Mariano Rajoy and Pedro Sánchez eras: Political and legal situation, relationship, family and reproductive rights

With a conservative government in power, the tenor of the campaign for political rights had changed in Spain along with the areas of focus changing.  The major issues of the period would consequently differ, and included institutional relations to lesbians, abortion rights, the situation for lesbian asylum seekers, and creating laws to eradicate homophobia and transphobia.  Marriage rights also had increased attention as a result of the legal challenge to the process by Partido Popular finally ending in the courts. Partner violence inside same-sex relationships also began to gain attention from inside the LGTB community as there was few legal options to address it and a vacuum of information about it.

Between 2008 and 2019, 15 people in same-sex relationships were murdered by their partners as a result of partner violence. Confederación Española LGBT indicated all of these murders involved men. This contrasted to 692 straight women murdered by men as a result of partner violence over the same period. In 2014, Confederación Española LGBT estimated in 2019 that only 5% of intracouple violence between members of the same sex was reported.

The UN Women’s office was founded in 2007 at a time when Spain was one of the largest international donors to the United Nations Office of Women. The Spain base office for the organization closed in late 2012 because the conservative government of Mariano Rajoy requested it despite the office costing the Spanish government no money, and the United Nations saw no reason to not honor the Spanish government’s request. A petition was submitted to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation José Manuel García-Margallo and the Minister of Health, Social Services and Equality Ana Mato to protest the closure by feminist organizations in Madrid and around the country. The only lesbian and LGBT organizations to sign the petition were CRECUL and CRECUL Madrid.

The Tribunal Constitucional ruled in 2012 that love between two men or two women in Spain expressed through marriage is constitutional.  This was celebrated nationwide, including in Madrid and Extremadura.

On 28 May 2013, CRECUL and other feminist organizations took part in a protest in front of the ministry to commemorate International Day of Women’s Health.  For lesbian feminists present among the hundreds of protests, the main issues were lack of access to assisted reproduction techniques for lesbians and single women.  They lamented that Partido Popular forced women who did not want to become mothers to carry a fetus to term while preventing women who wanted to become mothers from becoming mothers.

Then 37-year-old Silvia Tostado Calvo and 30-year-old Noelia Velarde Calle from Don Benito gave birth to a daughter named Julia in June 2013 as a result of Extremadura giving lesbian couples access to reproductive assistance in public health.  If the couple had been living in other regions with the exception of Andalucía and Asturias, it would not have been possible. Fundación Triángulo said in 2015 that the cut made no sense using a financial rational because less than 4% of the LGBT community were likely to utilize the service.

The Minister of Health, Social Services and Equality, Ana Mato, and the Inter-territorial Council of the National Health System (CISNS) put forth a new proposal regarding the inclusion or exclusion of assisted human reproduction techniques (HRT) in July 2013.  Ministra de Sanidad Ana Mato’s said at the meeting that the lack of having a man was not a reproductive health issue requiring assistance in public health.  It limited services to women under 40 and men under 55 who had no health common children and who had been diagnosed as sterile. The new proposal excluded single women and lesbian couples. Regional health ministers from Andalucía, the Basque Country, Catalonia, Asturias and the Canary Islands put forth a counter proposal to deal with the social reality that single women and lesbian couples need access to reproductive assistance in public health but that was rejected by the Ministero de Salud in July 2013. Mato was the primary driver of these changes, and the limits denying lesbian and single women public health access to HRT went into effect via ministerial instruction in the first quarter of 2014. Despite Mato’s changes, some regions were accommodating to lesbian reproductive needs.  The Canary Islands were one of the best regions in this regard.

CRECUL responded to the proposal on behalf of Spanish lesbians saying it was discriminatory and violated article 14 of the constitution and the Law on reproduction techniques Human Assisted Human Services (TRHA), which banned discrimination based on marital status and sexual orientation. CRECUL also labeled the change classist, since it impacted poor women who could not afford access to reproductive assistance otherwise.

