It has been more than 80 years since Spanish women won the right to vote, but some things never change.
Only 27,792 women in Spain receive a salary greater than 10 times the minimum wage, compared with 105,000 men. Males also comfortably take home 82 percent of the highest salaries, according to the national tax agency. There are 1 million more unemployed women than there are unemployed men, and as of July the female unemployment rate was 24 percent, about four percentage points higher than the rate among males.
Plus, almost 5 million housewives work for free without health care, paid holidays or the prospect of a pension, despite up to 60-hour work weeks caring for elderly parents, children, husbands, pets and the home. Their labor is a new form of welfare — at no cost to the government.
Meanwhile, 3 million widows receive 51 percent of their husbands’ salaries as pensions, about €400 per month on average, to survive. There are 1.7 million single-parent families, which in reality are “single-mother” families because a good 80 percent of these homes depend on a woman.
As in the rest of Europe, women have been dogged with injustices, and not only with regard to wages and employment.
Politicians continue to question their right to abortion. Minors can have an abortion only with parental consent, underestimating the risk of violence within the family that may be involved. Of all abortions, only 3 percent are practiced in public health facilities, encouraging the use of private health care or DIY abortions with pills bought online.
To this we can add the 150,000 criminal charges of sexual abuse filed each year and the murders by machista terrorists: Spain has a dubious distinction among European countries for violence against women.
This is only a brief summary of the inequalities women suffer in Spain.
The Dec. 20 elections are considered the most unpredictable of recent Spanish democracy, owing to the wide choice of candidates and to the enormous number of undecided voters, as indicated by opinion polls.
The campaigns have been focusing so far on the economic situation, but if they really wanted to score the undecided voters they would be better off championing women’s issues. For every 100 undecided men, there are 151 women who haven’t yet made up their minds. Their votes will be the determining factor on Dec. 20, and yet there is no woman among the presidential candidates. Just the usual array of male faces.
Since 1975, however, there has been a Feminist Party of Spain. It was legally admitted in 1981 and has since merged with the United Left. There is also a coalition called the Feminist Initiative — whose platform is in its name — which will participate in the upcoming elections with six nominations in Valencia, Castellón and Burgos. But that’s not enough.
Of the five leading political parties, only 34 percent of the candidates among the 52 constituencies have women as leaders. (The parties respect a law requiring them to maintain at least a 40 percent of seats for each sex through the use of legal tricks.)
Almost all the lists have been packaged so that it is less likely for women to win seats in the future Congress. One exception is the Socialist Workers’ Party, which is attempting to charm by naming women to half its list (a record!). At the other extreme is the Citizens coalition, which has the fewest women. The catch-all excuse, of course, is that lists are decided based on merit, not gender.
There have been occasional breakthroughs, mostly for show, such as Podemos’s selection to the Salamanca list of María José Jiménez, president of a group called Feminist Roma Women Defending their Rights in Spain.
But beyond political theater, the parties lack fundamental policy goals to raise equality. What is needed are feminist programs that renegotiate the public debt in a way that achieves true tax reform, income redistribution and equal pay for equal work between women and men.
The economic crisis has a woman’s face, and the feminization of poverty is an ugly social phenomenon still missing from the Spanish institutional agenda.