Sexist action by students sparks debate about violence against women

EA video circulating on social networks has sparked a debate in Spain about violence against women. It shows dozens of young men from the windows of a multi-storey dorm in Madrid swearing sexistically and threatening their fellow students in the building across the street.

The scenes were “despicable,” University Secretary Joan Subirats said Friday. With the exception of the right-wing populist Vox, all major parties immediately condemned the action in the strongest possible terms. The Madrid prosecutor’s office has announced investigations into a possible “hate crime”.

Meanwhile, the fact that some students from the afflicted and renowned Universidad Complutense de Madrid (UCM) downplayed the importance of the scandal also caused great dismay. “They had no bad intentions,” says a young woman to, for example, the television channel RTVE. It’s a “tradition,” a “rite” of the university, others explained. All the worse, judged many politicians, spokespersons for women’s associations and media commentators.

“This shows how deeply ingrained the rape culture is in our society,” lamented Yolanda Besteiro, president of the Women’s Progressive Federation (Federación Mujeres Progresistas). “We are intimidated, we are insulted, we are denigrated.” Violence against women has been “normalized and downplayed”. An RTVE commentator said, “And these are our elites of the future.”

UCM has now announced that the first identified students have been removed from the university. There will be further disciplinary action and consequences, it said.

As La Vanguardia daily reports, this is not the first time university students have made sexist comments.

Spain only tightened the sex crimes law in August. The new law criminalises, among other things, ‘intimidating’ compliments and the distribution of sex videos. With its initiative, the left-wing government had responded to some high-profile gang rape cases in which the perpetrators had gotten away with light sentences in recent years. Equal Opportunities Minister Irene Montero said at the time that the “culture of rape” and “sexual terror” would end.

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