Is the Spanish Army Punishing Women Who Denounce Sexism?

Mujeres militares durante un acto en la base de El Goloso (Madrid) en 2006. Foto de la web

Army women during an act at El Goloso base (Madrid) in 2006. Picture from website

During the past days, news has come to light related to the situation of women in the Spanish Army, making people believe that after 25 years of integration in the military force, women are still being discriminated by their superiors.

The first story is from Captain Zaida Cantero who accused Colonel José de Lezcano-Mújica of sexual harrassment. After many hurdles, she managed to have the Supreme Court sentence him to two years and 10 months in jail [es]. From that point on, the Captain's brilliant carrier started to crumble and she was even sued and taken to military court for an apparent misdemeanor [es]:

un juzgado togado militar de Madrid ha abierto diligencias contra ella por un presunto delito de deslealtad, que el Código Penal Militar castiga con penas de hasta seis años de prisión. Se la acusa de haber “manipulado” las fechas en la solicitud de permiso que presentó mientras estaba en el curso de ascenso a comandante.

A superior military court in Madrid has opened an investigation against her for an alleged disloyalty offense, which in the Military Criminal Code is punished with up to six years in prison. She was accused of “manipulating” the dates of the permit she presented while she was taking the commander promotion course.

Even though the military judge filed the case for considering the issue unimportant, the Defense Ministry applied a disciplinary action and pushed for it. Now, she could be punished with up to two months of arrest in a disciplinary center. The case is doubly unjust, because as El País informed:

La capitán Zaida Cantero con varios compañeros en unas maniobras conjuntas en Alemania. Foto de la web

Captain Zaida Cantero with several colleagues during joint operations in Germany. Picture from the website

Cantero ha sido expedientada a partir de un auto de archivo que, al no haberse celebrado juicio, no puede darse como un hecho probado. En cambio, no se actuó tras la sentencia del Tribunal Militar Central que señalaba a una serie de mandos como cómplices del coronel abusador.

Cantero has been punished based on case that didn't make it to trial, thus cannot be considered proven. On the other hand, no action was taken after the Central Military Court pointed out a series of superiors as accomplices to the abusive Colonel.

The second case is that of private Silvia Ruiz, who has breast cancer and whose contract wasn't renewed due to absences and a negative report given by a Captain:

El capitán al mando en su compañía de entonces ordenó su arresto hasta tres veces, la última de ellas fue de 14 días por haberse negado a realizar los ejercicios aduciendo que fingió una lesión el día que sintió el dolor en el pecho. Posteriormente, este capitán elaboró el informe negativo del que se ha valido el Ejército para justificar su expulsión.

The captain in charge of her former company ordered her arrest three times, the last one for 14 days after she refused to do the exercises due to a faked injury that she felt on the chest. Afterwards, this captain wrote a negative report that gave the Army the excuse to expel her.

Silvia's mother started a petition on [es] asking the Minister of Defense to readmit her as a soldier in the armed forces. It has already gathered 50.000 signatures.

Irene Lozano, speaker of the Defense of Union Progress and Democracy (UPyD) requested a parliamentary review of the Disciplinary Regime of the Armed Forces putting captain Cantero's case as an example:

Se utiliza el régimen disciplinario contra ella, transmitiendo el mensaje de que no se puede acusar ni condenar a un coronel por acoso sexual

The disciplinary regime is used against her, delivering the message that you cannot accuse and condemn a colonel for sexual abuse.

The main opposition party, PSOE, has demanded the Minister of Defense, Pedro Morenés, to present himself in an audience to explain the situation of women in the army:

El portavoz de Defensa del Grupo Socialista en el Congreso, Diego López Garrido (…) se interesó por la situación actual de la capitana [Cantero]; los motivos por los que fue objeto de un Informe Personal de Calificación (PEC) de carácter extraordinario, cinco meses después del ordinario; y por qué no se atendió su solicitud de aplazamiento del curso de ascenso a comandante. Además, López Garrido pidió conocer qué medidas ha adoptado el Ministerio de Defensa y cuál fue la intervención en este caso del Observatorio Militar por la Igualdad.

Jóvenes soldados españolas en misión de paz con la ONU. Foto del blog blogodisea.

Young Spanish soldiers in a UN peace mission. Picture from the blog blogodisea.

The defense spokesperson of the Socialist Group in the Congress, Diego López Garrido (…) became interested in the current situation of captain [Cantero]; the reasons why she was the object of a Qualification Personal Report (PEC) of extraordinary character, five months after the ordinary one; and why her application to be promoted as commander was ignored. Besides, López Garrido asked to know which measures have been adopted by the Defense Ministry, and what was the intervention of the Military Observatory for Equality in this case.

Also Elena Valenciano, Vicepresident General of the PSOE, mentioned both cases in her Facebook page [es], where she shared the link to the above mentioned petition in [es].

In social media and information sites, the news has caused outrage. Tanchus [es] wrote on El País:

El “glorioso” ejército español: un nido de vagos, borrachos, corruptos y maleantes (salvo honrosas excepciones). Por otro lado, nada de extrañar en este país que se ha convertido en un patio de Monipodio en el que, el que más puede, más trinca.

The “glorious” Spanish army: a nest of tramps, drunks, corrupts and criminals (except for a few). On the other hand, it is no surprise that this country has turned into a thieves dungeon where whoever can steals the most.

And anguiman [es] also expressed his anger for what happened:

Puaj, qué asco de gente. Y estos mierdas son los que se llenan la boca con la patria. Lameculos del poder y sostenedores de reyes que trastabillan. Y magreadores de mujeres con valentía que no se dejan arrinconar.

Yaiks, these people are disgusting. And those scumbags fill their mouths with the homeland. Power bootlickers and tumbling kings’ supporters. Fumblers of courageous women who don't let themselves be cornered.

On Twitter, netizens also showed their disagreement with the treatment given to women:

Defense acts against the captain who denounced sexual harassment What a showcase of male chauvinists and rapists.

#ZaidaCantero, the army captain sanctioned for denouncing sexual harassment by a superior, shameful and miserable attitude from her superiors.

“They accuse a Captain who suffered sexual harassment by a Colonel of disloyalty”. The price for women to denounce is high.

They say feminism is no longer needed: Accused of disloyalty, the captain who was sexually harassed by a coronel.

But maybe the one that summarizes with the most wit the feelings of the majority of netizens is the sarcastic comment of Metaxa en El País [es]:

La justicia militar es a la justicia lo que la música militar es a la música.

Military justice is to justice what military music is to music.

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