Equality of sexes in Spain

Spanish Congress passes new equality laws

The Spanish parliament passed the Law on Equality between men and women yesterday. This new law gives fathers the right to 15 days paternity leave and equality between men and women on electoral lists which according to Zapatero, the Spanish president will radically transform society for ever.

The president took it upon himself to present the law on equality in the Spanish Congress today with the support of 192 members of parliament but with the notable abstention of the 119 PP members of parliament. When the law was passed there was a standing ovation by members of parliament and representatives of women’s groups that had been following the debate in the Congress.

The Law on Equality also forces companies with more than 250 employees to negotiate plans on equality within the workplace and for larger companies to incorporate 40% of women in their Board of Directors within 8 years.

It also gives parents the rights to reduce their working day from an eighth to half in order to look after children under eight years old.

In the case of premature births, maternity leave starts when the baby leaves the hospital. Paternity leave will be extended from 15 days to one month within a timescale of 6 years.

One of the most controversial changes that the new law will bring about is to electoral lists. In districts of 5000 or more inhabitants political parties must have at least 40% of women for every 5 posts. From 2011 this measure will be applied to districts of 3000 or more inhabitants.

Susana Camarero, a member of PP, accused Zapatero of being an armchair feminist who does not listen to women (even though he is the only president in Spanish history to have an equal number of men and women ministers in his government). She said that this was a law for elites and that it did not address the needs of real people.

She also said it was not very ambitious and that it would not be very effective.

Zapatero highlighted that the most important objective was to do justice to women. He dedicated the 15th March 2007 to Clara Campoamor, the member of parliament who defended women’s rights 75 years ago. According to Jesús Caldera, the Minister for Work and Social affairs this new law could come into effect next Monday.