Domestic Terror… Spanish Women Under Attack

By Al-Amin Andalusi,, 2 May 2006-Rabi‘ Thani 4 - 9:30 GMT

MADRID, March 31, 2005 ( — Spanish security and social experts have expressed great concern over the surge in incidents of domestic violence, an issue the media has come to term “domestic terror” after 13 Spanish women lost their lives in the first quarter of 2005 in “domestic violence incidents”, according to recent statistics.

With the number of women beaten by their husbands, ex-husbands or partners increasing on an unprecedented scale, the media started giving extensive coverage to the phenomenon and calling for more deterrent actions.

In 2004, 60,000 women lodged complaints against their husbands or partners, as per the Spanish Observatory on violence against women.

Spanish authorities said the figure is much higher, given the number of women who suffered various forms of domestic mistreatment but never complained officially. Thousands reportedly stay in abusive relationships because, they say, there is nowhere else to go.

Further worse, 72 women were also killed, including 67 by their husbands or ex-husbands in 2004, according to the statistics released by the observatory by last year's end.

They also revealed that 170 women were killed out of domestic violence during the last three years. Feminist groups, however, put the number of victims at 350.

Sometimes the mothers of the wives are killed whether for being at the scene or in cold blood.

Deterrent Measures

Feminist groups blamed Spanish authorities for dealing with the complaints less seriously than they ought to. They regret the authorities hear from the mistreated women without writing down their complaints.

Facing a wave of criticisms, the government of Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has pressed for a number of measures to deter domestic violence since coming to power in March last year.

The measures include allotting 200 policemen and 250 Civil Guard members to intervene immediately to save women facing threats by their husbands, ex-husbands or partners.

The government also pushed for a law equating domestic violence victims with work victims. Abused women now get financial compensation, and could call a government-run hot line to deliver their complaints.

Zapatero recently described Spain's domestic violence record as the country's “worst shame” and an “unacceptable evil”.

A few hours after being sworn in as Spain's new premier, he visited a woman in hospital who had been beaten and burned by her husband, as well as victims of the 11 March train attacks who were on the same ward.

Also, the media help raise public awareness on the crisis. They say the victims of “domestic terrorism” superceded those of political terrorism, in reference to operations carried out by the Basque separatist group ETA.

Cases of domestic abuse also feature on the evening news almost daily and Spain's TV chat shows, which are on morning, noon and night, regularly discuss the issue, according to IOL correspondent.

No Response

Still, Lusia Vigar, the secretary general of the Spanish observatory on violence against women lamented that the repeated calls for women to report domestic violence have not received enough responses.

Eight out of ten battered women did not lodge a complaint, something which emboldens the abusers to continue their violations, according to the Spanish society against discriminated women.

The society said 40 percent of domestic violence casualties were slain by sharp weapons and 16 per cent by guns. Others breathed their last after being burnt or thrown out of windows.


Questions remain why Spain has at least one woman that dies every week at the hands of her partner, a high figure but not uncommon in Europe.

Democracy in Spain is only 25-years-old. Before that, during the 40-year-long dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, domestic violence was not considered a crime, according to BBC News Online.

What it was, though, was taboo, it added.

Earlier in 2004, Roman Catholic bishops suggested that sexual liberation since the 1960s had led to more men beating their wives.

But the Spanish government sees the country's problem as a wider one, related not only to the way abusers treat women, but also to the image of women in the Spanish society in general.

Spain needs a general “change in behavior towards women”, which should be impressed upon school children through the study of “ethics and equality”, Spanish Minister for Work and Social Affairs Jesus Caldera was quoted as saying last year.

Women also complained that the Spanish judiciary is ruled by conservative, older men who, they say, often rule against women's interests, according to the BBC News Online.

There is also a growing demand for treatment programs for the abusers. At the moment, there are only two institutes in Spain that work with violent men to try to change their behavior, it added.