Situation of and legal remedies for domestic violence, including provisions in the domestic violence law that was enacted in December 2004; whether the law mentions physicians' obligations to report domestic violence injuries (2003 - 2005) [ESP100607.E]

Various human rights and news sources of 2004 and 2005 noted that domestic violence continued to be a problem of serious concern (Country Reports 2004 28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5; Freedom House 11 Aug. 2005, 588; AI 2005; The Guardian 30 June 2005; The Nation 29 Nov. 2004). Amnesty International reported that about "47,000 complaints of violence against women were recorded in the first half of 2004, an increase of 24 per cent over the comparable period in 2003" (AI 2005). From 1999 to June 2004, The Guardian mentioned, close to 300 women had been killed by their partners (26 June 2004), and from January to June 2005, 30 women had been reportedly murdered as a result of domestic violence (30 June 2005). Moreover, 2004 news articles noted that only between three (The Nation 29 Nov. 2004) and ten per cent (The Guardian 26 June 2004) of victims ever report abuse to authorities.

After the socialist-dominated government took power in April 2004, the new Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, reportedly "made the protection of women's rights and gender equality a centerpiece of his administration" (Freedom House 11 Aug. 2005, 590; The Nation 29 Nov. 2004).

On 28 December 2004, the government passed the Organic Act on Integrated Protection Measures against Gender Violence (Ley Organica de Proteccion integral contra la Violencia de Genero) which included new prevention, protection and support measures for female victims of gender-based violence (EIRO 11 Feb. 2005; Spain 29 Dec. 2004; Expatica Jan. 2005). Drafted as a comprehensive piece of legislation to combat domestic violence, the law also contains components addressing detection, victims' rights, and reinforcement of the judiciary (Spain 29 Dec. 2004; Mujeres Mediterraneas Feb. 2005). Maria Duran Febrer, lawyer and secretary of the European Women's Lawyers' Association (EWLA) provided this description of the law:

The comprehensive Law is comparable to a polyhedron in which multiple faces are joined in the common objective of eradicating gender violence. The rights of women who are victims of this violence constitute the backbone of this law. Prevention, school education and awareness raising of the general public together with an adequate control of the image of women given by the media comprise an additional pillar. Other cornerstones of the law are early detection of domestic violence through health services, the establishment of specific offences and the Courts of Violence against Women. The coordination of security forces with other public administrations and the establishment of measures for improving the protection and safety of victims are [some] of the most important issues regulated by this law. Finally, the government delegation and the Observatory are the channels for the participation of social organisations, particularly women's associations, for promoting and supervising the measures set forth by the law (ibid.).

Further details about the law were also cited in a February 2005 article posted on the European Industrial Relations Observatory (EIRO) Website:

The law provides legal procedures and a substantial body of penal and civil regulations, in addition to training for teachers, health workers, the police force and legal staff involved in the application of the law. Aggression against a female spouse or partner with whom the aggressor has an emotional relationship, whether or not the couple are living together, will be considered [...] an aggravating circumstance in court cases. Coercion and minor threats will be considered [...] a crime. People convicted of homicide or injury to their partners or ex-partners will lose their entitlement to a widowhood pension (unless they are later reconciled in the case of injury). Furthermore, people convicted of this type of crime will not receive any orphan's pensions to which their children may be entitled through their partners, ex-partners or women linked to them through a similar emotional bond, even if they have not lived together.
The law establishes a Special Government Office against Violence to Women (Delegacion Especial del Gobierno contra la Violencia sobre la Mujer) and a National Observatory on Violence against Women (Observatorio Estatal de Violencia sobre la Mujer), both under the auspices of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (Ministerio de Trabajo y Asuntos Sociales, MTAS). A Public Prosecutor on Violence against Women (Fiscal contra la Violencia sobre la Mujer) will be appointed within the Ministry of Public Prosecution (Ministerio Fiscal) (11 Feb. 2005).

In addition, the new law outlines legal aid provisions for victims with low income (Spain 29 Dec. 2004; IPS 22 Dec. 2004) and reportedly "provides for a special squad of 200 police and 250 Guardia Civil officers" to safeguard against men's threats to their female partners (Expatica Jan. 2005; see also The Guardian 30 June 2005).

Moreover, in June 2005, the government announced that some 430 courts were now in the position to address domestic violence cases, including "17 new courthouses" specializing exclusively in gender-based offences (The Guardian 30 June 2005; Euroresidentes 29 June 2005).

While government and independent sources noted that the new law would be an important "legal tool" to combat domestic violence, critics commented that its implementation would be problematic (Mujeres Mediterraneas Feb. 2005; Expatica Jan. 2005; IPS 22 Dec. 2004). For example, The Guardian reported that the lack of training and experience of legal staff for the specialized courts would hinder their effectiveness (30 June 2005). In addition, the number of new police officers assigned to address domestic violence was viewed as deficient relative to the number of complaints predicted for the coming year (Expatica Jan. 2005).

