Carme Forcadell's “feminist revolution” in prison
In an interview with ACN, the former parliament speaker talks about how politics is helping to change the lives of female inmates
Former speaker, Carme Forcadell, gets plenty of visits in the Mas d'Enric prison where she is waiting to stand trial charged with rebellion. Yet most of them are never made public, as Forcadell has no interest in occupying the media limelight.
However, 10 months since she was sent to pre-trial prison for allowing votes on independence in the Parliament, she spoke to the Catalan News Agency (ACN) about her aspiration to "empower" the 32 women with whom she shares a cell block.
During her time behind bars, Forcadell has focused on feminism, encouraging the other inmates to reflect on their role as women, to the point that the women have now organized themselves with a system of representatives to defend their rights.
The former speaker has brought politics into the prison, and she has done so with the aim of ending male sexism. "We will carry out the feminist revolution from here," she says, adding that she is "looking forward" to her trial, so that she can "move on" with her life.
Calm, confident and with a sense of humor
Forcadell is calm and talks confidently with a sense of humor, and she remains firm in her convictions that saw her sent to prison. She wears a small yellow rose, the symbol of solidarity with the jailed pro-independence leaders. "I always wear it in here," she says.
The Mas d'Enric prison has almost 800 inmates, but only 33 of them are women. "The prison is a reflection of society. As society is sexist, so is prison. Everything is designed for men," she says, and it was this realization the led her to carry out her small "feminist revolution."
She spends some of her time in prison talking to the other female inmates, which has shown her that "many of them would never have been sent here and would not be like they are had they had an opportunity in their lives."
As soon as she entered the prison, Forcadell noticed that the women inmates were treated differently. They could not shower after doing sport, because the timetable was not compatible with that of the men. They had no hair dryers. None of the positions of responsibility held by inmates for work details were taken by women. "That has now ended," she says smiling, "I am empowering all of the women."
Committees to lobby for improvements
Forcadell achieved this change with a basic political mechanism. With some of the inmates, and the support of the management, she set up three committees to lobby for improvements, and to make the women feel that they can do something to change their situation.
She convinced three inmates to lead a group each and organized an election to choose "a delegate" to present their demands to the management. "Next week we will meet and vote," she says, adding that she has her favourite, who she is "campaigning" for.
"The prison is a reflection of society. As society is sexist, so is prison. Everything is designed for men"
Carme Forcadell · Former Catalan president
The improvements she has brought about so far have had an impact and are popular with the women, but she says that "they need to know how to organize themselves as women." Soon, Forcadell will return to the Alcalá Meco prison near Madrid in order to attend her trial.
Forcadell: "They know I did nothing wrong"
When Forcadell was brought to the prison, the other women "already knew" who she was. "Almost all of them are from here," she says. In fact, she says the inmates believe in her innocence. "They say that they know I did nothing wrong, that we are political prisoners."
When talking about her trial, she admits that she harbors the hope that she will be allowed to leave prison. "Outside I can do more than inside," she says, adding that she would love to "live a normal and quiet life."
In fact, Forcadell has plans for when she is eventually free, as her experience in prison has made her want to devote her life to fighting for women's rights. "The construction of any project for the country must be tied to liberating women," she says.
When the conversation ends, she gives a big smile and it is clear that her prison experience has not undermined her inner strength. It is dinner time. "No doubt there will be yoghurt for dessert, there's never much variety," she says, and leaves, blowing a farewell kiss.
Junqueras: "We will explain that we are not violent"
The also jailed former vice president, Oriol Junqueras, also gave an interview that came out on Monday, in which he commented on what he expects from his upcoming trial in which he faces a 25-year prison sentence for organizing the 2017 independence bid.
Talking to the RAC1 radio station, Junqueras said that in testifying they will explain what people "already know." "We are not violent, therefore there was no violence," he said. Along with other jailed leaders, Junqueras is charged with violent rebellion.
While the former vice president is looking forward to giving his side of the story, he also regrets that he and his jailed colleagues will have "very limited time" to do so. "We will have very little time to explain ourselves, and for others to listen to us," he says.
The leader of the ERC party also insists that organizing a referendum is not a crime because "it was decriminalized" with the reform of the penal code, and he regrets that the ruling Socialist party has been unwilling to discuss the right to self-determination.
"For us, speaking about this is very important; it is normal that people should wonder whether the Socialists are the same as the unionist parties on the issue of self-determination, and it is clear that they are," he concludes