Defying pandemic, feminists in Spain decry far-right attacks
8th March 2021

MADRID — Women in Spain are marking this year’s International Women’s Day with static protests, bicycle fun rides and other small-sized events to prevent gatherings that could trigger a new spike of coronavirus infections.

Spain’s Constitutional Court on Monday rejected last-minute appeals by unions and women’s rights groups to street protests or marches in the Spanish capital of Madrid, following similar rulings by lower-level courts.

The decision has enraged many who argued it was possible to raise their voice in favor of gender equality and against discrimination without endangering public health.

Over 100 protesters defied the order by gathering — while staying at a distance from each other — in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol central square. They shouted “Enough with patriarchal justice!” held banners against fascism and called for an end to violence and discrimination against women.

Some activists have called for purple scarves to flood the balconies and windows of Madrid.

The largest gathering is expected later in the day in Barcelona, although organizers have asked people to stand still instead of marching.

Spain’s thriving feminist movement has claimed a few victories in recent years, including the adoption of gender violence laws and forcing judicial reforms regarding sexual abuse. Yet activists say the social and economic crisis triggered by the coronavirus pandemic has widened the both salary gap between men and women and the gap in any work-life balance.

“Spain can’t continue to be built with women in the margins, with a few that break glass ceilings while the most vulnerable continue on sticky floors,” said Equality Minister Irene Montero, who was joined by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez at an official Women’s Day event.

A draft of a new Transgender Law has deepened divisions in the movement and within the left-wing ruling coalition, with the leading Socialist party opposing self-determination of gender without a mental health diagnosis.

Far-right activists, meanwhile, have campaigned against gender violence laws that they say discriminate against men and lambasted the government’s push to make consent in sexual relations legally mandatory.

Twin street murals celebrating accomplished women in politics, arts and science were vandalized over the weekend in Madrid and a nearby city. The portraits of Rigoberta Menchú, Frida Kahlo, Nina Simone, Rosa Parks and seven more women were covered in paint, amid signs that read “terrorist” and “communist.”

Sánchez, who said that better policies for women will only make societies advance, called extremist conservative voices who oppose feminism “a force for regression.”

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