Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape; it does not distinguish between rape of women and men. The government generally enforced the law effectively, although there were reports that judicial authorities dismissed cases if victims were not physically present in the country at the time of trial. The penalty for rape is six to 12 years in prison. Additional charges, including if the victim was a minor or if the assailant ridiculed the victim, may add to the length of the overall prison sentence. The law also prohibits violence against women and sets prison sentences of six months to a year for domestic violence, threats of violence, or violations of restraining orders, with longer sentences if serious injuries result.
The law establishes “the mere act of aggression by a man against a woman who is his partner or former partner already constitutes an act of gender-based violence;” there is no requirement to establish “the intent to dominate.” Amnesty International reported this qualification resulted in a two-tier system for sexual assault victims, with increased protections for those assaulted by a partner.
On July 31, the Ministry of the Interior reported a 31 percent increase in the number of reported rapes during the first six months of the year. According to a joint report by the Observatory against Gender-Based and Domestic Violence and the General Council of the Judiciary, there were 22,724 verdicts in gender-based violence cases in 2020 with a 60 percent conviction rate.
According to the government’s delegate against gender-based violence, as of September 25, partners or former partners were responsible for the deaths of 35 women. According to the General Council of the Judiciary, 26,551 cases of gender-based violence were open for prosecution in 2020. There were 35,001 allegations of gender-based violence in the first quarter of the year. Police alerted female survivors of gender-based violence of any changes in prison sentences of their attackers. Independent media and government agencies generally paid close attention to gender-based violence.
NGOs cited continuing concerns with investigations of sexual assault and lenient sentencing for offenders. Lack of training on sexual assault cases for police, forensic investigators, and judges was a problem. There were reports that police officers were sometimes dismissive of rape allegations involving acquaintances and did not actively pursue such cases. Differing protocols for handling sexual assault cases around the country led to inconsistent access to justice for sexual assault victims. The lack of clear sentencing guidelines meant sentences for sexual crimes were almost entirely at the discretion of the judge and could vary widely.
In July the Catalonia Superior Court reduced the sentence of a man convicted in April for his role in a 2019 gang rape case from 31 to 22 years’ imprisonment. In April the Barcelona High Court also sentenced two other defendants to 13 years each for their role. A fourth defendant was acquitted.
In July a court in Malaga announced it was investigating a man on charges of attempted murder, illegal detention, humiliation, assault, coercion, and habitual mistreatment related to an incident in January in which the man was accused of throwing sulfuric acid on his former girlfriend and her friend. Both survivors suffered severe injuries, with the former girlfriend suffering from burns on more that 50 percent of her body. The investigation continued at year’s end.
A 24-hour toll-free national hotline advised battered women on finding shelter and other local assistance. In March the government’s delegate against gender-based violence announced the hotline would expand its assistance to include legal advice, psychological assistance and referrals, and social worker assistance for all forms of gender-based violence in 53 languages. The delegate also announced the creation of a WhatsApp number and other expanded services for women with auditory or visual disabilities.
In April the Council of Ministers approved funding to establish at least one 24-hour sexual assault crisis center in each of the country’s 50 provinces as well as Ceuta and Melilla by 2023. The centers would not require victims to formally accuse their attackers or to participate in prosecutions.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C and authorizes courts to prosecute residents of the country who committed this crime in the country or anywhere in the world. The law punishes those who subjugate others to FGM/C with prison sentences of between six and 12 years, with additional penalties if the victim is a minor or disabled.
In January the NGO Dimbe, which is dedicated to bringing awareness to and promoting the eradication of FGM/C, warned that 4,500 girls in the Canary Islands were at risk of being subjected to FGM/C. According to Dimbe, girls, primarily of African origin, might be taken to their home countries under the pretext of a vacation and then subjected to the procedure. There were also reports of the procedure taking place in the Canary Islands.
The State Plan against Gender Violence includes FGM/C as a form of gender-based violence. In its 2020 study Female Genital Mutilation in Spain, the government’s delegate against gender-based violence, prepared in collaboration with the Wassu Foundation and the Autonomous University of Barcelona, noted girls from sub-Saharan African migrant families were at risk of FGM/C. There is a protocol for medical professionals for the identification, treatment, and prevention of FGM/C, but there is no specific national-level plan for combatting FGM/C. Some autonomous communities have their own plans for combatting FGM/C.