PSOE Secretary of Equality Rosa Peris condemned the regional Partido Popular led government of Valencia in 2013 for excluding lesbians from getting state supported reproductive assistance, pointing out that they were already discriminated against by their marital status.

In September 2013, Extremadura President José Antonio Monago said he was breaking with the national government and the regional would fund fertility treatment for lesbians and single women in public health. 

Mato’s changes had the greatest impact on lesbians in Madrid, Asturias and Andalucía. When Paloma Calle and her wife tried to access reproductive assistance in public health in Madrid in 2013 using the Ropa method, they were told it was not possible for lesbians to get this service. The doctor in public health who told them it was not an option also told them that she did not agree with lesbian couples becoming mothers and she also was opposed to abortion. For IVF in general, the women received inferior care compared to a sister going through the process at the same time in public health in Madrid. The couple eventually sought reproductive assistance in private healthcare.

In Spain, infertility data for women did not aggregate by sexual orientation or the sex of the partner.  Understanding the number of lesbians or bisexual women with female partners getting infertility treatment to create their own families was difficult in 2014 and before as a result.  That year, Spain was the country with the third most infertility treatments in Europe, with 203 centers offering treatment of which 81% were private.

Partido Popular Senator Luz Elena Sanin from Ceuta made news in August 2014 because of her homophobic views. She called the marriage equality law, “la mayor desvergüenza”. She also said, “it cannot be maintained because it destroys all the principles and values ​​of society.” Sanin also criticized state aid going to associations supporting lesbians and gay men.

The Ley 15/2014 created a restructure with the intention of avoid duplication of work by various ministries.  The Dirección General para la Igualdad de Oportunidades agreed that the Instituto de la Mujer should come under its purview with a change of name to Instituto de la Mujer y para la Igualdad de Oportunidades.

Ley 11/2014, de 10 de octubre, para garantizar los derechos de lesbianas, gays, bisexuales, transgéneros e intersexuales y para erradicar la homofobia, la bifobia y la transfobia was passed in October 2014 in Catalonia.  It was aimed at reducing the discrimination against members of the rainbow.  Article 10 of the law required civil servants to intervene in situations where they “know of a situation of risk or have a well-founded suspicion of discrimination or violence based on sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.”

Ley de Igualdad Social y contra la Discriminación de Lesbianas, Gais, Bisexuales, Transgéneros, Transexuales e Intersexuales was registered in the Asembla de Extremadura in January 2015.  The law guaranteed public financing both for lesbians wanting reproductive assistance through public health in the region and for sex changes in public health.  The local LGBT community had been fighting for both goals for 20 years.  It was expected to pass and become law in May 2015. The law also provided financing in public health for medical gender changes.  Further, the same law also created a system of sanctions and infractions for actions viewed as homophobic or transphobic by educators, civil servants and other public employees with a potential maximum fine of €45000.

The Declaración de la Plataforma española Beijing+20 de ONG feministas y de derechos humanos was signed by a large number of Spanish feminist organizations in January 2015 in honor of the 20th anniversary of the United Nations saying that women’s rights were human rights. Among the lesbian and LGBT orgs signing it were CRECUL

Fundación Triángulo and Extremadura Entiende held a press conference in June 2015 in Mérida to ask the government to develop a framework to fight LGBTphobia.

Partido Popular did a reform of Spain’s abortion laws in July 2015, requiring girls under the age of 18 to get parental or guardian consent before having an abortion. Feminists, including lesbian feminists and transpeople, took to the streets of Barcelona to protest this change as a backwards step for women’s sexual and reproductive freedom.

