The female jailed leaders, the ‘forgotten’ ones
Movement to support women who are either in prison or abroad launched
Alcalá-Meco is the name of one of the prisons with pro-independence Catalan leaders. But it does not attract as much media attention as Estremera, where most of the jailed officials are.
In Estremera, all of them are men, but… does that mean that the politicians behind bars are only men? While media coverage and protests might sometimes imply that, it is not the case. And the women in pre-trial prison in Alcalá-Meco, Carme Forcadell, and Dolors Bassa, have stood up against this misconception.
Carme Forcadell, the former Catalan Parliament speaker, and Dolors Bassa, deposed work minister, have been in the female Alcalá-Meco prison for two months now. Forcadell also spent a night there last November, while Bassa also slept there for one month last autumn, along with deposed minister Meritxell Borràs. Four other female politicians are also abroad, taking refuge from the Spanish judiciary. These include Esquerra party leader Marta Rovira, deposed ministers Clara Ponsatí and Meritxell Serret, and former CUP MP Anna Gabriel.
Women "always silenced, forgotten or mentioned as an afterthought"
Both Bassa and Forcadell are demanding to be on equal footing with their male colleagues in terms of recognition. And they are not alone. More than 250 pro-independence supporters gathered on Wednesday in an event whose motto was ‘No woman forgotten’ to remember them all. The host organization, Women for the Republic, denounces that “as women, they always end up being silenced, forgotten or mentioned as an afterthought” when the jailed leaders’ topic is tackled. They believe they are suffering from “double discrimination” – this, they claim, is because they are women and pro-independence campaigners.
“Women were silenced, forgotten, treated with contempt, as democracy and freedom, but democracy and freedom will be feminist or it will not be at all"
Carme Forcadell · former Catalan parliament speaker
“Women were silenced, forgotten, treated with contempt, as democracy and freedom, but democracy and freedom will be feminist or it will not be at all.” This is part of a letter written by Carme Forcadell from her cell and it was read at the ‘No woman forgotten’ event. “I encourage you to continue working for a world where women’s vision and opinions are as present as men’s, where women do not need to ask for permission, where democracy, justice, and freedom are the values leading the society.”
Deposed minister Bassa’s sister, also speaking at the event, criticized that even pro-independence supporters and commentators forget about the female prisoners. “Even when all reprisal victims are listed, they come the last,” she pointed out. She also said that from now on, she will not “lie saying they are strong in prison, because they need people to empathize with them, with what they are going through.”
"I thank fate" for "having been born a woman"
Many in the march recalled a very well-known quote by one of the finest Catalan writers, and also feminist campaigners, Maria-Mercè Marçal: "I thank fate three gifts: having been born a woman, from a poor working-class background and in an oppressed nation. And the unclear azure of being three times rebel."
This move for an equal recognition of both male and the female politicians involved in the independence case is yet another sign of a trend: Catalonia is becoming more and more feminist. The main evidence of that took place on the last International Women’s Day, on March 8. For the first time ever, the country held a feminist strike that day, culminating in unprecedented rallies in several cities. Only in Barcelona, some 200,000 people marched in the name of gender equality.
Other feminist demonstrations took place in late April, after the ‘Manada case’ verdict. A court in Pamplona (Navarra, some 300km west of Catalonia), dismissed rape allegations after five men gang raped an 18-year-old girl during the 2016 San Fermín celebration. The judges found the group guilty of sexual abuse, instead of rape, arguing that they did not use violence to sexually assault her as she did not fight back when being attacked. The International Labor Day marches on May 1 also protested against the verdict.
Achievements reached but a lot of work remains to be done
In the political sphere, some milestones have already been achieved. This term in Parliament started with more women than ever, 58 out of 135 (43%) – only surpassed briefly for a period in 2012. But there is still a lot of work to do: only three out of the 14 ministers appointed by the newly elected president are women. And in the Parliament Bureau, there is only one female member: Alba Vergés.
This could change if, in the end, the officials in jail or abroad are replaced by female colleagues, potentially making a most egalitarian cabinet. If that happens, this would mean that four ministers would be barred from being reinstated, but on the other hand, Forcadell’s demand for more female presence would be closer to being accomplished. And probably the female ministers taking office in the future will not forget, silence or mention as an afterthought Forcadell, Bassa, Rovira, Ponsatí, Serret, and Gabriel.