In its 2020 report Estimation of Girls at Risk of Female Genital Mutilation in the European Union, the European Institute for Gender Equality noted that in 2018, the absolute number of girls at risk of FGM/C in the country had decreased despite an increase in the number of migrant girls from FGM/C-practicing countries. A local press outlet reported that in most cases the victims were taken to their ancestral country of origin for the procedure, although in at least one case a victim was taken to Morocco because of difficulties in travelling due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The EU report estimated that 15 percent of girls under 18 years old living in the country were at high-risk of being subjugated to FGM/C and 9 percent were at lower risk. High-risk and low-risk scenarios were determined by country of origin and how many generations ago the family immigrated to the country. According to the government’s delegate against gender-based violence, the autonomous communities with the highest numbers of women and girls at risk for FGM/C were Catalonia, Andalusia, and Madrid.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace, but few cases came to trial. The punishment in minor cases may be between three and five months in jail or fines. Harassment continued to be a problem, according to media reporting. In the Ministry of Equality’s Survey of Violence against Women in 2020, the latest year for which information was available, more than 40 percent of women reported having been sexually harassed over their lifetime, with more than 17 percent reporting harassment by a work colleague. More than 15 percent of the women surveyed reported having been the victim of stalking.
In February more than 20 students and alumni of the Barcelona Institute of Theater complained about years of sexual harassment and abuse of power by faculty. In October the Barcelona Prosecutor’s Office opened a criminal investigation into the allegations against one of the teachers, who was accused of inappropriate sexual behavior and sending sexually explicit material to students. The Barcelona Institute of Theater removed the teacher from his position in March and opened disciplinary investigations against at least two other teachers.
Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. Emergency contraception was available as part of clinical management of rape.
Discrimination: Under the law women enjoy the same rights as men. The government generally enforced the law effectively.
Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination
The law criminalizes the promotion of hate or discrimination against individuals or groups based on, inter alia, their race, ethnicity, or national origin. The punishment is one to four years’ imprisonment and a fine. The law also considers motives based on race, ethnicity, or national origin to be an aggravating circumstance in other crimes. The government generally effectively enforced the law. The Ministry of the Interior’s Action Protocol for Law Enforcement Agencies on Hate Crimes provides for the equality of vulnerable groups and prevents discrimination against them based on, inter alia, national origin and ethnicity. The policy orders law enforcement officers to avoid the use of terms or expressions that may be perceived as offensive or pejorative.
The Ministry of the Interior reported 485 hate crimes linked to racism and xenophobia in 2020, a 5.8 percent decrease from 2019. The regions of Melilla, Basque Country, Navarre, and Ceuta had the highest numbers of hate crimes according to the ministry’s data.
Activists for racial equality said there were racist and xenophobic motives behind the June shooting death of Moroccan national Younes Bilal in Mazarron (Murcia). Bilal died after being shot three times during an altercation, during which witnesses said the shooter used racial slurs. Police opened a homicide investigation with racism as a possible aggravating factor. Also in June, Moroccan Momoun Koutaibi was left in a coma after being assaulted by a coworker in an attack in Alhama de Murcia that witnesses and his family said was racially motivated. There were reports of attacks against mosques in Murcia in February and July. Many of the incidents also included anti-Muslim rhetoric. The Ministry of Equality’s Council for the Elimination of Racial and Ethnic Discrimination denounced the events in Murcia as racist and xenophobic.
NGOs expressed particular concern about racist and xenophobic rhetoric toward unaccompanied minor migrants and reported that opposition Vox party promoted and amplified such rhetoric. In February the Madrid prosecutor’s office began a hate crime investigation into the right-wing group Frontal Bastion for allegedly spreading false information about minor migrants, including linking them to increased street crime and sexual assault. In July a Madrid court closed the hate crime case brought by the public prosecutor against the Vox party for its campaign poster for the May 4 Madrid regional elections that depicted unaccompanied immigrant minors as a menace and drain on public resources. Various rights organizations and political parties denounced the advertisement as racist and xenophobic. In dismissing the case, the court ruled that unaccompanied immigrant minors represent a “clear social and political” problem even if the figures cited in the advertisement were inaccurate.
There were multiple instances of soccer fans using racists insults against Black soccer players, including players from soccer clubs in Madrid, Barcelona, and Valencia. In May, Minister of Equality Irene Montero and Minister of Social Rights and Agenda 2030 Ione Belarra met with the head of the Spanish soccer federation la Liga to discuss preventing and fighting racism in soccer. On November 30, the Council of Ministers agreed to increase funding to support victims of racial discrimination by expanding staffing to address the issue, legal assistance to victims, and the racial discrimination hotline’s hours.
