need for any peace deal to protect the rights of women and minorities. Negotiations are expected to be difficult and protracted and will also include constitutional changes, disarming the tens of thousands of the Taliban as well as militias loyal to warlords, some of whom are allied with the government.
The advances for women made since 2001 have been important. Women are now members of parliament, girls have the right to education, women are in the workforce and their rights are enshrined in the constitution. Women are also seen on television, playing sports and winning science fairs.
But the gains are fragile, and their implementation has been erratic, largely unseen in rural areas where most Afghans still live.
The 2018 Women, Peace and Security Index rated Afghanistan as the second worst place in the world to be a woman, after Syria. Only 16% of the labor force are women, one of the lowest rates in the world, and half of Afghanistan’s women have had four years or less of education, according to the report, which was compiled by the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security and the Peace Research Institute of Oslo. Only around half of school-aged girls go to school, and only 19% of girls under 15 are literate, according to the UN children’s agency.
Nearly 60% of girls are married before they are 19, on average between 15 and 16 years old, to spouses selected by their parents, according to UNICEF.
Until now, parliament has been unable to ratify a bill on the protection of women.
There are also Islamic hard-liners among the politically powerful in Kabul, including Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, who is the inspiration behind the Philippine terrorist group Abu Sayyaf, and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a US-designated militant who made peace with President Ashraf Ghani’s government in 2016.