No further information about the effectiveness of the December 2004 law could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

Prior to the December 2004 law, human rights reports noted that Spain already featured "54 Civil Guard units that assisted battered women and 43 similar units in the National Police" (Country Reports 2004 28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5; UN 27 Feb. 2003, 321). In addition, the same sources reported that "[t]here were 53 offices that provided legal assistance to victims of domestic violence and approximately 225 shelters for battered women" (Country Reports 2004 28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5; UN 27 Feb. 2003, 321). Country Reports 2004 also mentioned that victims of domestic violence could contact a 24-hour free national hotline for guidance and referral for assistance (28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5).

With regard to whether physicians are obligated to report domestic violence injuries, a 2000 report on Spain's criminal justice system stated that

[a]ccording to the law, everyone who has knowledge of the perpetration of an offence has the legal obligation to report it to the proper authorities (denuncia). Non-compliance is punishable by fine (s.259 CCP). Also, anyone who learned of an offence while performing his profession is obliged to report it (s. 262 CCP). Medical doctors, for instance, fall into this category. If they do not report a crime, they can be given a fine (s. 262-(1) CCP) (Brienen and Hoegen 2000).

The December 2004 domestic violence law also states that health authorities "shall promote and facilitate actions among health professionals for the early detection of gender violence, and will deploy all the means they consider necessary to optimise the health sector's contribution to combating this type of violence" (Spain 29 Dec. 2004, Title I, Chap. 3, Art. 1). Specifically, this provision mentions that specialized training for health care professionals would be provided in order to "skill them in the prevention and early detection of gender violence, taking action in cases and providing supports to victims" (ibid.). Moreover, the law allows for the "application of health 'protocols' in cases of aggression" (EIRO 11 Feb. 2005).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Amnesty International (AI). 2005. "Spain." Amnesty International Report 2005. [Accessed 26 Sept. 2005]

Brienen, M.E.I. and E.H. Hoegen. 2000. "Spain." Victims of Crime in 22 European Criminal Justice Systems: The Implementation of Recommendation (85)11 of the Council of Europe on the Position of the Victim in the Framework of Criminal Law and procedure. [Accessed 27 Sept. 2005]

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2004. 28 February 2005. United States Department of State. Washington, DC. [Accessed 26 Sept. 2005]

European Industrial Relations Observatory On-line (EIRO). 11 February 2005. Daniel Albarracin. "New Gender-based Violence Law Has Workplace Implications." [Accessed 26 Sept. 2005]

Euroresidentes. 29 June 2005. "Spain Cracks Down on Domestic Violence." [Accessed 26 Sept. 2005]

Expatica [Amsterdam]. January 2005. Graham Keeley. "Domestic Violence: Fighting Back." [Accessed 26 Sept. 2005]

Freedom House. 11 August 2005. "Spain." Freedom in the World 2005. [Accessed 27 Sept. 2005]

The Guardian [London, UK]. 30 June 2005. Dale Fuchs. "Spain Acts to Stop Domestic Violence.",3858,5227515-103482,00.html [Accessed 26 Sept. 2005]

____. 26 June 2004. Ben Sills. "Judge Sparks Row on Domestic Violence.",3858,4956933-103482,00.html [Accessed 27 Sept. 2005]

Inter Press Service (IPS). 22 December 2004. Alicia Fraerman. "Rights: Spain Has New Law on Domestic Violence." [Accessed 26 Sept. 2005]

Mujeres Mediterraneas. February 2005. Maria Duran Febrer. Legal Analysis of the Framework Law on Integrated Protection Measures Against Gender Violence in Spain from the Feminist Viewpoint. [Accessed 29 Sept. 2005]

The Nation [New York]. 29 November 2004. Samuel Loewenberg. "Letter from Spain." [Accessed 26 Sept. 2005]

Spain. 29 December 2004. "Organic Act 1/2004 of 28 December on Integrated Protection Measures against Gender Violence." (Red Feminista Website) [Accessed 27 Sept. 2005]

United Nations (UN). 27 February 2003. Commission on Human Rights. Report of the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Its Causes and Consequences, Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, Submitted in Accordance with Commission on Human Rights Resolution 2002/52. Addendum 1. International, regional and national developments in the area of violence against women 1994-2003. (E/CN.4/2003/75/Add.1) [Accessed 27 Sept. 2005]

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sites, including: Amnesty International, European Country of Origin Information Network (ECOI), Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, Spain - Direccion General de la Policia (DGP), Spain - Instituto de la Mujer, United Nations, World News Connection (WNC).