Prior to 2016, it was not possible for lesbians in Catalonia to use public health for assisted reproduction. In theory, the Ley 11/2014, the law against discrimination against LGBTI people, should have ended such discrimination but it did not. Only in 2016 when a new health protocol was introduced were lesbians finally able to access reproductive

The Síndic de Greuges de Catalunya investigated a complaint against the violation of fundamental rights and discrimination in July 2015. The complaint alleged that in some public health centers, lesbians were being denied access to reproductive assistance techniques, despite the fact that the law says they should have access. One of the allegations was that they were given overly medicalized treatments, despite the fact that the women did not have underlying fertility issues, and that the language on various forms did not conform to the reality of their existence in public health. The Síndic recommended the forms be changed and that lesbians be specifically reached out to for further changes in the system to address the discrimination.

The Comunidad de Madrid’s Consejería de Familia produced a poster in 2016 called “Soy Lesbiana” for institutional distribution. Toxic Lesbian was a project supported by the Ayuntamiento de Madrid in 2017. It was one of 106 public art, education and social mediation projects supported with the goal of preventing homophobia and transphobia.

Ley 8/2016, de 30 de mayo was passed in May 2016 and guaranteed the rights of the rights of lesbians, gays, trans, bisexuals and intersexed people while the Baeleric Islands worked to try to eradicate LGBTphobia.

Lucia and Rosa were denied reproductive assistance in public health in 2017 in Catalonia because their request did “not conform to any of the suppositions contemplated”. They faced two more years of continual denial before turning to private health. Lucia, with support from UGT, finally sued the Ministerio de Política Territorial alleging discrimination. On 18 January 2021, the TSJ de Catalunya ruled in the couple’s favor, awarding them €2748.

In 2017, the Pacto de Estado feminista contra la violencia de género was signed in 2017.  All the groups on the left supported the legislation, except Podemos who abstained.  Later, in 2021, they would claim credit for being part of the reason the legislation passed.

Red Estatal contra el Alquiler de Vientres was created in April 2017 by 50 associations to nationally work together to prevent the rental of wombs for the production of babies in Spain. Of these 50 associations, eight were LGBTI ones, including Somos Diferentes. Many of the others were feminist organizations. Lesbians played an important role in these efforts. The practice was already illegal in Spain, but there was a movement that was trying to legalize it. These groups wanted to insure they could better mobilize to prevent such efforts. One of their first major activities was to protest a planned surrogacy fair scheduled to take place in May of that year in Madrid. The group’s first letter stated, “We are not incubators, or vessels or wombs or wombs for rent: we are women, human lives with whom they intend to set up a new business that will profit the strongest and subdue the weakest.”

At the end of 2017, Mérida hosted the VI Encuentro Estatal de Familias de Lesbianas, Gais, Bisexuales y Transexuales con hijas e hijos.  The conference was organized by the Familias LGBTI group in Fundación Triángulo.

Compared to politicians of previous eras, including those inside PSOE, Pedro Sanchez is very lesbian and gay friendly. He has supported lesbian and gay rights through his policies and legislative goals, along with supporting women as a sex protected class.  For lesbians though, Pedro Sanchez’s need to pact with the queer feminist Podemos created a situation where they had some cautious optimism that was quickly dampened when

FELGTB denounced the government of Melilla in late June 2018 for not providing reproductive assistance to lesbians, along with the legal requirement that lesbians couples must marry so that both mothers can be registered on the birth certificate.

There were 956 same-sex marriages in the Comunidad de Madrid in 2018, the second most of any region in Spain that year. In 2018, there were only seven same-sex marriages that took place in Melilla, most between men. That same year, there were only two same-sex marriages that took place in Ceuta.

The Ministerio de Sanidad, Consumo y Bienestar Social approved offering reproductive assistance to lesbians and single women in July 2018 to start at the beginning of the first quarter of 2019. Assistance had stopped in 2014 after a decision made by the then Partido Popular led city government.

The law in Murcia for the first time addressed the Subrogation rights  of same-sex partners who were not married to or in a pareja de hecho as it related to leased properties on 3 July 2018.

CRECUL began their campaign for legal recognition of diverse types of families in November 2018. Their goal was to get the national government to recognize common law relationships between parents and children in the same legal way that parents who are legally married have.

