SPAIN’S justice system is failing to stop gender violence, a judge claimed last week, after several deaths including one following a restraining order against a victim’s partner not being granted.
Juan Luis Ibarra, chief justice at the Basque Country’s regional High Court, said the refusal of the restraining order on Maguette Mbeugou’s husband was failure “in capital letters”.
Mbeugou, 25, died after her throat was slit in Bilbao on Tuesday September 26. A court had turned down a request for a restraining order on her husband on the grounds she planned to move away with her children.
Mbeugou was one of five people, three women and two children, who died in alleged domestic violence cases in Spain in the space of 48 hours.
A total of 38 have died in gender violence-related cases so far this year, bringing the total of those killed to 962 since records began.
A group representing female judges called on the government to adopt a 16 point plan designed to fight sexist violence and to back it with funding.
Measures include increasing education and awareness campaigns, particularly among children and young people.
Lucia Aviles, a member of the Female Judge Association of Spain (AMJE), said gender violence was a social problem and that the justice system was only one part of that.
“The justice system is failing, but we keep expecting the problem of sexist violence to be resolved by the justice system. when this problem goes beyond judges, prosecutors and lawyers,” Aviles said.
Octavio Salazar, a legal gender issues specialist, said technical failures were being made which meant those at risk of violence were not getting the protection they needed.
“Our current police and forensic-based tools are either non-existent, insufficient or deficient,” Salazar said.
“There is a lack of credibility granted to women, which is part of a sexist legal culture that is still very much present among judges,” the specialist added.
Flor de Torres, a gender violence prosecutor in Andalucia, said reforming offenders was also proving difficult.
“They don’t take in what they’ve done, and that is the basis for change.” she said.
De Torres added between 50 and 60 per cent of restraining orders were broken, according to her own experience.
The prosecutor said it was also difficult getting women to testify against their attackers.
“They are not strong in this process. They are not empowered, they are scared. We cannot put all the moral weight on the victims,” she said.
The comments come as protests against gender violence rulings have rocked Spain in recent months. Thousands of people took to the streets after five defendants in the La Manada (wolf pack) case were acquitted of rape and convicted of the lesser charge of sexual assault earlier this year.