WS3300 Women in Europe

Week 8 Women in Spain


The position of women in Spain today is still significantly shaped by the history of the country.
The long period of authoritarian rule under Franco (1939 - 1975), together with the predominantly agricultural economy until the 1960s, means that traditional practices and attitudes still have an impact on the lives of women today.

Spain was governed by the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera from 1923 - 1931. A small number of aritocratic and middle class women sat in the Consultative National Assembly

The Second Republic was established in 1931. Before women got the right to vote, they were allowed to hold public office. Three women were elected to the 1931 Constituent Assembly and in the new constitution, the right to vote was extended to women.

In 1936 the nationalist uprising under Franco against the Republican government led to the Spanish Civil War.
Women participated on both sides - left-wing women's organizations mobilized to oppose fascism and Catholic women's groups sided with Franco,

Franco defeated the Republic and established an authoritarian state in 1939. Women were encouraged to join the women's section of the Falange Party - it emphasized women's traditional roles and Catholic virtues.
Some women participated in the Cortes which had only a consultative function.
Women opposed to the Franco regime joined clandestine organizations from the 1960s onwards.
In the 1960s, Spain started to industrialise and to develop its tourist industry.

The Women's Democratic Movement was formed in 1963 by members of the Communist Party (PCE)- aimed at bringing non-working women into anti-Franco struggle - important in organising first congress of WLM

Franco died in 1975 and there was a 3 year transition period in which political parties were legalised and a new constitution drawn up. Spain became a parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarch.

Article 14 of 1978 Constitution forbids sex discrimination.
Establishes equality of husband & wife & of children born inside & outside marriage.

Women and Employment

Pillinger cites EU figures for 1988 which show that These figures are similar to Ireland, Italy & Greece.
In Portugal however, 44% of adult women economically active.

International Labour Organization statistics for 1990 show that

ILO statistics for 1995 show that

This is still very similar to Ireland, Italy & Greece

The Financial Times in 2000 quoted figures from the Spanish National Statistics Institute which show that

In 1991 24% of women were unemployed, according to Threlfall, compared to 12% of men. Young women, including graduates, are particularly likely to be unemployed.

Labour market figures for the 1990s can be found at

Women and Politics

Women in Parliament

In 1988, PSOE established quota of 25% of women in party controlled public posts
In 1996, the PSOE adopted a quota of 40 to 60 % for equal representation of both sexes in party committees and electoral lists.

According to Institute for Women, only 3.2% of Spanish women were members of a political party in the beginning of the 1990s and only 1% of women said that they would want to participate politically.

Contraception and Abortion

1978 Ban on contraceptive sale & information lifted

1984 Abortion legal if mother's life in danger, in case of rape or if fetus malformed - cost not borne by health service

M Threlfall says that the PSOE (Socialist Party) tried to placate the Church & the Right wing - but both opposed to any legalisation anyway

In government, the PSOE govt refused to extend law
Many health workers will not perform abortions

1985 Family planning services incorporated into universal health care

1996 Socialist party, now in opposition, proposed change to law which would have virtually guaranteed abortion on demand in first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
The proposal was defeated by the government party (Popular Party) by 176 votes to 166

1998 A law proposed to permit abortion in first 12 weeks if it created a personal, social or family conflict for women - defeated 173-172 Currently 98% of abortions are done for mental health reasons.

Domestic Violence

In 1998 the Spanish Government announced emergency measures to combat domestic violence following a national outcry over the brutal killing of a woman by her husband.
The measures included more help for victims, quicker trials and a special task force to consider tougher sentences.

"We have observed that attacks on women in the home happen in all social classes and it is important to note that alcohol is not the principal cause," says lawyer María Durán, president of Themis, an association of female barristers and solicitors that represents battered women in the Spanish courts.
"The cause is something much more serious: the belief on the part of the man that he is superior to the woman with whom he is living. This prejudice is much more difficult to eradicate."

European Cultural Digest December 1998

The same article says 91 women women were killed by male partners in 1997.

January - October 2003 74 women have been killed by male partners-almost as many as in all of 2002.

Spain's Domestic Violence Fatalities Rising 10/31/03 By Jerome Socolovsky

The Feminist Movement

The first women's liberation meeting was held in Madrid in early December 1975 - two weeks after Franco's death.
1975 was United Nations International Women's Year - women's section of Falange prepared Spanish contribution to meetings.

