Spain’s far-right Vox party only became a major political force a few weeks ago, when it won the third-largest share of seats in the country’s national elections.
But it’s wasted no time in throwing its weight around, causing outrage Monday when it used the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women as a chance to deny that gender violence is a problem.
To the disgust of tens of thousands who joined demonstrations around the country calling for an end to violence against women Monday night, Vox used the occasion to veto condemnations of gender violence by local governments — and to reiterate its call to scrap a landmark 2004 gender violence law.
In the capital Monday, Javier Ortega Smith, Vox’s secretary general who also sits on the Madrid city council, gave a speech in which he argued that the United Nations day failed to recognize male victims of violence at the hands of women, as well as women who have suffered “violence from their lesbian partners.”
“There are also men who suffer violence from women and are killed by their wives,” he said, to loud objections from the audience in city hall.
Spain’s Ministry of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for figures on women who have killed their domestic partners. But the figures of men killing their partners is clear cut: 52 Spanish women have been killed by their partners so far this year, and more than 1,000 women since official records began in 2003, according to official statistics. The latest case happened on Monday, when a 26-year-old woman was allegedly killed by her partner in Tenerife.
It’s a crime that also affects children: according to official statistics, 34 children have been killed by their fathers, or their mother’s partner, since 2013, with another 275 left orphaned.
Ortega Smith also reaffirmed his party’s determination to repeal a 2004 law aimed at stopping violence against women. The law established special gender violence courts to handle their cases, toughened sentences and restrictions on offenders, and made it easier for women to report abuse and get support.
Vox claims the law, which received unanimous support in parliament when it was strengthened in 2017, is unbalanced as “violence does not have a gender,” and claims it emboldens women to falsely accuse men. It’s called for the law to be scrapped and replaced with legislation providing “equal protection” for men, women, and children.
The inflammatory antifeminist stance is not new for the ultranationalist group, which has been campaigning against gender violence laws for more than a year, insisting they are discriminatory against men.
But it’s the first time the group has been able to use its new political influence, at national and local level, to break the political consensus over gender violence, which has traditionally had cross-party support. Vox has used its position in city halls in Madrid, Seville, Córdoba, Granada and Jaén, and the regional governments of Valencia, Castille and León, and Murcia to block them from passing measures against gender violence, Spain’s El Pais reported.
The party’s grandstanding comes in a period of heightened tensions over gender violence in Spain. Protests erupted last month after five men accused of raping a teenage girl were acquitted of sexual assault, but convicted on lesser charges, because the woman, who was drunk when she was assaulted, was in an “unconscious state” and didn’t fight back.
The case closely echoed another recent gang rape case in which five men were initially handed a lesser sentence, triggering nationwide protests, before Spain’s Supreme Court overturned the decision in June, finding the defendants guilty of rape.
Vox’s stance drew outrage from gender violence activists and condemnation from across the political spectrum, even from allies on the political right. Madrid’s mayor José Luis Martínez-Almeida, whose center-right administration relies on Vox support, said: “It is not politics what you have done here today; it is political posturing.”
Cover: Women shout slogans while protesting male violence against women, in Pamplona, northern Spain, Monday, Nov. 25, 2019, during the International Day Against Male Violence. Activists are marching in Spain to mark the UN's International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)
This article originally appeared on VICE US.