Perfect Equality

Interesting times in Spain, where Zapatero’s new cabinet has a majority of women. Much of the initial media attention was focused on new Defence Minister Carme Chacón, and the significance of a Catalan woman, who is pregnant, being placed in charge of the army. Since the army is a potent symbol of a masculine Spain, many on the right are incensed. Rabid right-wing pundit Federico Jiménez Losantos denounced the fact of a ‘una nacionalista antiespañola al frente de Ejército de España’ (an anti-Spanish nationalist at the head of the Spanish Army).

No less interesting is the appointment of 31 year old Bibiana Aido, who has a blog, to the post of Minister for Equality. Part of the remit of this ministry will be to oversee the implementation of the Equality Law, the provisions of which could only be dreamed about in Ireland at the minute. The text of the law cites John Stuart Mill’s principle of ‘perfect equality, admitting no power or privilege on the one side, nor disability on the other’, and recognises that gender violence, salary discrimination, pension discrimination, and problems in balancing personal, work and family life must all be overcome by legislative means. It seeks to protect motherhood, with special attention to the effects of pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding.

Among the outcomes of the law will be:

  • Quota of 40% of women in top jobs
  • Quota of 40% of women candidates on party political lists
  • Improved conditions for maternity and paternity leave – women who have premature births get extended leave, men get 13 days paternity leave

There will also be tough punishment for gender violence. Zapatero, in his inaugural debate, promised to make sure that any coward who lifts his hand to a woman will have to face 44 million Spaniards.

It hardly needs saying that this is all excellent stuff, and people in Ireland who have an interest in such matters (which should be everybody) could learn more than just a thing or two from it.

Update: the Guardian has a report on this today.


3 Responses to “Perfect Equality”

  1. 1 Laban April 20, 2008 at 10:32 pm

    I’ve been reading Pollyanna-ish stuff about how emancipated Spanish women are for a couple of years now.

    Unfortunately one side-effect is that the Spanish birthrate has collapsed. It’s at 1.3 per female, having been as low as 1.1. This implies the population will halve in two generations.

    It won’t, of course. Immigration by people with higher birthrates and less emancipated cultures will make up the difference. But then you’re saying goodbye to that lovely emancipated culture – because it can’t pass on those values to non-existent descendants.

    Given the scale of immigration into Ireland, you’d better hope that the Spanish experience isn’t replicated there – unless you’re happy with an Ireland which doesn’t feature any Irish.

  2. 2 Hugh Green April 21, 2008 at 9:29 am

    Thanks for the comment. First, I don’t know if Spanish women on the whole are more emancipated than their counterparts in other European countries. Second, I doubt if you can say that a falling birth rate is a result of emancipation as such. As for ‘less emancipated cultures’: have you any evidence that, say, Ecuadoreans (who constitute the largest immigrant group in Spain) would object to the Equality Law and its provisions?

    As for Ireland: I would be more than happy for ‘the Spanish experience’ to be replicated here, since Spain is in many ways a far more progressive and advanced country. In terms of Ireland without the Irish, as far as I am concerned, anyone born on the island of Ireland is Irish if they want to be (regrettably, the law is more stringent about this), so an Ireland which didn’t feature any Irish could only come about if no-one was born here. The maternity hospitals are bad, but they’re not that bad.

  1. 1 Dublin Opinion » Blog Archive » Laugh, you Bastards Trackback on April 18, 2008 at 4:08 pm

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