At the first Women's Liberation Congress in December 1975 there were divisions between 'political' and 'radical' feminists - former in majority - radical feminists wanted to concentrate on women's issues only - their position called 'single militancy'.
Formed groups mainly consiting of professional women in large towns.
The political or socialist feminists were aligned with parties on the left - their position called 'double militancy'
Socialist & Communist parties accepted most of demands of the emerging women's movement and set up Women's Committees within their organisations.

In 1976 the Tribunal of Crimes against Women was held in Brussels - attracted many Spanish women and led to series of meetings in Barcelona.
A list of minimal demands was agreed - for legal equality, no discimination at work, in education or in leisure, shared parental rights, equal rights for unmarried mothers & their children, contraception & social security, amnesty for women & abolition of law against homosexuality

In 1977 International Women's Day was celebrated as day of feminist struggle for the first time since the Civil War
Shortly afterwards, some radical feminists formed the Feminist Party - said women exploited by men in sex, reproduction & housework - the party was not legalised until 1981
In 1977 there were about 90 feminist organisations

At the 1979 national meeting the split between double & single militancy was still present. Not much mass feminist action after 1980

However, in 1985 there were still more than 600 women's groups in Spain and about 20% were explicitly feminist
In 1985 4000 women met to celebrate 10 years of feminism in Spain

M A Duran & M T Gallego 'The Women's Movement in Spain and the New Spanish Democracy' in D Dahlerup (ed) (1986) The New Women's Movement argue that

Aspects of Government Policy

In 1983 the Women's Rights Institute set up by the government.
It was headed by socialist feminists and its main task is to implement non-discrimination.

Threlfall says that in 1992 it had 228 staff & £11.5 million budget.
It funds self managed groups, develops policy & legislation, commissions research, organises media campaigns and education & training

The page starts off by saying

"Womens rights are considered equal to those of men in the Spanish Constitution. But, still, because of lack of knowledge of the Law and the difficulty in adapting the mentalities to the legislative developments, women's rights are not fully respected at home, at work, in the streets. It is not enought then, with the laws that guarantee women's rights. It is also need, a deep change in social habits and individual behaviours in relation to the rights and duties of women, in order to put them into practice.

To make real the principle of equal opportunies, with no discrimination based upon sex, the Womens Institute, depending on the Social Affairs Ministry, was created."

Nearly 300 female officers in Spain's armed forces - just 0.44 per cent of total.
In France, 3.7 per cent of officers are women and in Britain, 4%.

The Observer 10 June 2001

The Spanish government made the following report to the United Nations in 1999 about its efforts to implement the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women

It reported that

Recently, the right to paternity leave was established

Cristina Almeida, leader of a small left wing party, is disparaging of last year's family law which granted men the right to paternity leave for the first time. "It is a technical law that nobody recognises. What we want is a law that men will accept and make the most of. Women's liberation hasn't meant that they have been freed from the home. Like the world over, it has resulted in Spanish women juggling a double burden between their work both inside and outside the home."

In March 2001 EU approved the new EQUAL Community Initiative Programme for Spain for the period 2001-2006. Under the programme, the European Social Fund (ESF) will provide € 515 million to develop new ways of fighting discrimination and inequality in the field of employment.

Web Resources

Report from Spain by Carlota Bustelo und Ana Chillida
Spain - Entrepreneurial emancipation
June 1999 Spain Presents Third, Fourth Periodic Reports on Compliance with Women's Anti-Discrimination Convention
UGT highlights gender inequalities in Spain May 2003
U.S. Department of State report on Human Rights in Spain 30 January 1997

U.S. Department of State report on Human Rights in Spain 2001

Report on Spain by Isabel Carrera Suárez and Laura Viñuela Suárez, December 2001

Selected Reading

M-J Rague-Arias (1981) 'Spain: Feminism in our Time' Women's Studies International Forum 4/4 pp. 471-476
M A Duran & M T Gallego 'The Women's Movement in Spain and the New Spanish Democracy' in D Dahlerup (ed) (1986) The New Women's Movement
Astelarra, J. (1992) 'Women, Political Culture and Empowerment in Spain', in Bystydzienski, J. Women Transforming Politics
M Threlfall (ed) (1996) Mapping the Women's Movement
A Sabate-Martinez (1996) 'Women's Integration into the Labour Market and Rural Industrialization in Spain' in M Garcia-Ramon & J Monk (eds) Women of the European Union
A Jones (1997) Women in Contemporary Spain

Full Reading Lists for WS3300 Women in Europe

Page created by Penny Welch November 2001/Updated December 2003

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