Catalan law enforcement noted the increase of right-wing extremism, especially white nationalism, in the region, including the increased use of social media as a tool to amplify right-wing messaging of conspiracy theories.
The Romani community was the largest minority group in the country, with an estimated 750,000 persons. There were three representatives of Romani heritage in the Congress of Deputies. The Gitano Secretariat Foundation (FSG) reported significant integration challenges for the Romani community, including high rates of poverty, unemployment (especially for Romani women), and children dropping out from secondary education. The FSG’s 2020 annual report on discrimination against the Romani community reported 425 cases of discrimination, a 27 percent increase over the previous year. FSG reported numerous instances of anti-Romani messaging on social media, but a decrease in anti-Romani sentiment in traditional media. On November 2, the government approved the 2021-2030 National Strategy for the Equality, Inclusion, and Participation of the Romani People. The strategy seeks to support the social integration of the Roma into broader society, paying special attention to those living in situations of poverty and social exclusion, with specific provisions related to improving access to education, employment, health, and housing as well as promoting gender equality and fighting discrimination against the Romani people.
In a study released in February, the Ministry of Equality found more than half of those identifying as a racial minority felt discriminated against in 2020. Racial discrimination was analyzed in public health, administrative services, housing, education, and treatment by the police. Perceived discrimination increased in every area since the last comparative study in 2013. While discrimination rates varied, the main populations reporting having experienced discrimination included sub-Saharan African, North African, Romani, South Asian, and East Asian populations. Of Black residents, 78 percent reported experiencing discrimination based on skin color.
Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from one’s parents. Children born in the country, except children of diplomats and children whose parents’ country of origin gives them nationality, are registered as citizens. When a child does not acquire the parents’ nationality, the government may grant Spanish citizenship.
Child Abuse: The Law for the Protection of Children, the country’s first comprehensive law to protect children and adolescents from violence, entered into force in June. The law seeks to avoid revictimization by requiring children under 14 to provide testimony only once. It also extends the period for reporting sexual abuse against children and adolescents, permitting victims to initiate cases up to when they are 35 years old, and the statute of limitations does not expire until they are 40, or 55 years of age in especially grave cases. The law confers legal recognition of children as victims of gender-based violence in instances of violence between a parent and a parent’s partner. Any citizen who has knowledge of violence against a child is obligated to report it to authorities under the new law. For the first time, children are permitted to file reports of violence without being accompanied by an adult. As part of the new legislation, the government has one year to approve a project for the creation of special courts and prosecutors dedicated to violence against children.
The law provides other protections as well against various forms of child abuse. Those accused of sexual abuses involving minors receive larger penalties. For example, in cases of sexual abuse, instead of one to four years of imprisonment, the penalty increases to four to 10 years when the victim is a child. Cases of sexual aggression, which normally receive six to 12 years in jail, are punished with 12 to 15 years in cases involving minors.
According to the government’s delegate for gender-based and domestic violence, as of September 25, either a parent or a parent’s partner were responsible for the deaths of five children.
In 2020 the ANAR Foundation, dedicated to the protection of children, registered 166,433 requests for assistance and attended to 11,761 serious cases of violence against minors. The foundation reported an increase in physical abuse of minors and reported the COVID-19 pandemic aggravated many of the problems affecting minors.
Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The minimum age of marriage is 16 years for minors living on their own. Forced marriage is criminalized with fines and prison sentences of between six months and three years, with penalties increasing to prison sentences of five to eight years if the victim is determined to have been a victim of human trafficking. The antitrafficking NGO Project Esperanza stated forced marriages continued to happen in the country. NGOs working with refugees expressed concern about possible forced marriages among migrants. In April police in A Coruna (Galicia) and Cordoba (Andalusia) arrested five individuals on charges of trafficking in persons, illegal detention, and continuous sexual abuse related to a family arranging the forced marriage of their 12-year-old daughter to cover a debt. In July police in Castile-La Mancha arrested five individuals on charges related to the forced marriages of two sisters when they were 14 years old and preparations to forcibly marry a third sister aged 12.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law criminalizes the “abuse and sexual attack of minors” younger than age 13 and sets the penalty at imprisonment from two to 15 years, depending on the nature of the crime. Individuals who contact children younger than age 13 through the internet for the purpose of sexual exploitation face imprisonment for one to three years. Authorities enforced the law.
