Defying pandemic, feminists in Spain decry far-right attacks

Women in Spain are marking this year’s International Women Day with static protests, bicycle fun-rides and a myriad of small-sized events creatively organized to prevent gatherings that could trigger a new spike of coronavirus contagion.

Spain’s Constitutional Court on Monday rejected last-minute appeals by unions and women’s rights groups to hold any kind of street protest in the Spanish capital, following similar recent rulings by lower-level courts.

The decision has enraged many who argued it was possible to raise their voice in favor of gender equality and against discrimination without endangering public health.

A man walks past a feminist mural vandalized during international women's day in Madrid, Spain, Monday, March 8, 2021. The original mural celebrated pioneering women such as Rosa Parks, Frida Khalo, Angela Davis, or Valentina Tereshkova among others. (AP PhotoBernat Armangue)

Over 100 protesters defied the order by gathering — while staying at a distance from each other — in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol central square. They shouted “Enough with patriarchal justice!" and held banners against fascism and calling for an end to violence and repression against women.

Some activists have called for purple scarves to flood the balconies and windows of Madrid.

The largest gathering is expected later in the day in Barcelona, although organizers have asked people to stand still instead of marching.

This combo of photos shows depicting civil rights leader Rosa Parks in Madrid on Jan. 26, 2021, left, and the same mural vandalized during international women's day on Monday, March 8, 2021, right. (AP PhotoBernat Armangue)

Spain is home to a thriving feminist movement that has in recent years claimed a few victories, including the adoption of gender violence laws and forcing a judicial reform on sexual abuse of women. Activists say that the social and economic crisis triggered by the coronavirus pandemic has widened the salary gap between men and women and affected even more the work-life balance, especially among those in the trenches of the health emergency and care workers, many of whom are migrants.

“Spain can’t continue to be built with women in the margins, with a few that break glass ceilings while the most vulnerable continue on sticky floors,” said Equality Minister Irene Montero, who was joined by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez at an official event to mark March 8.

A draft of a new Transgender Law has deepened divisions in the movement and within the left-wing ruling coalition, with the leading Socialist party opposing self-determination of gender without a previous mental health diagnosis.

This combo of photos shows people walking past a mural celebrating accomplished women in politics, arts, and science in Madrid on Jan. 26, 2021, left, and the same mural vandalized during international women's day on Monday, March 8, 2021, right. (AP PhotoBernat Armangue)

Far-right activists, meanwhile, have campaigned against gender violence laws they say discriminate against men, and lambasted the center-left government’s push to make consent in sexual relations legally mandatory.

Twin street murals celebrating accomplished women in politics, arts and science were vandalized over the weekend in Madrid and a nearby city. The portraits of Rigoberta Menchú, Frida Kahlo, Nina Simone, Rosa Parks and seven more women were covered in paint, amid signs that read “terrorist” and “communist.”

Sánchez, who said that only feminism will make societies advance and reach new levels of wellbeing, called extremist conservative voices who oppose feminism “a force for regression.”