When Vox entered the Madrid regional government in June 2019, they stated their support for ending the ban on conversion therapy for gay and lesbian children, making a push to legalize such efforts. Among the things Vox said around that time was the lesbians were lesbians not because of same-sex attraction but because of a hatred of men, that violence against gays and lesbians is less important than general violence in society, and that gays and lesbians who have children are not creating real families.

By 2019, the issue of womb rental had become a major division for some lesbians, putting them in conflict with gay men who wanted to legalize the practice to create their own families. Most of the rainbow supported womb rental, with only a few dissonant gay men opposing the practice. Lesbian opposition to the practice was based on viewing the practice as a form of male violence through the commodification of women’s bodies, which included lesbian bodies.

In early 2019, lesbians and single women lacked access to reproductive assistance in public health in Murcia, Asturias and Melilla; they were the only regions which denied these women access to reproductive assistance after Ceuta made a change in for the first quarter of 2019 that gave lesbians and single women access.

While reproductive assistance was finally given to lesbian and bisexual women in Melilla in 2020, the number of techniques was limited. Increasing the number of methods available to women in public health in Melilla was part of the demands by women on the 8 March International Women’s Day march.

PSOE deputy María Luisa Carcedo opened a debate in the Congreso de Diputados in March 2019 about the national government covering the cost of single women and lesbians seeking reproductive assistance in public health. The government estimated 4,691 lesbians and 5,955 heterosexual women nationwide would be eligible for state assistance. Most of this would have involved women in Ceuta, Melilla and in Spanish mutual aid societies largely made up of public employees; this was because most regional governments already covered both groups in their own public health programs. National funding for both lesbians and single women had been removed in 2013 when Partido Popular was in power.

In May 2019, the Tribunal Económico Administrativo de Extremadura (TAE) accepted the appeal of lesbian mother in her ability to receive a maternity deduction as a worker after having been earlier denied because she was not the birth mother.  She had appealed to the body after first being denied by the  Delegación de la Agencia Tributaria in Mérida.  The woman’s successful appeal was the first of its kind in the region, though similar successful appeals had previously happened in Catalonia, Andalucía and Valencia.  Two other cases involving lesbian were being examined in Extremadura at the same time, all in Mérida, with one woman who had initially received the benefit being forced to repay it. Activists were happy about the outcome of the appeal because there were no exceptions in the law saying that the mother had to be the birthing mother to qualify.  The legal requirements to apply were only that one needed to be woman, a worker and have a child under three years of age.  The libro de familia makes no distinction as to who is the birthing mother and who is the other mother.  One of the women affected by this decision was María Moruno.  Her lawyers debated seeking damages from the tax agency for their discriminatory action.

Murcian judge Fernando Ferrín Calamita unsuccessfully tried to get reinstated following the end of his ten-year period of special disqualification in mid-2019. The decision to continue bar him was upheld by Sala de lo Contencioso-Administrativo del Tribunal Supremo. They upheld the previous ruling saying that he criminally violated article 447, making his action damaging to public service.

A pair of lesbians in Spain, one a British national and the other a Bulgarian national, had a child in December 2019. The Spanish issued birth certificate listed both women as mothers as parents of the child. The British national acquired her national by descent and was unable to pass on her nationality. The Bulgarian mother, referred to as Kalina, was refused in her application was the Bulgarian courts did not recognize the possibility under law that a baby could have two mothers. This left a situation where the child would have been rendered stateless. In theory, this situation should have resulted in the child being eligible for Spanish nationality but the European Union Court of Justice (EUCJ) referred the case to a Bulgarian court in February 2021, saying the couple and their child were discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. The EUCJ reminded the Bulgarian courts that 2018 EU directive said that freedom of movement was gender neutral, and that this covers same-sex spouses of EU citizens, even when the country itself does not recognize same-sex marriage for its own citizens internally.

