IN the fight against the image of the Spanish male as the red-blooded, macho abuser, it seems that authorities all over Spain are taking the bull by the horns. Highly visible campaigns are springing up all over the country to denounce gender violence and machismo, and to combat the patriarchal image of the Spanish family.
Surely Fuenlabrada, a commuter town near Madrid, must win the prize for the most creative efforts. Over the course of the next twelve months the town will remove half of its ‘little green men’ and half of its red ones from pedestrian crossing signs, replacing them with more feminine silhouettes with skirts and ponytails. It is possible that this move will do more for the eccentric image of Spanish governance than the formidable image of the Spanish male.
The comic element aside however, gender violence is dark shadow under Spain’s sunny image. In 2004 for example, 60 women died in Spain at the hands of their partners. In addition, around 100,000 complaints of domestic violence are registered per year, despite the fact that only around 5 per cent of women who suffer gender-based violence file official reports. Further problems come with the attitude towards abused women who consult the authorities; their complaints are often ignored or not taken seriously by the police or even by family members- who often believe marriage is for life regardless of the circumstances.
Since Spain brought in the ‘Law Against Gender-based Violence’ in 2005, state structures have improved, but in the first year that the law came into force, more women died at the hands of their abusive partner since the year 1999. Of course changes in legal structures alone do not alter values in society, and towns such as Alhama de Granada are organising activities to mark the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Workshops, discussions and exhibitions are taking place throughout the month of November as well as a group visit to the Parliament of Andalucia in Sevilla.
The Alhama council aim to tackle gender violence and begin a dialogue on the subject in the hope of removing the stigma and taboo attached to it.
Perhaps Alhama’s head-on approach will be more effective than simply being told not to cross the road whilst the green lady is flashing.