Child sex trafficking is criminalized and was prosecuted under the law. The penalty for child sex trafficking is five to eight years’ imprisonment. The penalty for recruiting children or persons with disabilities into commercial sex is imprisonment from one to five years. The penalty for subjecting children to commercial sex is two to 10 years’ imprisonment, depending on the age of the victim and the existence of violence or intimidation. The law prohibits using a minor “to prepare any type of pornographic material” as well as the production, sale, distribution, display, or facilitation of the production, sale, dissemination, or exhibition of “any type” of child pornography by “any means.” The penalty is one to five years’ imprisonment; if the child is younger than age 13, the length of imprisonment is five to nine years. The law also penalizes knowingly possessing child pornography.
In February a court in Navarre sentenced Daniel Lucia, owner of a modeling agency, to 115 years’ imprisonment for the unauthorized filming of 129 women and girls without their clothing, 48 of whom were minors 13-17 years old. Media outlets reported Lucia was likely to serve five years in prison based on the law, which allows a convicted person to serve concurrently sentences for similar crimes. Lucia’s victims criticized the sentence as too lenient.
In September police arrested 15 individuals in multiple cities throughout the country in connection with possession and distribution of child pornography on social media platforms. Law enforcement identified two child victims during the investigation.
In January the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) of the Roman Catholic Church publicly recognized that at least 81 minors and 37 adults had suffered sexual abuse by members of the Jesuit order in the country since 1927. Following the announcement, seven additional orders of the Roman Catholic Church reported they had carried out or were in the process of investigating past cases of abuse. The Church stated it was open to compensating victims.
The minimum age for consensual sex in the country is 16. The law defines sexual acts committed against persons younger than age 16 as nonconsensual sexual abuse and provides for sentences from two to 15 years in prison, depending on the circumstances.
A registry for sex offenders provides a basis to bar them from activities in which they could be in the presence of minors.
International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.
The Jewish community numbered approximately 40,000 to 50,000 persons.
The law considers denial and justification of genocide to be a crime if it incites violence, with penalties that range from one to four years in prison.
In February the Madrid prosecutor’s office opened an investigation into an anti-Semitic demonstration praising the Blue Division, the military unit dictator Francisco Franco sent to support Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II. On February 15, approximately 300 neo-Nazis marched through several streets of Madrid, made the Nazi salute, and sang fascist-themed songs. The Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain, various national and local government agencies, and the Israeli embassy in Madrid condemned the demonstration.
The Ministry of the Interior’s Office on the Prevention of Hate Crimes reported three cases of anti-Semitism in 2020. According to the Observatory of Anti-Semitism of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain, anti-Semitic incidents included hate speech on social media and anti-Semitic graffiti. In November police arrested a man for defacing a United Left party office in San Andres del Rabanedo (Castile and Leon) in 2020 by breaking windows and painting swastikas and anti-Semitic language on the office facade. Authorities called the man, who was arrested for a similar incident in August, a “far-right extremist.”
Trafficking in Persons
Persons with Disabilities
The law mandates that persons with disabilities can access education, health services, public buildings, and transportation on an equal basis with others. While the government generally enforced these provisions, levels of assistance and accessibility varied among regions. There were reports of delays in creating equal access to some facilities. In July the mother of a girl in a wheelchair told press that they had been waiting three years for the Madrid regional government to install an elevator in the girl’s high school. The law requires government information and communication is provided in accessible formats, and the government generally enforced these provisions effectively.
The law prohibits with fines discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. The government generally enforced these provisions effectively. The law requires private companies with more than 50 employees to hire persons with disabilities for at least 2 percent of their jobs.
The Minister of the Interior’s Action Protocol for Law Enforcement Agencies on Hate Crimes guarantees the equality of and prohibits discrimination against vulnerable groups based on, inter alia, intellectual, and physical disabilities. The ministry published a Guide for Working with Victims of Hate Crimes with Developmental Disabilities to help police officers better assist persons with disabilities in understanding, reporting, and protecting themselves from hate crimes.
In May a royal decree entered into force promoting employment access into the general labor market for persons with intellectual disabilities as well as deaf and hearing-impaired persons. According to the State Employment Public Service’s 2020 report, the latest year for which data were available, in 2019 more than 65 percent of persons with disabilities were unemployed, more than twice the percentage of the general population. Percentages increased with age and with the degree of visible disability.
