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Lidia Falcón: “Women are being erased from the law and public policy”

Picture of Partido Feminista demonstration Lidia Falcon

The following is a translation of an exclusive interview for Dominican newspaper El Caribe with Spanish lawyer and feminist politician Lidia Falcón. She was interviewed by Raquel Rosario Sánchez.

You can read the Spanish version here.

Article 14 of the Spanish constitution focuses on fundamental rights and public freedoms stating:

“Spaniards are equal before the law and may not in any way be discriminated against on account of birth, race, sex, religion, opinion or any other personal or social condition or circumstance.”

Article16 establishes freedom of ideas.

Spanish politician Lidia Falcón knows these articles with a unique depth. On December 13th, she turns 85, having had a fruitful political and intellectual career, starting as a teenager, as a communist militant. The current president of the Partido Feminista de España (PFE) (Feminist Party of Spain) has published 43 books, including The Spanish Man in Search of His Identity, In Hell: Being A Woman in The Spanish Prisons and The New Machismos. A practicing lawyer, she has spent the past sixty years representing women victims of sexist violence in the justice system. She was persecuted during the Franco dictatorship and is a survivor of its worst atrocities.

Today, Lidia Falcón is being investigated by the Prosecutor’s Office for Hate Crimes and Discrimination, together with the General Directorate of Equality of Catalonia, in response to a complaint from Federación Plataforma Trans (Trans Platform Federation) of Spain. She has been summoned for December 14th. Why? Perhaps as a result of her opinions, expressed in various newspaper articles, interviews and public statements denouncing the dangers that, according to the PFE, “gender identity” policies represent for the rights of women and children.

In particular, Falcón has been resolute in her opposition to bills addressing this issue and the instrumentalisation of children for political purposes by the trans community, from which experimental medical treatments with boys and girls are promoted, in “gender clinics”.

Raquel Rosario Sánchez: You are a politician and a lawyer. In 1961 you obtained a doctorate in law from the University of Barcelona, ​​and thirty years later in 1991 a doctorate in philosophy from the Autonomous University of Madrid. What comes first to your life: the love of politics or the love of the law?

Lidia Falcon: The first thing is the love of politics. I am the daughter of communists and the granddaughter of anarchists, so in my country we faced retaliation in a terrible way. Initially, one of my family members was murdered. Eventually, all the men were killed. So we were always in the anti-Franco opposition. My mother, my grandmother, my aunt and all the women in my family were left to fend for ourselves.

The law was a career I needed in order to have a profession and get ahead financially. I always say that I did not choose the law, but that the law chose me.

 

RRS: In 1979, you founded the Partido Feminista de España (Feminist Party of Spain). What inspired you to take that step?

LF: I joined the Partido Comunista de España (Communist Party of Spain) surreptitiously in 1959 when I was 23 years old. Our main battle and objective at that time was to end the dictatorship. They used to arrest us and kill us to prevent us from writing and speaking out. But all along, I had been studying the conditions of exploitation and oppression of women. Over many years through my studies of Marxism, but also with my own eyes, I had seen the reality of women’s lives. This led me to the conclusion that women are a social class exploited by men, as the ruling class, that needed their own defence organizations.

Since 1960 I have also been a family lawyer, litigating in the courts against sexist violence since. So I’ve seen all the oppression and exploitation that women experience not only in Spain, but around the world.

Doing this theoretical analysis led us to ask ourselves which organisations were were fighting for women’s rights. We needed an organisation that had a general vision of the oppression and exploitation of humanity, and at the same time that found a way to challenge that through a project, a programme and a direction of that struggle. That’s a political party. We have concrete political positions on public policy issues. But more than that, we seek to transform the world.

RRS: Do you think that if the PFE had compromised its principles it would have more of an influence over State institutions and larger society? For example, I note that the party positions itself against the sex industry and against surrogacy.

LF: Oh, we would have been massively successful, but then we wouldn’t be feminists! Of course, if I had renounced my principles and decided to join the capitalist and patriarchal organisations, I myself would have been more successful. I would be a minister in various governments, with a position and its benefits. But that did not factor into my views, or in that of my comrades, as feminists.

RRS: In 2019, the PFE has taken a position against a trans bill. What was the reasoning behind that decision?

LF: We are opposed to the idea that everyone has a “gender identity” that ought to be legislated. To begin with, we are opposed to the term “gender” full-stop. The term gender is a linguistic construct that has displaced Marxist categories, and that has displaced anthropological categories. That is to say, it alleges that neither men nor women exist.

The bill proposed to abolish the words “man” and “woman” and to replace the terms “father” and “mother” with “pregnant parent” and “non-pregnant parent.” These are the linguistic monsters fomented through postmodernism. Apart from the fact that the bill intended to legally recognise within the civil registry, any person who declares themselves to be the opposite sex, simply on the basis of their wishes. We are mostly talking about men claiming to be women. This has consequences for sports, prisons, shelters for victims of violence, scientific research, and feminist quotas where being a woman is a determining factor.

We find ourselves at a point in history when women are being erased from the law and public policy.

