Gender (in)equality: where are we now?
Women’s rights have come a long way in Catalonia but there is still plenty of room for improvement
Not all that long ago, women in Spain under 25 weren’t allowed to move out of their parent’s house without their father’s permission - that only changed in 1972 - nor could they, for example, open a bank account of their own volition.
Adultery was still a crime until 1978 and abortion was only legalized in 1985, meaning it was only accessible to those who could afford to travel abroad for the procedure - though even then, single women were required proof of having completed community service to obtain a passport and married women needed their husband’s authorization.
These laws seem completely unthinkable nowadays and society has clearly come a long way over the past few decades. That said, we shouldn’t be patting ourselves on the back all too soon - there are still many jarring instances of gender inequality that can be found when looking not that far from home.
Economic inequality between men and women
Ever notice how people in higher positions tend to be men? Or how typically female professions, many of which are associated with care, tend to be valued less highly? In Catalonia in 2019, 64.6% of CEOs and managing directors were men, while women were overrepresented in the social services, retail, and education sectors.
This translates into material differences: on average women earn less than men, sometimes even for doing the exact same job as them, are expected to cut down hours for the care of dependants and household tasks, have higher levels of unemployment and are at a greater risk of being poor than men overall.
In Catalonia, men earn on average over €6,500 more than women per year, according to the latest available figures on gross annual salaries from 2017, while facing an at risk of poverty rate of 24% versus 18% for men as announced by the government on Tuesday.
These differences are also accentuated when looking at specific age groups rather than the population as a whole - women over 55, for example, earn almost €9,400 less than their male counterparts, which is practically the gross average yearly wage for women under 25.
Barcelona’s Institut d’Economia recently found, however, that lesbian couples with children tend to not experience the same levels of inequality as seen in heterosexual partnerships, where women end up giving up more professionally to start a family, as they share household and childrearing tasks more equitably.
Lesbian women, though, are still much likelier to face discrimination in other aspects of their lives, as is the case for other members of the LGBTQ+ community - the Catalonia Homophobia Observatory, for example, noted a 44% increase in LGBTQ+-phobic incidents in 2019 - or that of women of color, migrant women, and those of lower socioeconomic classes who will also face other serious forms of prejudice in their daily lives.
Gender-based and sexual violence
Other unfortunate indicators used to measure inequality are those concerning gender-based violence. A total of 13,069 women required assistance following instances of intimate partner violence in Catalonia in 2019, a year that also saw nine women killed at the hands of men. Of these nine women, two had filed police reports prior to their deaths.
According to Catalan government statistics, another 3,412 women were assisted for gender-based violence in the domestic sphere, that is to say, for attacks from men who were not their current or former partners.
All in all, a total of 13,162 police reports were filed for intimate partner violence while 2,937 were done so for violence in the domestic sphere, but actual instances of both could be much higher since many crimes go unreported.
Reports of sexual abuse and assault, which if you followed the Pamplona ‘Wolf Pack’ case you’ll remember are legally differentiated in Spain based on an understanding that one implies violence and the other doesn’t, are also up in Catalonia: there were 1,531 reports filed for the allegedly non-violent crime of abuse and 967 for that of assault last year - the highest numbers Catalonia has seen in the past 5 years.
Yes, we’ve come a long way. Today women in Catalonia can open bank accounts, travel, and have abortions without a man’s consent. If they can afford to do so, they can move out of their parent’s home whenever they like granted they’re overage - which nowadays is 18, not 25, regardless of whether they’re married or not - and they can also own the property they’ve paid for.
But the millions of women that will take to the streets of Catalonia and of cities worldwide on March 8th will do so for those who cannot be there as well as for those yet to come, reminding us there’s still a long journey ahead on our way to achieving true equality.