SPAIN’S Congress of Deputies was once again witness to scenes of extreme political tension on Wednesday, as Equality Minister Irene Montero went on the attack against the opposition Popular Party. Just last week, the politician from leftist Unidas Podemos party had been left nearly in tears after sexist comments were aimed at her by the far-right Vox group. But today she caused outrage by accusing the PP of ‘promoting rape culture’. 

Montero has been at the centre of a national scandal caused by the new ‘only yes means yes’ consent law, which has had the inadvertent effect of seeing convicted sex offenders’ sentences reduced in some cases or even their early release on time served. Montero has refused to accept fault with the legislation and initially even blamed ‘sexist judges’ for not properly applying it. 

Last week during a debate in Congress, which is Spain’s lower house of parliament, Montero was left close to tears when Vox deputy Carla Toscano made a sexist jibe about the equality minister’s partner, Podemos founder and former deputy prime minister Pablo Iglesias, as well as calling her a ‘liberator of rapists’. 

In today’s session, Montero was defending the new consent law and arguing that it protected all victims, highlighting its advances but failing to make mention of the unexpected effect that lowering some of the minimum sentences has had.

Her comment about the PP promoting rape culture was in reference to campaigns in regions where the party governs, such as a controversial ad in Galicia featuring a female jogger that focused on women’s choice of clothes. ‘You wear sports shorts. You go and run at night. What happens next? It shouldn’t happen, but it does,’ reads the ad. 

The moment when Montero made the controversial comments.

‘You blame the victims and you make them responsible for any assaults they suffer,’ she said. ‘You promote rape culture that puts the credibility of victims in question.’

The comment prompted howls of outrage from the PP politicians in the chamber, and it took some time for the speaker of the house to bring them to order. 

Shortly after, PP spokesperson Cuca Gamarra told reporters in the halls of Congress that ‘someone like that cannot be in the Cabinet, because the government speaks via her mouth’. She added that ‘everything has a limit’. 

Meanwhile, the Socialist Party, which is the senior partner to Unidas Podemos in Spain’s coalition government, distanced itself from Montero’s words. Justice Minister Pilar Llop said that the PP ‘does not encourage any kind of culture against women’, in comments reported by Spanish daily El Mundo. She did, however, call for the party to be ‘aware that there is a need to continue advances in equality’. 

The Socialist spokesperson in Congress, Patxi López, said that Montero’s words ‘were not the best’ after what had happened last week with Vox, adding that ‘precisely because of her having suffered that verbal assault, she should not play around with that’.

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