In 2019, Confederación Española LGBT(Colegas) estimated that 75% of the same-sex intra-gender partner violence in Spain was between women. They also estimated that only 20% of intracouple violence between members of the same sex was reported.

Colegas has specialized services in Madrid for LGBT victims of partner violence. In June 2019, a lesbian came into their facilities with a black eye from a partner who punched her, and not for the first time.  They convinced her to go to the police, prove she was in a relationship with the other woman so the violence could be reported as gender violence.  She did and ended the relationship.

Consejo de las Mujeres del Municipio de Madrid presented a petition to RTVE in July 2019 to condemn the harassment faced by feminist journalist Montserrat Boix for her reporting on womb rental in Spain. The petition was signed by 325 organizations and individuals including CRECUL and Observatorio Valenciano contra la LGTBIfobia. No other LGBT organizations signed the petition. Boix was moved from her job following a broadcast on womb rentals, with the editor making the decision, Lluis Guilera, being a gay man who had a child with his partner by hiring a woman to use her womb to carry the child to term; the practice was illegal in Spain at the time. Those signing the petition also asked for Boix to be reinstated.

Cáceres, Trujillo and Plasencia all created concejalías de Diversidad LGBTI in 2019 in their local townhalls following local elections that year. The Junta de Extremadura spokesperson and consejera de Igualdad Isabel Gil Rosiña met with a delegation from in Mérida in February 2020 representing violence against lesbians, bisexual women and transwomen in the Colombian Caribbean, Honduras, the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua.  The delegation included tax advisor of the Office for the Integration and Articulation of the Gender, Childhood and Adolescence Approach of Colombia, Elisabeth Chaverra, and with the director of the Caribbean organization Affirmative, Wilson Castaneda.  The meeting was also attended by Fundación Triángulo President Silvia Tostado.  The group discussed the results from a €389000 project funded by Agencia Extremeña de Cooperación Internacional al Desarrollo (AEXCID) named Enterezas that looked at violence against lesbians, bisexual and transwomen in Colombia, Honduras, the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua which had gotten underway in January 2019 and created two jobs in Extremadura.

The Townhall of Barcelona in 2019 tried to address injustices faced by homosexual women and men during the Francoist period by trying to bring six judges to trial for alleged crimes against humanity for their actions during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s that used judicial processes to torture and strip dignity from gays and lesbians. One of their motivations in doing this was also to strip criminal convictions related to homosexuality offenses from 550 people’s criminal records, almost all of whom were men. The Barcelona Government faced a number of challenges including a generally amnesty law in Spain for members of the Franco regime.

As of February 2019, Castilla y León, the Basque Country, Aragon and Castilla – La Mancha, and the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla did not have any laws specific to historical memory of LGBT people.

Ley 122/000191 del 2 de marzo de 2018 was still in the proposal stage in mid-2019. It said, “1. 3. The self-determination of sexual identity may not be put under questioning so that at no time, process or procedure will be required the provision of evidence. At all times it will be considered and interpreted according to the manifestation of personal will.”[1] This proposed law would allow any man to declare himself a woman under Spanish law, be required to be legally be treated as female and able to denounce anyone who questions this identity as transphobic. It was criticized by lesbians and feminists as erasing homosexuality as was already occurring in Anglo-Saxon countries, where lesbians were banned from International Women’s Labor Day marches if they carried signs saying “lesbian = female homosexual” or “We like pussy”. Some prominent feminist organizations and publications supported these actions, with Pikara Magazine saying, “A Euroblanca cis woman will hardly experience the fear of clitoral ablation, a cis woman from Egypt will never live with the institutional and social asphyxiating pressure of mutilating the penis that trans women suffer.”[2] The feminist magazine prioritized the desire of Spanish males to undergo voluntary sex re-assignment surgery over the eight in ten Egyptian women who had their clitorises mutilated because of patriarchy.

The Pedro Sanchez government reformed Spain’s abortion laws in 2020 and removed parental consent requirements instituted by the Mariano Rajoy government in 2015.

