Gender violence, and whether it even exists, has become the key issue in the possible pacts between the right-wing People’s Party (PP) and far-right Vox group following the local and regional elections that took place in Spain on 28 May, and ahead of the general election set for 23 July.
The Spanish far-right’s denial that gender violence exists is causing a serious headache for the PP, who may need their help to come to power after next month’s election.
Polls are consistently showing the opposition PP will win the most votes in the snap vote on 23 July, but that they will also have to rely on an awkward coalition with the anti-feminist Vox movement, Spain’s third largest political group, in order to form a government.
Spain is a pioneer in the fight against violence against women, approving Europe’s first law that specifically cracked down on gender violence in 2004. It made the victim’s gender an aggravating factor in assault cases.
But far-right Vox — which is polling at around 14% — say gender violence is an ‘ideological concept we don’t recognise’ that stigmatises men, and the party prefers to talk of domestic violence or ‘intra-family violence’.
‘Gender violence does not exist, macho violence does not exist,’ the head of Vox in Valencia, José Maria Llanos, said after the far-right party agreed to govern the eastern region in a coalition with the PP last week. ALSO READ: Spain’s PP unites with far-right Vox to govern Valencia region in a coalition.
His comments sparked an outcry in a country where parties from across the spectrum have long acknowledged and combated gender violence.
In the region of Valencia, the Vox candidate for president, Carlos Flores, was convicted of 21 offences against his wife in the early-2000s.
PP leader Alberto Núñez Feijóo, who cultivates an image as a moderate, immediately sought to distance himself, saying in a tweet that ‘gender violence does exist’.
But the left was quick to point to Llanos’ comment as proof that a PP-Vox coalition would lead to backsliding. ALSO READ: Pedro Sánchez goes on the attack, labelling the PP and Vox as being both far-right.
‘Denying gender violence can only be a step backward. That is what is at stake on 23 July,’ Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez told the El Pais daily.
Vox emerged as kingmaker in several regions and municipalities after regional and local elections on 28 May and it has pushed the issue in its negotiations with the PP to form governments. ALSO READ: Spain’s right-wing make significant gains in local and regional elections.
Offices dedicated to gender equality have been abolished in several cities where Vox and the PP have formed coalition governments or had their names changed to departments for ‘families’.
The programme signed between the two parties in Valencia omitted the phrase ‘gender-based violence’, replacing it with Vox’s preferred ‘intra-family violence’, which it argues ‘guarantees the equality of all victims’.
Vox leader Santiago Abascal has repeatedly argued that gender is ‘an ideological concept’.
In the western region of Extremadura, the local PP leader, Maria Guardiola, has refused to form a government with Vox because of the far-right party’s position.
‘In Extremadura, I wouldn’t have put Vox in the government. You can’t accept everything,’ she told El País in an interview published on Wednesday.
‘If we have to go to new elections, we’ll go,’ Guardiola said. ‘I can’t let into government those who deny macho violence.’
Lo fácil era traicionar lo que dije y gobernar con quienes viven de debates caducos. Pero no soy así.— María Guardiola (@MGuardiolaPP) June 20, 2023
Ellos querían sillones, yo un gobierno estable. PSOE y Vox no pueden bloquear el cambio que los extremeños han pedido. pic.twitter.com/JwenTdOAd9
🗳 #DecideLoQueImporta:— VOX 🇪🇸 (@vox_es) June 23, 2023
¡Acude al gran acto público de inicio de precampaña de VOX!
📍 En el Palacio Municipal de IFEMA, Madrid
🗓 Sábado 24 de junio.
⏰ A las 12:00. pic.twitter.com/rdgZuZkS0t