Good news from Spain!

I cover a lot of fairly grim topics on this blog, not least of which is a rise in fascism that seems to be happening all over the globe sometimes. I believe it’s important to talk about problems, as one part of trying to fix them, but that can get a bit grim from time to time. The good news is that the aforementioned fascism is, in many ways, part of a reactionary backlash against real progress that has been made in the area of civil rights. Even as some people are trying to roll back advances, others are pushing ahead, fighting for more advances, and winning.

In particular, Spain has just passed a couple laws that I think are worth celebrating. First, they’ve made it radically easier for people to change their gender on their national identity card:

The law, which passed by 191 votes in favour, 60 against with 91 abstentions, makes Spain one of the few nations to allow people to change their gender on their national identity card with a simple declaration.

In Europe, Denmark was the first country to grant such a right in 2014.

Thursday’s vote was the last hurdle for legislation that has caused a major rift within Spain’s fractious left-wing coalition, as the country gears up for a general election later this year.

The legislation is a flagship project of the equality ministry, which is held by Podemos, the radical left-wing junior partner in the Socialist-led coalition.

“This is one of the most important laws of this legislature… we have taken a giant step forward,” Equality Minister Irene Montero told lawmakers ahead of the vote.

“This law recognises the right of trans people to self-determine their gender identity, it depathologises trans people. Trans people are not sick people, they are just people.”

Until now, adults in Spain could only request the change with a medical report attesting to gender dysphoria and proof of hormone treatment for two years. Minors needed judicial authorisation.

The new law drops all such requirements, with those aged 14 and 15 allowed to apply if their parents or legal guardians agree.

Those aged 12 and 13 will also require a judge’s permission to make the move.

‘We are not ill’

The vote was hailed by campaigners who said Spain was setting an example that would encourage others to follow suit.

“We’re celebrating the fact this law has passed after eight years of tireless work to obtain rights for the trans community,” Uge Sangil, head of FELGBTI+, Spain’s largest LGBTQ organisation, told AFP outside parliament.

“We’re winning human rights with the free determination of gender… From today, our lives will change because we are not ill.”

This is a clear win. The article notes, as I’ve done in the past, the ways in which trans rights are under assault, as well as the way England’s right-wing government overrode Scotland’s decision to enact a similar law. I’ve honestly not paid much attention Spain, but this is not the first time I’ve felt I should change that.

The other change that I think is worth celebrating is the decision to provide paid menstrual leave, with a doctor’s note, covered by the public healthcare system. Periods can be debilitating. For some people they’re not much of a problem, but at the other end of the spectrum you get cramps, migraines, vomiting, stiffness, and probably other problems I’m forgetting. It is not reasonable to demand that people just work through that, especially since, as I keep saying, there’s no actual scarcity to justify depriving people. As a USian, the requirement of a doctor’s note gave me pause, but in a good public healthcare system, that’s far less of a burden than it would be in the States.

The bill approved by Parliament on Thursday is part of a broader package on sexual and reproductive rights that includes allowing anyone 16 and over to get an abortion or freely change the gender on their ID card.

The law gives the right to a three-day “menstrual” leave of absence – with the possibility of extending it to five days – for those with disabling periods, which can cause severe cramps, nausea, dizziness and even vomiting.

The leave requires a doctor’s note, and the public social security system will foot the bill.

The law states that the new policy will help combat the stereotypes and myths that still surround periods and hinder women’s lives.

Equality Minister Irene Montero, an outspoken feminist in the leftwing government, hailed “a historic day of progress for feminist rights”.

“There will be resistance to its application, just as there has been and there will be resistance to the application of all feminist laws,” she told parliament.

“So we have to work (…) to guarantee that when this law enters into force, it will be enforced”.

“The days of (women) going to work in pain are over,” Montero said last year when she unveiled her government’s proposal.

But the road to Spain’s menstrual leave has been rocky. Politicians – including those within the ruling coalition – and trade unions have been divided over the policy, which some fear could backfire and stigmatise women in the workplace.

Worldwide, menstrual leave is currently offered only in a small number of countries including Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, South Korea and Zambia.

I get why there’s a fear of stigma there, but I think that’s a problem with a capitalist society that demands work (for the interests of capital) to justify dignity or survival. I prefer a societal norm that accepts humans as we are, and doesn’t make unreasonable demands of people, especially for them to have basic rights. This kind of law is only really a problem when you’re forcing people to compete with each other for a “good” life.

I’m hopeful that this will be a step not only towards a more just world, but also towards destigmatizing disability in general, whatever the cause. We’ve got a long way to go, still, but we have made progress, as a species, and that’s worth celebrating. The activists who made these laws a reality have my full respect and appreciation, and I look forward to other countries following this example.


  1. brightmoon says

    I used to spend the first 2 days of my period in bed . I used to hope it showed up on the weekend. Otherwise I took the day off.

  2. says

    as i mentioned before, right this minute in the USA, you can do this with your passport and your social security card. expect that to end the instant a republican takes the presidency.

  3. says

    There’s a lot about the U.S. that would be good, if it wasn’t for the constant threat of reactionaries destroying everything. :-/

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