The Consejo de las Mujeres del Municipio de Madrid held a press conference and demonstration on 28 Madrid 2020 in front of the Congreso de Diputados after they delivered their draft of the proposed legislation on the Law of Equality of Diverse Families.  This was the second major step in their renewed campaign that started a month earlier. Among those leading the group is CRECUL president Elena de León Criado.

Feminist groups in Spain in April 2020 protested the role of ‘Coordinador Parental’ in custody disputes, saying their power went beyond that of mediation to the point where coordinators could coerce children into visiting non-custodial parents for whom there had been alleged abuse by the parent towards the child. The feminist groups believed the training was minimal, insufficient and doubtful in terms of being effective at having coordinators trained for dealing with the realities of things like partner violence and violence against children. They also denounced the use of non-clinical descriptions that should be considered in their role, include parental Alienation Syndrome or “threat syndrome.” Among the signatories was CRECUL. No major LGBT organization signed the petition.

Public participation allowing commenting on the proposed Ley de Diversidad Sexual y Derechos LGTBI en Castilla-La Mancha was open from 5 November 2020 to 30 November 2020.  Lesbians were mentioned seven times by the organizations and members of the public in response to the proposed law.  Comment by AlianzaCBM – Alianza Contra el Borrado de las Mujeres, Podemos Castilla – La Mancha and Maurizio Montipo Spagnoli all grouped lesbians with homosexuals, bisexuals, intersexuals and transpeople in the mention. Yaiza Moreno-Garcia accounted for rest of the seven mentions saying that equating sex with gender identity allows coercive acts against homosexuals and especially against lesbian women who already deal with such coercion regularly on social media and where they are told to deconstruct their sexuality, called TERFs and transphobes, and threatened with rape.  They said such a law would stimy freedom of speech and result in increased lesbian erasure, an event already seen at 8 March 2020 protests in Barcelona and Madrid where feminists were verbally and physically abused by proponents of self-ID.

The Comunidad de Madrid’s Consejería de Familia produced a report in 2020 called “Estudio sobre las causas de la invisibilidad y la doble discriminación que sufre el colectivo de lesbianas en la Comunidad de Madrid. Resumen ejecutivo” for institutional distribution. The study included transwomen as lesbians, and the trans community made a particular effort to reach out to transwomen who identified as lesbians to be included in the survey. It was also supported by Transexualia, LesWorking, Asociación Fulanita de Tal and Asociación Innicia. Feminist groups, a traditional home to lesbians in Madrid, were not specifically reached out to. The researchers surveyed 204 lesbians living in the region. Homosexuality was mentioned three times in the document. Issues of reproductive healthcare, and particularly fertility treatments and the issues of lesbian mothers, were not mentioned at all. Biological sex is not referred to either, despite a history of repression for lesbians in Madrid being sex based. There was no data table, nor any indication of how many of the 204 lesbians were transwomen, transmen or non-binary.

Lesbian refugees and asylum seekers

Prior to the mid-2010s, most lesbian and gay asylum seekers from Morocco routinely had their petitions denied on the principle of discretion. As bilateral relations between Morocco and Spain deteriorated and as homophobic abuse in Morocco became more well known, lesbian and gay asylum seekers from Morocco began to find greater success in having their petitions accepted. Ceuta and Melilla though remained an exception to this trend, with lesbian and gay asylum seekers in the autonomous cities facing greater scrutiny to their claims than petitions filed in mainland Spain. Academics have suggested that Spain has made a deliberate policy in this regards to prevent the pull effect, that is attracting more Moroccans to Ceuta and Melilla because their compatriots found success in their asylum cases.

In 2013, a Cameroonian lesbian named Carine came to Spain via Barajas to claim asylum because a warrant had been issued in her country because of her sexual orientation. She spent 10 days in the Madrid-Barajas airport before being sent on a plane to Istanbul, the first European country she landed in on her journey to Spain. After her expulsion from Spain, she dropped off the face of the earth and Cameroonian LGB activists fear the worst. Between 2011 and 2015, Spain accepted asylum claims from 69 people for persecution as a result of being homosexuals.

