How did Spain’s Equality Minister fall from grace?

Montero, who was hailed on the cover of Time magazine as the saviour of feminism in Spain now faces a completely uncertain political future. But why?


Her jaw clenched as she spoke, Spain’s former Equality Minister Irene Montero last week wished her successor courage – not luck.

“Today, Pedro Sánchez is kicking me out of this government,” Montero said, referring to the newly re-elected Spanish prime minister’s cabinet appointments.

Sánchez, who is known for his unexpected cabinet reshuffles, decided not to count on her to continue leading the Equality Ministry and appointed a surprise new minister for feminism, the unknown Ana Redondo.

“I hope they never leave you alone and that you have the courage to make the president’s 40- and 50-year-old male friends uncomfortable,” Montero said angrily, minutes before handing Redondo the gender equality portfolio.

Her voice, which threatened to break, managed to hold up during the speech.

Hailed on the cover of Time magazine only last February as the saviour of feminism in Spain, Montero now faces a completely uncertain political future.

“Since she became minister in 2020, a nation that not 50 years ago required women to obtain their father’s or husband’s permission in order to work has consolidated its position among Europe’s most feminist countries,” said the publication.

But why did the former minister go from front-page news to being removed from office?

A fall from grace?

The daughter of a removal man and a teacher, Montero – whose only job before entering politics was as a supermarket cashier – rose to the top of Spanish politics with Podemos.

It was in 2015 that the insurgent left-wing party became a dazzling star, putting an end to the two-party system that had been in place in Spain since 1982.

Four years later, Spain’s ruling Socialists entered into a coalition agreement with Podemos, and Montero took over the equality ministry.

“There is a lot of polarisation around her, especially from people outside her party. She is a minister who generates resentment and antipathy. She is not the typical candidate who generates transversality. But this is not a yardstick to judge whether she has been a good minister or not,” political scientist Lluís Orriols told Euronews.

“There are ministers who seek transversality and consensus and other ministers who want to push an agenda that they know will generate a lot of opposition because it touches on some very entrenched elements in the political culture of a country,” he adds.

The minister herself told Time magazine that she had a choice to make: “Are we going to dare to be part of the democratising impulse coming from the feminist movement and civil society, or are we going to maintain a more timid or conservative attitude?”

Although Equality has always been a controversial ministry, Montero’s tenure has been particularly turbulent.

Many have criticised her for “hijacking feminism”, to the extent that the feminist movement became subservient to the ministry.

“She followed a pattern that sounds like enlightened despotism. The ministry said: ‘This is what really protects women. This is what we should really do with transgender people. This is what is authentic, this is what is progressive and this is what we are going to impose,” Fernando Vallespín, professor of political science at the Autonomous University of Madrid, told Euronews.

“It wasn’t necessary for Irene Montero to be there for feminist advances to be consolidated under a progressive government. It seems to me very questionable that she was so fundamental for women’s rights”.


“But what she has really worked for is the inclusion of all LGTBI people, especially transsexuals, as part of feminist rights. A qualitative leap that is not without risk,” he adds.

What is clear is that the impact of her policy has not gone unnoticed by the international press.

The infamous ‘only yes is yes’ law

Many believe that Montero’s resignation is the political price she had to pay after the approval of the new rape law, popularly known as “only yes is yes”.

A law whose consequences eventually became unbearable for the government.

The controversial law, which came into force a year ago, was intended to be stricter than the previous code, but instead resulted in reduced sentences for more than 1,000 sex offenders convicted under the previous legislation.


The reform was a direct response to the infamous ‘La Manada’ case, in which a young woman was gang raped by five men during the San Fermín celebrations in Pamplona in 2016.

The reform revised the penal code by making sexual consent the key factor in determining assault cases, in an attempt to define all non-consensual sex as rape.

The law abolished the lesser charge of sexual abuse and classified all offences as sexual assault. However, it also reduced the minimum and maximum prison sentences, resulting in offenders having their sentences reduced on appeal.

Montero ignored warnings from judicial institutions about these consequences before the reform was passed and went ahead with her plan.

“This law was supposed to be the one that would give Podemos political credit, it was supposed to be its star law. Instead, it was very problematic, it wore down the government. What ended up on the public agenda was that many rapists were released from prison,” Orriols points out.


“Instead of becoming the law that would make Irene Montero one of the icons of the feminist struggle, it became a major crisis,” he adds.

Probably her biggest mistake, according to experts, was not realising that it was necessary to stop the release of rapists by reforming the newly introduced law.

The ruling Socialist Party had to initiate the new amendment, which was passed with the support of the conservatives and against the will of Podemos.

From that moment on, the minister became the target of everyone’s scorn, becoming the worst-rated minister in the government.

Although not everyone feels the same.


“For the Woke culture, it is possible that she is even seen as a goddess, because she has fought hard in everything else, but for others this is not the case at all. She has become the minister who has made the most noise,” says Vallespín.

Time magazine itself asked: Is this crisis a sign of unbridgeable divisions between the progressive, feminist Spain that Montero envisions and a conservative, patriarchal reality that remains entrenched? Or is it a lesson in the perils of applying ideology to society at large?

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Trans rights in Europe: Where does your country stand?

While a number of European nations have been praised by leading trans organisations for their commitment to improving rights for the marginalised group, others – including Slovakia and the UK – have been told they still have a long way to go.