In my long career fighting for women’s rights, I have to confess my deep concern. I would never have thought that I would find myself at this stage of my life, having to defend the fact that I am a woman and that women exist as human beings, independent from men. Engels said much the same in the Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State 150 years ago.

I don’t think there is anyone sensible, educated or not, who does not know what a woman is and what a man is. These are the two sexes of the human species, corresponding to the two sexes of all mammalian species.

RRS: Today the Prosecutor’s Office Against Hate Crime has initiated proceedings against you. What is your opinion of that citation?

LF: On December 4, 2019, the PFE published a statement against the trans bill. That bill originated in 2018 but in 2019 they decided to present it in Congress again. In that interval, the legislature collapsed and elections had to be called again. So the bill could not go ahead.

RRS: You are being investigated for raising objections to a bill that had already run out of time in Congress and is therefore not currently valid?

LF: Precisely. This legal mess is very difficult to understand, if you are not a specialist. A bill was presented in 2017. It was processed and was put before a commission. The different parties started making amendments and objections. Then legislature in Congress collapsed. If a bill has not been approved within that legislature, it is not valid thereafter. The following year, 2018, a new legislature  presented another bill on the same matter. The trans law bill. This only had the formal paperwork placed before Congress but didn’t go any further because Congress was immediately cancelled and elections had to be called yet again.

Now another bill is being proposed. This new one has no formulation yet. It is not written down anywhere; it is not detailed. Yet, we have Ministers insisting that it must be approved. Why must we approve a bill that hasn’t even been presented to the public?

So far, Podemos, the political party behind this bill, has only made a declaration of intent, what they call a “statement of reasons”. It is absolutely useless and empty rhetoric. The only thing one can see clearly is the bad intentions behind it. Podemos carried out a public consultation which ended on November 18, 2020.

RRS: The PFE objected to a bill that is not currently valid, yet in December 2020 as party president, you are being investigated by the Hate Crime Prosecutor for your opposition to it. What do you know about this process?

LF: In December 2019, the PFE published a public statement against the bill that had been presented back then and apparently, I am being accused of a hate crime. It seems that democracy in Spain has some barriers or walls that have been placed on freedom of expression and criticism of a bill.

The person filing the complaint, on behalf of the Trans Federation of Spain, lived in Seville, which is in southern Spain. They filed the complaint in Barcelona, ​​which is located at the other end of the peninsula, in the north. That complaint is then supported by the government of Catalonia. I live in Madrid.

That is to say, here we are faced with a political persecution in which jurisdictional limits appear to be non-existent. A political persecution in which a person travels the entire country, looking for a Prosecutor’s Office that is receptive to accepting that complaint. The Barcelona Hate Crimes Prosecutor Office accepts a complaint that, from a legal point of view, he should not have accepted due to territorial issues. He transfers it and today, the Madrid Prosecutor’s Office has assumed it as its own.

RRS: What are the charges against you?

LF: The subpoena does not say what they accuse me of. In a democratic process, the prosecutor must explain the crimes that I have allegedly committed in order to question me as a defendant. But this citation is very brief. They tell me to go to a particular address on December 14, 2020, to respond as a defendant for a hate crime accusation and to attend with a lawyer. If I do not have one, one shall be assigned to me. That is, they are not complying with the law.

RRS: But these two points: the jurisdiction of the alleged crime and informing the accused of the charges levelled against them, are fundamental principles of law.

LF: Exactly. I hope that in Spain the constitution protects me too. I hope it exists not only to protect the trans community. And I hope that I have the right to a fair trial, to know the accusations against me and to defend myself.

RRS: You are a lawyer by profession and have spent the past 60 years litigating in court. What is your opinion of the concept of hate crimes as a legal category?

LF: Hate crime is a political crime. This crime was introduced into our Penal Code in 2015.  That Penal Code, a complex body of law which took many years to write, was approved in 1995. It had a huge number of defects, especially with regards to women and the crimes that affect them. But this category was introduced twenty years later.

I wonder what the political left was up to in 2015 when, governed by the right, this crime was introduced. It is obviously a political crime, because it persecutes expressions. It does not chase facts.

Naturally, if you attack a person, you are committing a crime: the crime of assault. If you slander, we’ve had the crime of slander since the time of the Romans. In other words, it is not necessary to invent anything else. But this is a specific crime in which, due to people’s expressions and opinions, it is alleged that hatred (that is, a feeling) can be incited. It seeks to judge people’s feelings and argues that based on those feelings, other people could, in turn, potentially attack, mistreat or discriminate groups of people, because of their ethnicity, their colour or their sexual orientation.

RRS: What about inciting hatred against women, based on misogyny?

LF: No, not women. In Spain, within this legal category, inciting hatred against women, on the basis of our sex is not taken into account.

RRS: Why not?

LF: Some feminists tried to introduce hate crime based on misogyny but I am not supportive of the idea of introducing crimes based on opinions, let alone feelings. To be quite honest, among other things, I am defending myself. I want to be able to express my opinions and be left alone in peace.

