Activists confront far-right leader on gender violence law

International

Women protesting male violence against women as one of them holds a banner reading ”I was not born as woman to die”, in Pamplona, northern Spain, Monday, Nov. 25, 2019, during the International Day for the elimination of Violence against women. Activists are marching in Spain to mark the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)

MADRID (AP) — Feminist activists confronted a prominent far-right Spanish politician on Monday after he used an event against gender violence to advocate for abolishing the country’s law aimed at protecting women.

As Madrid city officials marked the International Day for Eradication of Gender Violence, activists booed a speech by Javier Ortega, a city councilor and general secretary of the nationalist-populist Vox party who has spoken out against the 2004 Spanish law.

After the politician returned to his seat, activist Nadia Otmani approached him in a wheelchair and yelled, “Respect the dead!” in a tense encounter captured by news cameras that quickly spread on social media. Recorded footage shows how for about a minute Ortega ignores Otmani, who repeatedly accuses the Vox leader of reaping political gains at the expense of gender violence victims.

The Moroccan-born activist, who leads an association supporting migrant women, became known after losing mobility in her legs in 1997, when she was shot by her brother-in-law after stepping in to protect her sister from him.

Her action reverberated in evening marches joined by tens of thousands across Spain in remembrance of more than 1,000 women who were killed by their partners or former partners since the country began keeping records in 2003.

The figure for 2019 is 51 but was at risk of rising Monday as police investigated whether a 29-year-old man was responsible for the death of his 26-year-old girlfriend in Spain’s Tenerife island.

In France on Monday, the government pledged to seize firearms from abusive spouses and better train police as part of a broad national plan to reduce the number of women killed by their partners. The action came in response to unprecedented public pressure including a campaign in which protesters glued posters with the names of victims over French city buildings and marched through the streets after each new death. Tens of thousands descended on Paris and other French cities over the weekend to demand stronger government action.

In Spain, protesters condemned the position of the nationalist-populist Vox party, which says that no specific law should exist to protect women against men’s violence but just one to punish all domestic violence, including the “mistreatment of men.”

The party also wants to scrap public funding for associations supporting female victims of domestic or sexual abuse because they consider them ideologically biased.

Vox’s presence in the Spanish parliament — the first time for a far-right party in nearly four decades — has galvanized the country’s fervent feminist movement. In recent months, women’s rights activists have also rebelled against recent judicial decisions widely seen as unfair for women who have been abused or raped.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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