Gender equality policies and social practices: new developments in Spain
Political Science and Sociology Carlos III University Getafe (Madrid), Spain
Since 2004 gender issues are high in the Spanish government's political agenda. Half of the ministers are women and the first law sent to the Parliament for discussion focused on violence against women. In 2007 an innovative law on gender equality was passed by the Parliament. Beyond equality of opportunities, it aims at results in terms of a minimum representation of 40% of each gender in all spheres of public life such as political institutions, professions, workplaces and decision making bodies, particularly administration boards. It seeks to have equality discussed as a relevant issue through equality plans which are compulsory for all enterprises and institutions with more than 250 employees. The law develops former policies for the reconciliation of work and family life, focusing on the involvement of fathers in care. A new paternity leave up to four weeks is included based on the "use it or lose it" principle. In addition, it includes the promotion of gender equality in education and media, as well as in science and research.
The paper discusses to what extent social practices and perceptions are being changed by gender policies. On the one hand, public spaces occupied only by men are increasingly considered to be anomalous and the presence of women required. Paternity leave measures have been very successful in terms of take up rates, thus changing ideas about fatherhood. In spite of that, violence against women fails to decrease and gender equality ranks low in the perception of social problems to be addressed.