Therefore, I will not persecute anybody based on their opinion, but based on their actions. Violence against women is penalised. All forms of aggressions are already a part of our Penal Code. So, there was no need to introduce this concept. Hate crime is a crime based on opinion: what you write, what you publish, and what forms of aggression and violence you may potentially convince other people to commit based on that, according to the very confusing way this concept has been redacted into law.

RRS: Do you consider that hate crimes represent a way to legalise political persecution?

LF: Yes, of course. In recent years we have had five or six trials about expression: artistic, journalistic and verbal expressions at academic conferences or in public statements. It is important to note that the crime of blasphemy continues to exist in Spain.

Therefore, opinions on certain facts or acts are also pursued. Speaking out against the king, the monarchy and public institutions are still considered crimes. In other words, there is a clear legacy from the dictatorship. This hate crime concept is the novelty, because it defines it differently, but we are essentially talking about crimes of opinion.

With her family, after being released from prison

 

RRS: You were persecuted for your political ideas during the dictatorship of Francisco Franco. What did you learn about political rights and freedom of expression during this time?

LF: I was prosecuted six or seven times for crimes of opinion. The last trial was in 1982, for an article I wrote for Interviu magazine about the attempted coup in 1981. I thought it would be the last political persecution I would suffer, but apparently not. During Franco’s dictatorship, I was persecuted for my political opinions, and today I am being persecuted by the trans collective.

I learned and reflected on the fact that I am not in favour of pursuing any opinion. The moment we open the door to policing opinions, who knows where we’ll end up? This also works for our enemies. Those enemies with power are the most important, but there are also smaller enemies; Those who take advantage of policies that allow them to persecute anyone they do not like. And if they don’t like what I have to say, then I’m in their sights. But the worst thing is not that they don’t like what I have to say. The worst thing is when the law protects these undemocratic and authoritarian behaviours.

RRS: Is this a problem of dichotomies between the right and the left?

LF: We are in a moment of great confusion and of great suffering. Because we don’t have a left that knows what it is to be on the left. Being on the left does not mean stating it, pure and simple. One has to be consistent with the statement of principle that one has made and act accordingly. Today, we are in the midst of a postmodern left. Postmodernism, which is a strategy of capitalism, has overwhelmed us for years.

Capitalism has mounted a perfect campaign for years to destroy Marxist principles, or at least discredit and delegitimise them. In order to prevent a materialist analysis of the conditions of society and promote a postmodern ideology that centres individualism… that liquid society that Zygmunt Bauman talked about.

The left, which has been defeated so many times since the fall of the Soviet Union, is divided, fragmented and looking for ways to subsist, some of them grotesque. So, the left has been acquiring all these strange postmodern theoretical constructs on gender, prostitution, pornography, and surrogacy. That left has to be rebuilt.

And I’ll tell you something that is very sad. It is a lot harder to sustain this struggle today, with all these supposed liberal democracies than when we had the dictatorship. Because back then the enemy was crystal clear. And it was ruthless, persecuting everyone. Therefore, liberal, democrats, demo-Christians, socialists, social-liberals, we were all united in that struggle against it. It wasn’t just the communists. Whereas today, all those social-democrats and liberals and socialists have received a lot of benefits from democracy. Many are quite installed in spheres and institutions of power.

Therefore, a true opposition that is left-wing, feminist and socialist is small, is difficult, it is not nearly as influential as it would aspire to be, oftentimes we have nobody but each other and sometimes we are persecuted just like we used to be back in the day.

RRS: Finally, what you would like to say to our audience, particularly women interested in feminist writing and campaigning, based on your experiences.

LF: I would like to tell them that we ought to follow a collective strategy against this offensive posed by postmodernism. The issue of gender identity is one among others. It also represents the advancement of prostitution as the most lucrative business in the world, which is wreaking havoc in Spain, and in many other countries. From Latin America and the Caribbean, girls and young women (including minors), are brought to be exploited and abused in brothels. The rental of women for reproductive purposed (surrogacy) is also big business. Pornography and porn culture, the debasement of feminism from within…

We must remember that we could lose. We could lose not only all these battles but also a lot of the gains we have already made as a result of 300 years of collective struggle. Therefore, comrades and sisters, whether you speak English or any other language, regardless of your country: we cannot give up. We cannot be naïve or assume that patriarchy will fall apart on its own accord, because it will not.

It appears to me that the forces against us are very powerful. We’ve got pharmaceutical lobbies, the human traffickers who profit from exploiting women, and most of all, their purpose is to defeat feminism. I would like to call on feminism to organise ourselves as a political force, as political parties because we have to make it to the institutions of power that govern us. We ought to gain greater influence in Congress, in governments, in local government. Otherwise, we will continue as marginal forces which are allowed to manifest every once in a while.

In Spain, we have spent 40 years out on the street with banners and handmade signs. That has gone on for far too long. It is high time that instead of those dynamics, we were able to actually participate in the crafting of legislation and the governing of our countries.

Raquel Rosario Sanchez

12 December 2020

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