8 Mar, 2023 @ 17:00
1 min read

A story of change: Spain’s move to democracy and the women’s rights that followed

Guide To Being A Good Wife

While men and women are treated equally by law, many women still report sexist behaviour and ‘machista’ attitudes.

Some of the most outmoded attitudes hark back to the Franco era when, in 1939, the dictator removed any powers women had gained. Women were forced to be stay-home mothers and housewives, with no legal right to work, own property, or get divorced. 

Worse, they could even go to prison for adultery, although their straying husbands weren’t punished, in contrast.

One remarkable pamphlet from the 1950s on how to be ‘a good wife’ insisted you needed to keep the house spotless, the children clean, and dinner on the table. 

Since Franco died in 1975, feminists have made rapid progress and as Spain developed as a democracy, women’s rights started to match those of other European countries.

Franco Wiki
Francisco Franco

The husband’s permission rule was abolished in 1975, the adultery law went in 1978, and divorce was legalised in 1981. 

Finally in 1987, it was ruled that a rape victim didn’t have to prove they had fought the man back, while in 2004, the government introduced the ‘Integrated Law’, which funded the Government Delegation of Violence Against Women and finally a nationwide pact in 2017

“Spain is a pioneer in terms of laws that ensure equality, compared to other countries worldwide,” insists Carmen Quintanilla of women’s rural association AFAMMER.

“Until the elaboration of the 2017 State Pact, never before had a government been so committed to the eradication of gender violence.”

By 2019, Congress had the most female members in its history (and one of the highest in the world and top in Europe) with 166 female deputies, taking 47.4% of seats. 

However, a backslide occurred in 2020 when the far-right Vox – now Spain’s third largest political party – claimed that the gender violence law favours women and should be replaced with a family violence law. Vox also has made some questionable statements about women’s working roles.

And when it comes to the workplace itself, the proportion of women in managerial positions remains around a third of that of men with the numbers dropping even further as careers progress.

There is work to do and Spanish women earn around 10% (about €6,000) less per year than men and occupy more than 70% of part-time contracts. Of these women, 46% affirm they are part-time because they care for dependents or cannot afford childcare services.


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