Protests held across Spain against gender violence

Daniel SILVA
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The demonstrations were called after a series of high-profile rape cases and a rise in the number of women killed at the hands of their partners or ex-partners

Protesters took to the rain soaked streets of Madrid and dozens of other cities across Spain on Friday to raise the alarm against violence against women and demand tougher action.

Chanting "They are murdering us" and carrying signs reading "There is no justification" or "Women's lives matter", several thousand protesters, mainly women, packed the central Puerta del Sol square despite a thunderstorm for the rally organised by various women's rights groups.

Many of them were decked out in purple, the colour of the feminist movement, or held candles, lanterns, torches and mobile phones to honour the memory of domestic violence victims.

Similar protests were held in cities and towns across the country from San Sebastian in the north to Seville in the southwest, as well as in Spain's Canary Islands in the Atlantic.

The demonstrations were called after a series of high-profile rape cases and a rise in the number of women killed at the hands of their partners or ex-partners.

"This summer has been barbaric, with figures on gender violence that are chilling for a state that has pioneering laws" against gender violence, Covadonga Peremarch, the spokeswoman for the protests' organisers, Feminist Emergency, told Cadena Ser radio ahead of the protests.

So far this year 42 women have been murdered in domestic violence attacks, including 19 over the summer, according to interior ministry figures.

"Why they are killing us? And why they (politicians) are allowing it? It is time for them to do something and that is why we are here, in the rain and with our anger," Ana Maria Cano, a 53-year-old administrative assistant, told AFP at the Madrid rally.

The Spanish parliament in 2004 unanimously passed Europe's first law specifically cracking down on gender-based violence that offered free legal aid and established special courts for victims.

In late 2017, Spain's parliament unanimously passed a series of measures designed to bulk up the original law.

But despite these measures a total of 1,017 women in Spain have lost their lives at the hands of their partners or ex-partners since the country's government began to officially count these deaths in 2003.

- 'Not look away' -

Veronica Bordon, a 51-year-old lawyer who works with domestic violence victims, said measures to fight gender violence did not receive enough funding and more training was needed for professionals who deal with the issue.

"We need to really put into practice the laws we already have, which were so pioneering," she said at the Madrid demonstration.

Laura Gonzalez, a 29-year-old engineer, said Spaniards needed to "accept" that "there is a problem in our society, and not look away".

Murders of women at the hands of their partners or ex-partners receive widespread media coverage in Spain and officials in the hometown of the victim traditionally hold a minute of silence for her.

Despite the outcry and anger provoked by such cases, upstart far-right party Vox has called for Spain's domestic violence laws to be repealed, arguing they discriminate against men.

It wants the laws to be replaced with legislation providing "equal protection" for men, women, children, and the elderly.

On Thursday the party boycotted the minute's silence that Madrid city council had called to mark the latest victim of domestic violence who was stabbed to death in front of her two children in the Spanish capital two days earlier.

Instead Vox's general secretary Javier Ortega Smith turned up at the event with a sign that read "Violence has no gender", leading to a row with Madrid's conservative mayor Jose Luis Martinez-Almeida which was captured on video and drew widespread criticism from other parties.