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-Short Attention Span Theater-
Women’s Right Struggle in Torrendonjimeno Spain Leads to Social Upheaval
2003-10-05
EFL from Guardian
José Antonio Gil, a toothless pensioner, was shuffling down a cobbled street on his evening stroll when he noticed he was being chased by four young women in suits. One attempted what looked like a citizen’s arrest. Mr Gil put his hands up in surrender. "What have I done?" he asked. His crime was to step outdoors. It was one minute past nine in the sleepy Andalucian town of Torredonjimeno on the launch night of a campaign that has polarised Spain.

Between 9pm and 2am on Thursday nights all men must stay indoors cleaning, while their so-called downtrodden wives take over the tapas bars, free from the bondage of Andalucian machismo. Men daring to flout the rules faced on-the-spot fines of €5 (£3.50) and Mr Gil was the first to come a cropper. He unzipped his leather purse and took out €1. "It’s all I’ve got," he said.

Torredonjimeno, with a population of 14,000 living off olive oil production, is not the obvious place for a revolution of the sexes, and its mayor, Javier Checa, may not seem the most likely evangelist for women’s rights. A former Torremolinos ballroom dancing champion and media baron, Mr Checa dreamt up the idea because, he says, of his commitment to gender equality.

The town clearly has its gender issues. Though women account for more than half the population, only 10% of them work outside the home. There were 142 reported domestic violence incidents last year, and people still talk about the local woman killed by her husband a few years ago. In a neighbouring town, three women were throttled, knifed or beaten to death by their husbands this year, including a 92-year-old woman murdered by her older husband.

Yet those suspicious of Mr Checa’s motives and credentials were appalled by the manner in which the fines were collected. Uniformed "stewardesses" in short skirts and high heels were patrolling the streets ready to pounce on any man who disobeyed the new rule, which may have been one of many reasons why the first weekly "women’s night" quickly descended into pandemonium. Most of the town’s men refused to stay in and refused to pay the fines, even though they were sold to them as "voluntary donations of conscience" to raise money for domestic violence charities.

The women were not too happy, either. They refused to be told which night they could or couldn’t go out. Local feminists denounced the town hall for making "a mockery" of women’s rights. Joined by communists, union members and general leftwingers, they staged a 1,000-strong protest against the "anti-constitutional" repression of men. Yesterday, the mayor’s office said he was still counting the money the four "stewardesses" had raised, but those who trailed the stewardesses guessed it was a maximum of €120. Would this happen every Thursday night, after the media circus had left Mr Checa’s balcony? No one could say. But the cameras would certainly be there for his next proposed stunt: banning TV on the first day of every month from November, by pulling the plug on the town’s aerial.
Posted by:Super Hose

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