The Popular parliamentary group yesterday managed to get Congress to give the green light to the processing of a Bill that, if approved within a few months, will extend maternity and paternity leave for single-parent families to 26 weeks. In this way, the time of care received by the children of these families (in these permits) would be equated to that which the children of families made up of two parents, biparental families, already have guaranteed.
The current distribution of maternity and paternity leaves, while the processing of this Proposition of Law is not completed, grants a different time of care depending on the composition of your family. Single parents receive 16 weeks and biparental families between 26 and 32 weeks, depending on whether the two parents decide to share them. But it is not the only discrimination that was maintained in the last modification of the Workers’ Statute made in 2019 (for example, it also occurs in nursing permits), nor is it the only rule in which single-parent families have a treatment unequal. The non-differentiation discrimination suffered by single-parent families is a structural issue. Making a play on words, it could be said that it is rather a discrimination resulting from the indifference of the legislator.
That is why, with this step, the PP has scored somewhat. For the first time, it has been possible to legislatively channel, at the state level, one of the demands that the associations of single-parent families have insistently requested since the entry into force of the modification. A demand that, due to the inaction of the affected administrations, has been taking them to court until obtaining more than a dozen favorable sentences in different parts of Spain that point out how the non-equalization of permits discriminates against them. In these judicial resolutions –such as that of the High Court of Social Justice of the Basque Country (STSJ PV 396/2020)– it is considered that the current regulation of maternity and paternity leave violates the rights of children because “how much the attention, care and development of the affected minor will suffer a clear reduction with respect to those others who in a similar situation, framed within a two-parent family model, will receive”; but, also, the rights of women by introducing the norm “an important element of discrimination with respect to women and the foundations of reconciling family life”.
It is in this aspect, in the defense of women’s rights, where the PP Law Proposal fails and the trap lies. Among its lines there are elements that cannot be overlooked when we talk about rights, we talk about the discrimination experienced by women who raise their children alone (more than 80% of all single-parent families) and we talk about of the treatment that the right has historically given, in Spain, to those families that do not respond to the ideal and traditional family model.
A first aspect is found in the Statement of Motives. It turns out that the PP stands as the maximum maker of the advancement of the rights of working mothers. To do this, it refers to the sporadic achievements that conservatives and liberals have made at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th and the few regulations approved by their governments already in democracy (in terms of labor equality). They omit, or rather hide, that a large part of the problem of discrimination suffered by single-parent families dates back to the Franco regime. They do not mention that women suffered one of the greatest possible setbacks in their rights and freedoms and that, among these, it was the single mothers who suffered in a very direct and cruel way a criminalization that led them to be interned in centers, to withdraw their custody of their babies (when not to steal them), to marry them by force, to use them as domestic slaves and, above all, to give them a denigrating treatment that isolated them socially and family-wise. They erase part of the legislative history that explains why there is still so much resistance to recognizing a woman raising her children alone as a full family.
On the stigma of being a “single mother” in the years of the dictatorship and until 1989 when the Patronage for Women was closed, the first chapter of the study that the Federation of Associations of Single Mothers (FAMS) has on “Single-parent families in Spain”. A damage that has not yet been repaired or foreseen to be repaired, and that has not even been corrected in our Family Law, which continues to ignore, and therefore penalize, this family model when it inexplicably denies them legal recognition at the state. Recognition that does seem to be included in the future Family Law announced by the Government, of which the text is not yet known nor has its draft been processed.
In this way, the lack of gender perspective of the Law Proposal is not surprising. This is not only that it avoids using inclusive language when referring to a family reality starring mainly women, but also that it seeks to focus on the role of mother that has the working woman as a fundamental figure in the protection of the family institution. An idea that fits quite well with that Francoist mantra that pointed to women as the “angel of the home”.
Another element that reveals the inconsistency and opportunism of the PP is that it makes it clear that it knows that the entry into force of its Bill (when it is approved) must be accompanied by a budget item. Item that is foreseen, precisely, in the more than 20,000 million euros of the third Strategic Plan for Effective Equality of Women and Men 2022-2025 that the top popular leaders have recklessly criticized so much. If “your” Law Proposal goes ahead (hopefully), it will be paid for with the budget of the Equality Plan that until a week ago they proposed to eliminate. Plan that already provides among its measures “the extension of permits for birth, adoption, care for the purpose of adoption or fostering of single-parent families” (measure No. 290) with a view to the future Family Law.
That said, let us remain unanimously in giving the green light to the Proposal of the Law that will extend maternity and paternity leave for single-parent families. Now, it is the responsibility of all the political forces that now its processing be accelerated, the drafting and impact of the norm be improved (much) the gender perspective be included and steps be taken to make the necessary modifications until there is legal recognition of single-parent families. Regardless of who wears the medals, the reality is one, with single-parent families, article 14 of our Constitution is breached. It is a matter of justice and reparation.