In February 2014, six homosexuals requested asylum in Melilla. Among them was a woman from Algeria.

Christelle Nangnou is a lesbian from Cameroon. Fearing persecution in her country after details of her homosexuality were published in a newspaper and the police appeared at her door, Nangnou fled Cameroon for Spain in March 2015. Upon entry to Spain though, she found herself detained at Madrid-Barajas Airport for 24 days until her authorization to stay to Spain for humanitarian reasons because of her sexual orientation was accepted by the Spanish courts after initially having been denied. The decision to flee was made after her picture was published in a local newspaper saying that she was the leader of a group of satanic homosexuals. Nangnou first boarded a plane for Nigeria, before then taking a flight to Madrid using someone else’s identity documents. At immigration in the airport, Nangnou tried to claim asylum and was given an interview at the airport’s Asylum and Refugee Office. During her 24-day stay in Barajas, Spanish authorities tried to repatriate her four different times. As a result of one struggle against repatriation, she was injured and ended up in the airport infirmary.

CETI in Melilla dealt with four or five cases of asylum seekers fleeing LGB persecution a year until around 2015. By 2017, this number had exploded to be around seventy for the year. Statistics on this data though were not often kept by the Spanish state but by AMELGA, the city’s LGBT organization. Most homosexuals were men from the Rif region of Morocco.

Lesbians in CETI residences in 2015 in Melilla and Ceuta were vulnerable to harassment and violence because of their sexual orientation. Special anti-discrimination protocols were implemented to try to prevent that from happening. One such protocol was to send some lesbian and gay asylum seekers to facilities on the Spanish mainland. AMLEGA and Kifkif, both based in Melilla, applauded these efforts.

While lesbians represented an important group among female asylum seekers in Melilla in 2016, many women fled their home countries just because they were women with all the sexist and misogynistic baggage that can accompany being a woman. This includes things like forced marriage, sexual violence, forced sterilization, selective abortions, and being forced into prostitution. In some cases, like for Iranian women, it is because of persecution for things like wearing makeup or clothing viewed as too suggestive. Most female refugees tried to leave Melilla as soon as they could as they want space that offers them more opportunities as women, with many trying to move to Madrid or Barcelona.

Between January 2016 and May 2017, there were eight reported cases of gender violence at the CETI facility in Melilla. In seven of the cases, both the aggressor and the victim lived at CETI. There was also reason to believe in that period that sexual violence had taken place at CETI.

Despite Spain being more liberal than neighboring Morocco, lesbian and gay refugees still faced discrimination in 2017 in both Ceuta and Melilla, often in the form of violence and insults from their fellow migrants. In the case of Ceuta, this included discrimination both in the CETI facility and on the streets.

CETI sources told El Faro de Melilla in 2017 that many women are afraid of reporting gender and sexual violence at the facility. Proceeding against perpetuators have only been able to take place as a result of employees who were witnesses being willing to document the abuses in court. Around this time a protocol for LGBT residents had already been established and new protocols were being devised for families and women.

Of the 70 or so LGB asylum seekers in mid-2017 in Melilla, around a dozen were women. The number of lesbians applying for asylum had been increasing in recent years. Most of the women in 2017 were Moroccan, with a few Algerians. There were no sub-Saharan lesbian identified asylum seekers. The latter may have been in part because women from sub-Saharan Africa may have preferred to hide this information out of fear of additional discrimination in Melilla.

Human Rights Watch denounced the confinement of lesbian and gay asylum seekers in 2017 to Ceuta or Melilla, because harassment, discrimination and violence were particularly hard to avoid given the geographical limitations of the city.

The situation for lesbian and gay asylum seekers in Melilla was so bad that Human Rights Watch issued a statement in May 2017 asking the Spanish government to transfer lesbian and gay asylum seekers to mainland Spain to reduce the level of homophobic abuse they endured in the immigration center and on the streets of the city.

