Feminism going too far in Spain, "men's lib" claims (Feature)
Aug 31, 2010, 3:06 GMT
By Sinikka Tarvainen, dpa =
Madrid (dpa) - Women's rights need to be defended, most Spaniards agree - but do men need their own liberation movement as well?
Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's progressive women's rights policies have sparked a debate on whether his campaign for the equality of the sexes has gone too far.
Spain's gender legislation 'discriminates against men,' who are not protected adequately from female violence against them, men's rights activist Domingo Gonzalez Alonso claims.
Men also have few rights in situations of separation or divorce, the spokesman for the Ambos association defending divorced men told the German Press Agency dpa in a telephone interview.
The government rejects such arguments and accuses the critics of downplaying centuries of male oppression against women.
Zapatero, a self-confessed feminist, took a strong stance in favour of gender equality by appointing Spain's first half-female cabinet after his election victory in 2004.
After winning a second term in 2008, Zapatero created Spain's first Equality Ministry.
Legislation adopted in 2004 turned Spain into one of the most progressive European countries regarding women's rights, the government says.
The law defines gender violence exclusively as male violence against women. Violence exercised by women against men comes under ordinary criminal law.
Men should be penalized more severely than women for similar acts of domestic violence, the Constitutional Court confirmed in a recent ruling.
More than 100 special courts - as well as special police teams - handle cases of men threatening, coercing or physically attacking their current or former wives, live-in partners or girlfriends.
Around 45 women have been killed in cases of gender violence in Spain so far this year. Despite Spain being known for its macho culture, the figure is not particularly high in European terms. About 40 per cent of the victims were not Spanish, but immigrant women.
The law on gender violence obliges the media to inform the public about cases of women being killed by their husbands or partners.
'Meanwhile, 18 men, 25 children and 16 grandparents have been killed this year in situations of domestic violence, but the media take hardly any interest in them,' Gonzalez complains.
He quotes the case of a young man who says his live-in girlfriend pushed him down the stairs in the southern city of Huelva.
'He broke his collarbone, but she called the police and accused him of violence. He was arrested and ordered to keep away from her. She can continue living in the house, which belongs to him, until the court case is resolved. That could take about a year.'
Some Spanish judges and authors have also accused women of falsely charging men with gender violence.
However, there is little evidence of that happening on a wide scale, and the debate now focuses on fathers' rights after divorce or separation.
The mother traditionally gets custody of the children in more than 90 per cent of the cases. That entitles her to continuing to live in the family home and to getting alimony from her former husband.
'Many men have been left homeless, because their wives found someone younger or just could no longer stand the sight of them,' Gonzalez says.
So far, only one of Spain's 17 semi-autonomous regions - the northern Aragon - has adopted legislation aimed at generalizing shared custody of children. Judges there can oblige mothers to share custody with fathers in the absence of adverse factors such as violence.
Advocates of shared custody say it allows fathers to be more present in their children's lives, and also favours women in that it allows them to work more outside the home.
The government has rejected making shared custody the national norm. Irresponsible fathers could claim custody of their children only for economic reasons, government gender violence delegate Miguel Lorente Acosta pointed out.
Critics of the government's equality policies failed to realize that gender violence was not just a question of some men losing their tempers, Lorente Acosta told the daily El Pais.
It was a 'problem of patriarchy, of a cultural and social model based on unequality,' he stressed.