In the 2018-19 school year, the latest year for which data was available, 83 percent of children with disabilities attended schools with peers without disabilities and 17 percent attended special education centers. Children with disabilities did not attend school at significantly lower rates than other children. In January a new education law entered into force that seeks to integrate most children with disabilities into regular schools in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities within a 10-year period, reserving special education centers for children with severe disabilities. The Spanish Confederation of Persons with Physical and Organic Disabilities (CERMI) raised concerns that there was no specific plan for how the government intends to implement and enforce the new law.
In May the parliament approved an amendment to the constitution to affirm the full equality of and protections for persons with disabilities. The amendment states that public authorities shall enact policies to guarantee the full personal autonomy and social inclusion of persons with disabilities. It also confers special protection to persons with disabilities to guarantee they receive the specialized attention they require and can enjoy all the rights the constitution grants to all citizens.
In September a new law entered into force to support persons with disabilities in exercising their legal rights in accordance with the International Convention for Persons with Disabilities. The new law provides for the rights, will, and preferences of persons with disabilities. It abolishes the requirement for persons with disabilities to have a guardian in legal proceedings and instead provides for technical assistance based on everyone’s specific needs.
According to the report The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Persons with Disabilities published by the Ministry of Social Rights and Agenda 2030, 66.5 percent of persons with disabilities required social services during the pandemic; however roughly half were unable to get the assistance required. CERMI continued to report significant challenges for persons with disabilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The situation for women and girls was particularly difficult, according to CERMI, in part because of caretaker responsibilities, higher rates of poverty, and increased social exclusion.
In February the government’s prison authority launched a social insertion program for inmates with intellectual disabilities. The government reported 639 inmates with intellectual disabilities in the country’s prison system.
Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The country’s antidiscrimination laws prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and the government enforced the law. The law penalizes those who provoke discrimination, hate, or violence based on sexual orientation with one to four years’ imprisonment and a fine. The law also prohibits denial or disqualification of employment based on sexual orientation and the formation of associations that promote discrimination, hate, or violence against others based on their sexual orientation. The law may consider hatred against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons an aggravating circumstance in crimes.
The Ministry of the Interior’s Action Protocol for Law Enforcement Agencies on Hate Crimes provides for the equality of and prohibits discrimination against vulnerable groups based on, inter alia, sexual orientation and identity. The Ministry of the Interior’s 2020 report on hate crimes outlined 277 crimes reported to the police based on sexual orientation or gender identity, the second most prevalent reason for hate crimes. Rights organizations reported official figures were significantly lower than incidents reported to various LGBTQI+ rights groups around the country. NGOs expressed concern about a rise in anti-LGBTQI+ hate speech and reported that opposition Vox party promoted anti-LGBTQI+ rhetoric. According to the NGO Kif Kif Association, LGBTQI+ migrants faced “double discrimination” and were particularly targeted by far-right groups.
In June after a young gay man was attacked and beaten by a group of men shouting homophobic slurs in Basauri (Basque Country), thousands of demonstrators protested against violence aimed at the LGBTQI+ community. Basque regional police arrested nine individuals in connection with the attack. The investigation continued at year’s end.
Rights groups denounced the July 3 death of Samuel Luiz Muniz, a 24-year-old gay man. A group of men attacked and beat Muniz outside a nightclub in A Coruna (Galicia). Several of Muniz’s friends, who were witness to the assault, claimed the attackers yelled homophobic slurs during the attack. Muniz’s death prompted demonstrations against violence aimed at the LGBTQI+ community. Police arrested six individuals in connection with Muniz’s death. The investigation was ongoing.
The number of homophobic attacks continued to be a concern in Catalonia. Although the number of aggressions against the LGBTQI+ community remained like previous years, the Barcelona city council denounced increased violence against the LGBTQI+ community. The Observatory against Homophobia of Catalonia reported 80 incidents as of June. According to the Barcelona hate crimes prosecutor, in 2020, for the first time, the largest number of hate crimes offenses reported, at 40 percent, were for discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
In July the Council of Ministers approved a draft law to allow children 16 years and older to determine their gender identity in the civil registry without parental consent or medical exam and allow children 14 years and older to do so with parental consent. The draft law had significant support from LGBTQI+ and other rights organizations. It was, however, the subject of very intense national debate and significant protests. It was front-page news for weeks.