Spanish anger as attacks on women soar

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The Independent Online

Women in Spain are facing an unprecedented level of domestic violence, with 64 murdered so far this year by husbands or partners, according to statistics from Spanish women's associations. They say this is 21 more than in the whole of 1999 and more than ever before.

Women in Spain are facing an unprecedented level of domestic violence, with 64 murdered so far this year by husbands or partners, according to statistics from Spanish women's associations. They say this is 21 more than in the whole of 1999 and more than ever before.

The figures were a "blot on Spanish society", said the Socialist opposition leader, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, supporting a threat by a member of his party to publish a "shame list" of all men convicted of domestic violence.

The government said such a move would be "unconstitutional and a scandal". Mr Zapatero initially distanced himself from it, but after seeing the hugely favourable public reaction he seized the chance to attack government inaction and spoke out in favour: "It has increased the social debate of a subject which touches the moral heart of Spanish society."

The threatened publication has provoked more political controversy and been more rapidly condemned than the fact of the violence itself .

The number of deaths has increased despite a government "Shock Plan" introduced two years ago to try to combat domestic violence in the country. Spain's ruling Popular Party (PP) says the problem should be regarded as one for society as a whole.

There are differing views on the reasons for the rise in violence but one answer seems to be the growing independence of Spanish women, which is bringing them up against Spain's entrenched machismo. In nearly all cases of domestic violence and murder, the victims were in the process of separation or divorce.

A government survey shows that at least two million Spanish women habitually suffer abuse at home. Sadly, a large percentage did not even realise a crime was being committed, thinking the abuse was just a normal part of married life.

Until 1997, domestic violence was rarely discussed in public or reported, but the murder of Ana Orantes in December that year changed everything. Soon after appearing on television to talk about the abuse of women, she was attacked by her estranged husband. He tied her to a chair, doused her with petrol and set her alight.

Her death shocked the nation. There had been many victims before but to most people they were unknown. Ana, however, had come into their homes via the TV screens.

Her husband is appealing against a 17-year sentence.

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