On May 2nd, Spanish media finally had good news: for three consecutive days1 less than 300 people died of Covid-19. Spain, with its 216,582 confirmed infections, was leading Europe and ranked second worldwide after the US. It is still at the forefront of Corona cases.
In times of crisis, the search for 'the culprits' is a popular strategy to divert attention from one’s own mistakes and to politically distinguish yourself from others. The conservative and extreme right in Spain decided to target feminism - and its influence on the government - to claim that feminism is to be blamed for the high number of deaths. Women’s Day on March 8th – with its big rallies - has been singled out for contributing to the spread of SARS-CoV-2.
Political Right seeks confrontation with feminist movement
The Senate spokesman of the right-wing conservative Partido Popular (PP), Javier Maroto, accused the government on television of having acted much too late. Instead of imposing a stay-home order on March 8th the labor minister and other female ministers competed with each other for the best slogan for the feminist protests. Although the governing parties, PSOE and Podemos, had nothing to do with the organization of the rallies, Maroto indirectly accused them of causing bodily harm: “What nice feminism that mobilizes thousands of women and risks their being infected“2.
In fact, the feminist march in Madrid was widely celebrated on social media for its size. More than 120,000 women and allies took to the streets under the motto "Revuelta feminista. Con derechos, sin barreras. Feministas sin fronteras“3 (Feministist Revolt. With Rights, Without Barriers. Feminists Without Borders). It was one week later that the World Health Organization (WHO) upgraded the status of the Covid-19 health crisis from epidemic to pandemic, i.e. to a global issue. Okdiario4, one of the most widely read weeklies in the country, accused the government of having known on the afternoon before the rally that “the outbreak of the virus was getting out of control”. The newspaper, with the seemingly conspiracy-ideological motto "The page for nonconformists", maintains that March 8th and 9th saw an “explosion” of new cases. This information, however, does not match the typical incubation and test periods.
The left and market-liberal daily, El País5, reported that three days before the rally, conditions had already been in place to introduce social distancing measures and cancel major events. The newspaper speculates that Equality Minister, Irene Montero, of Podemos party and Territorial Policies Minister, Carolina Darias, of PSOE party contracted the virus at the rally. According to this logic, the convention of the right-wing extremist party, Vox6, that took place in the Bullring of Vistalegre in Madrid on the same weekend, should have been cancelled as well. 9,000 people attended the convention. It had been scheduled for this day in order to provoke a confrontation with the feminist movement. Rocío Monasterio, Chairwoman of Vox’s Madrid regional chapter, called feminism a totalitarian doctrine. The party’s Secretary-General, Javier Ortega Smith, attended the party convention despite Covid-19 symptoms and without taking precautionary measures. He even took a bath in the crowd. Later, he tested 'positive', as well as party chairman, Santiago Abascal, who he had potentially infected.
According to a report of the German daily, taz, at the end of May 7; a local court in the Madrid region is investigating various government members for giving permission for the women’s march. The charge is „perversion of justice“. The 'evidence' consists of an investigative report by the paramilitary police unit, Guardia Civil, and is said to be full of errors and unproven allegations.
Other reasons are paramount
On March 13th, the government imposed the state of emergency which took effect the following day. In doing so, it assumed direct responsibility for all crisis management capabilities. Since then, the health care system normally managed by the autonomous regions has been under the control of the national health ministry. At the time of the announcement Spain already had 4,200 confirmed cases and 120 deaths. The city and region of Madrid were hardest hit with more than half of all positively tested cases and 64 deaths. The left-wing news portal, Lamarea8, demonstrated that the increase in cases was not linked to the women’s march as people would have had to be infected already beforehand. As it takes a few days for infected people to show symptoms and a few more days until test results are there, the statistical increase was not caused by the feminists – and not by Vox’s party convention either. Although there were two peaks in the following days, general numbers within this time period went down.
There are several reasons and amplifiers for the disastrous and fatal spread of the virus in Spain. Testing rates are low; hence the real number of infected persons is probably much higher than reflected in the statistics. The virus spread early to eldercare facilities and caught them unprepared. Elderly people are a vulnerable group for a serious disease - especially if they do not get appropriate treatment. When the army, under the state of emergency, began disinfecting the mostly private eldercare facilities, soldiers found seriously ill people without care, and in some instances patients dead in their beds.
Austerity policy led to cuts in the health care sector
Putting it into the context of recent history; the EU’s austerity policy contributed significantly to the current situation. It forced member states - which were highly indebted because of the economic crisis at the beginning of the last decade - to make considerable cuts to their social and health care systems. Spain is one of the four countries that cut and privatized the bulk of their health care system during the euro crisis. In 2012, under the PP government, Spain cut health expenditures by 5.7 percent. Spain currently spends 3,300 euros per inhabitant on health care, compared to 6,000 euros in Germany. The two European countries that have been hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic have only a very small number of ICU beds. Spain has slightly less than 10 beds per 10,000 inhabitants; Italy has 8.6. The German government under Federal Chancellor, Angela Merkel (CDU), bears much of the responsibility because she has always insisted on a radical reduction of government debt in the EU.
No virus is worse than patriarchy
By using slogans such as „El único virus peligroso es tu machismo“ (The only virus that is dangerous is your machismo) or „No hay virus peor que el patriarcado” (There is no virus that is worse than patriarchy) some feminists demonstrated that they probably did not take health risks triggered by Coronavirus seriously enough. However, they cannot be made responsible for its massive spread and high number of deaths.
2 "Menudo feminismo es es que llevó a miles y miles de mujeres a las calles a un potencial contagio" https://www.lasexta.com/programas/sexta-noche/entrevistas/javier-maroto…
6 Glow: Verweis/Link auf den anderen Artikel „Aufstieg von VOX“ zu Spanien einfügen