Spain passed two important and progressive bills on 16 February. Lawmakers gave final approval to a menstrual leave law, granting paid medical leave to women suffering severe period pain. In doing so, it became the first European country to advance such legislation. The Spanish congress then voted through a law letting anyone 16 and over change the gender on their ID card. It is now one of the few European countries with such laws.
Both advances are part of a wider package of laws concerning gender, sexual, and reproductive rights.
Expanding women’s rights
Legislation on menstrual leave entitles workers experiencing period pain to as much time off as they need. Spain’s state social security system will cover the cost of this leave, not employers. The law passed by 185 votes in favour to 154 against. The government said it is aimed at breaking a taboo on the subject.
As with paid leave for other health reasons, a doctor must approve the temporary medical incapacity. The length of sick leave that doctors will be able to grant to women suffering from painful periods has not been specified in the law.
The new law also allows minors to have abortions without parental permission at 16 and 17 years of age. This will reverse a requirement introduced by a previous conservative government in 2015.
Menstrual leave is currently offered only in some countries across the globe, including Japan, Indonesia, and Zambia. As a result, Spain continues its image as a leader in women’s rights. “It is a historic day for feminist progress,” Spanish equality minister Irene Montero tweeted ahead of the vote.
Expanding trans rights
Spanish politicians passed laws concerning self-ID by 191 votes in favour and 60 against, with 91 abstentions. It makes Spain one of the few nations in Europe allowing people to change the gender on their national identity card with a simple declaration.
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. Those aged 14 and 15 are now allowed to apply if their parents or legal guardians agree. Meanwhile, those aged 12 and 13 will also require a judge’s permission to make the move.
Following the bill’s passage, Montero said:
This is one of the most important laws of this legislature… we have taken a giant step forward.
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.
Other measures brought in by the bill include a ban on conversion therapy, equal parenting rights for lesbian couples, and a ban on unnecessary surgery on intersex babies.
The laws were widely celebrated by some. Uge Sangil, head of FELGBTI+, Spain’s largest LGBTQ organisation, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) outside the Spanish parliament:
We’re celebrating the fact this law has passed after eight years of tireless work to obtain rights for the trans community.
We’re winning human rights with the free determination of gender… From today, our lives will change because we are not ill.
The UK is years behind on similar reforms. Menstrual leave isn’t even on the cards, with people expected to use sick leave if they need time off work. As for gender self-ID, as the Canary previously reported, Westminster has actively attacked Scotland’s attempts to introduce legislation similar to Spain’s. Our own Alex/Rose Cocker explained:
In the end, what the UK government requires above all else is delay. Whether it’s six years, or two, or going through the whole process of obtaining a GRC again after moving country, the system is designed to put trans lives on hold.
A GRC does little beyond updating a birth certificate and allowing trans people to get married and die with dignity. That’s it. There is no good reason why these basic acts of respect should take years.
We can only hope that more countries see sense and follow Spain’s example. It remains to be seen whether Britain will shake itself out of its transphobia and on that count, we must all fight for equality for our trans siblings.
Featured image via AFP/YouTube screenshot
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse