The draft legislation drawn up by the socialist government to tackle rising cases of domestic abuse in Spain received a serious setback yesterday when the majority of the Commission within the General Council of Judicial Powers responsible for studying the legality of new legislation, made public their conclusions. In the opinion of the majority of members of this Commission, the draft law is “incompatible with the Spanish Constitution” and some of its clauses are “misplaced, unacceptable and unjustified“. Their verdict will have to be ratified by all members of the General Judicial Council next week to become final, but even so it is headline news in all Spanish newspapers today.
There are five members in the Commission, three designated by the Popular Party (one of whom was the author of the final report, and all of whom voted in favour) and two designated by the PSOE party (who voted against the report’s conclusions).
The PP members of the commission center their criticism of the law on the following aspects:
1. “It is constitutionally wrong to condemn threats and force when only women are the victims… The fact that these crimes are based on the perpretrator being male, and the fact that by presuming his intentions, the legislation can lead to the suspect being prosecuted, are both incompatible with the Constitution”
2. In response to the Government proposal to create special courts to deal with domestic violence cases throughout Spain: “There can be no justification to create a new category of courts, just for women, which will lead to new jurisdiction based on the intentions of the aggresor and the sex of the victim. If special courts are not set up according to differences of race, ideology or beliefs, then neither should they be set up because of sex differences”
While the Commission recognises the serious degree of the domestic violence problem in Spain and the fact that the problem is “especially serious” for women, it doubts the “rationality and efficiency” of the new draft legislation. It also claims that it would have been better “to wait a while and evaluate the results” of legislation passed by the PP government last year to protect victims of domestic violence.
4. The Commission is critical of the fact that the draft legislation limits its scope to domestic violence against women. “Women will not be especially protected just because a law exists which only protects them, and excludes children, the elderly or, even, men”
Meanwhile, the two PSOE members of the commission have criticised their colleagues, and claim that the draft legislation is constitutional.
One part of the final report claims that violence against elderly people and children is even more serious than violence against women because the elderly and children have no way of defending themselves or reporting the violence. The two PSOE members said yesterday “To make a claim like that is to deny that the social problem of domestic violence is a problem of one sex against the other, of men against women, and is a result of the dominating and possessive attitudes some men subject women to” The two minority members accuse their colleagues of failing to accept that “macho, sexist” attitudes lie at the root of a social problem, and are the reason why some men treat women as if they are inferior and as if they belong to them.
The general opinion in the Spanish media today is one of surprise and, to a certain extent, unease. Everyone is aware of the horrifying stories of domestic violence which hit the headlines almost daily lately in Spain. Women need to feel more protected in this country, and potentially violent men also need to be disuaded from using violence more than they are by current legislation. Domestic abuse carried out in the home affects the whole family anyway and for children to be protected, women victims need to feel stronger and more confident that the law will look after them. It is important that the draft legislation does not become a political football, while the violence continues.