In July 2018, the Melilla government developed a plan to address discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation in public school classrooms as part of their Strategic Plan for School Coexistence framework.

One lesbian asylum seeker in Melilla who arrived in August 2018 was 22-year-old Nador resident Hanan. Her lesbianism was discovered by her four brothers in 2012 when they found her in bed with her girlfriend. Upon the discovery, they tried to kill her by stabbing her. They tied her up and had the girlfriend’s name burned into her skin. After recovering in hospital, her brothers then forced her to attend conversion therapy and tried to medicate the gay away. She only managed to escape after finding her passport when cleaning the family home. Upon her arrival in Melilla, Hanan lived at the CETI center. She claimed that when leaving the center, she had insults hurled at her like whore and machorra.

Other lesbians in Melilla in September 2018 were 33-year-old Berkan native Islam and 27-year-old Marrakech local Khadija. The couple met in Morocco in 2014. They were subjected to threats and violence, and decided they wanted to try to start a new life together in Spain where homosexuality and same-sex marriage are legal. In June 2018, they crossed the border in Melilla in order to get married. Despite being able to do so, they were still confronted with regular lesbophobic abuse on the streets of Melilla. Some of this was because they are women, some because they are homosexuals and most because they are both.

A masculine appearing Moroccan lesbian known as Amira came to Melilla in September 2018 to apply for asylum based on her sexual orientation. She had spent more of her life living with an aunt who tolerated her being a homosexual. She moved in with her parents who then discovered her lesbianism because of photos on her phone; Amira soon left home because her parents are conservative and homosexuality is a crime in Morocco. She first went to Nador, then to Beni Enzar before going to Melilla. Despite being a juvenile, she could not access juvenile reception center as she had no proof of her age. She claimed not to have them because she left home without telling her parents and asking for them. She finally got her red card and planned to move to Malaga to join her girlfriend, and from there move to France.

By 2019, there were more than 300 Moroccan lesbians who had applied for asylum in Ceuta and Melilla. Most were between the ages of 15 and 20, and the women often arrived in groups. These young women claimed that they were persecuted in Morocco because of their sexual orientation. They were supported in Ceuta by civil society associations.

The asylum request based on sexual orientation of a Moroccan woman known by CE was denied in late 2019. After the denial, she was forced to live on the street where she was attacked several times. The then 21-year-old had come to Melilla after having been beaten by family members for being a lesbian, being forced to marry a 50-year-old man at the age of 17.

Madina de las Torres, Plasencia, Torrejoncillo, Casar de Cáceres , Zalamea de la Serena and Valencia del Ventoso played host to a traveling exhibition in the early 2020s titled, “Stories of Resistance” organized by Fundación Triángulo Extremadura in collaboration with the Agencia Extremeña de Cooperación Internacional para el Desarrollo (AEXCID). The exhibit told the stories of LGBTI people in Extremadura and the surrounding provinces fleeing persecution of homosexuality. One of the stories featured was that of a lesbian who fled El Salvador after her sexual orientation led to persecution in her local barrio near the capital.

Amlega Lgtb+ Melilla specifically told lesbians in June 2020 on Facebook that if they were afraid of corrective rape in their home country, it was a reason they could apply for asylum in Spain, and that the organization would assist them in their application.

[1] Spanish; “1. 3. La autodeterminación de la identidad sexual no podrá ser puesta bajo cuestionamiento de manera que en ningún momento, proceso o trámite se exigirá la aportación de medios probatorios de aquella. En todo momento será considerada e interpretada de acuerdo a la manifestación de voluntad personal.”

[2] Spanish: “Una mujer cis euroblanca difícilmente experimentará el miedo a la ablación de clítoris, una mujer cis de Egipto nunca vivirá con la presión asfixiante institucional y social por mutilarse el pene que sufrimos las mujeres trans”.

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