Rights for transgender people are always a hot topic of discussion – dividing friends, colleagues and ruining the legacies of the rich and famous.

This week in Japan, the Asian nation’s Supreme Court ruled that a law requiring transgender people to have their reproductive organs removed in order to officially change their gender was unconstitutional.

The decision, made by the top court’s 15-judge Grand Bench, was its first on the constitutionality of Japan’s 2003 law requiring the removal of reproductive organs for a state-recognised gender change – a practice long criticised by international rights and medical groups.

Closer to home, the picture is not much clearer – and equally as divisive.

While a recent report from Transgender Europe (TGEU) showed the European approach to transgender rights has made positive progress, there is also a notable increase concerning anti-trans backlash from some governments and a number of media outlets.

While there has been progress in implementing more rights for trans people in Europe during 2022 and 2023, that only builds on 2022’s return to progress which followed years of decreasing levels of rights.

It’s not an entirely positive picture, though.

TGEU say the risk of regression and anti-trans backlash across swathes of the continent remains a pressing issue for the community.

Slovakia is, they say, in particular danger of further regression.

Debates there have been raging over the possibility of banning legal gender recognition.

Romania, Latvia, Lithuania, Cyprus, Belarus and Bulgaria are also widely considered to be weak when it comes to the protection of trans people.

At the other end of the scale, countries praised for their development of trans rights were Spain, Moldova, Andorra, Finland and Iceland.

This year, Iceland managed to overtake Malta to be listed at the top of the ranking.

Spain has made huge changes too, with its far-reaching law covering employment, protections for trans migrants and discrimination based on gender expression.

That law means that the southern European nation has adopted legal gender recognition based on self-determination.

While there has been some criticism that nonbinary people were left out of the legal gender recognition change, Spain’s move means that 11 countries across Europe now have a form of ‘Self-ID’ – or, in layman’s terms, a self-determination-based legal gender recognition model.

The UK is very much seen as lagging behind more progressive countries in Europe.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has been accused of mocking trans people and his government is set to push ahead with plans to ban gay and trans conversion practices.


Senior Conservatives have spoken about their concern that the issue might split the party on the issue. Some MPs have expressed worry that an outright ban on trans conversion practices specifically could unintentionally criminalise parents or teachers who give advice to children struggling with their gender identities.

Earlier this year, Westminster blocked a bill supporting Self-ID passed by the devolved Scottish government. There have been cries of discrimination over that decision and it is currently going through the courts.

Interestingly, less secular countries including Spain and Greece have also made strides on banning so-called ‘conversion therapy’ on grounds of gender identity and Moldova has moved to protect trans people from discrimination as well as hate crimes and speech.

On the whole, it seems as if the move toward trans acceptance is going in the right direction, but as Nadya Yurinova from TGEU tells Euronews, there is still more to be done.

“Ideally, all countries should start with legal gender recognition and access to trans-specific healthcare for all, especially for further marginalised groups at the intersections with refugees, BIPOC, asylum seekers and disabled people communities. We also call for trans-informed journalism and public awareness about trans lives; the discrimination and violence trans people face on a daily basis,” Yurinova explains.


In a report seen by Euronews, TGEU criticises many EU member states as “failing to meet their obligations to trans people”.

They say nine countries – Bulgaria, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, France, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland and Romania – fail to provide asylum protection and that this is in violation of EU law. TGEU believes that by upholding rigid rules for asylum seekers from diverse – particularly trans – backgrounds, the individuals in question are immediately at a disadvantage when it comes to being accepted into a new country.

That seems to be only one issue concerning those who speak out on behalf of the trans community.

Pekka Rantala, who is the chairperson of SETA – Finland’s oldest and most prominent LGBTI rights organisation – tells Euronews the situation is bleak, even in the progressive Nordic nation.

“Based on my experience in Finland and discussing with LGBTIQA+ activists around the world the situation around hate-speech continues to be bad. Based on that, I would say the situation continues as it was in 2022,” he says.


Rantala explains that conservatism in politics and “aggressive social media approaches taken by anti-trans groups” are to blame, but believes there is hope for the future for the trans community.

“General awareness raising campaigns for the public, training for officials and media, prevention and combating hate speech and making sure proper safeguards are in place to prevent discrimination in the society are key actions to take,” he says.

“These actions would both make society more aware and understanding of the trans community but would also allow an often strained – if not severed – bond between the trans community and wider society to begin healing,” Rantala adds.

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Why aren’t there more women in EU’s offshore renewable energy sector?

By Helena Rodrigues, Ocean Policy Officer, and Larissa Milo-Dale, Senior Communications Officer, WWF European Policy Office

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent in any way the editorial position of Euronews.

Improving gender balance in the EU’s fastest expanding maritime industry is crucial to ensure that the fundamental human right of gender equality is upheld in Europe’s fight against life-threatening climate change, Helena Rodrigues and Larissa Milo-Dale write.

In April 2023, at the WindEurope annual event in Copenhagen, entering a room filled with men in navy suits seemed to confirm the state of play of sectors “known” for low gender diversity. 


While by no means a new anecdote, stories like these are ringing heavier in our ears after so many decades of awareness of the problem, and they fly in the face of initiatives like the EU Gender Equality Strategy. 

We can’t help but wonder, to paraphrase Beyoncé, where are the girls “who run the world?”

The renewable energy sector is growing, and women are technically equipped to contribute. Studies show that companies with at least 30% of women engaged in high-level positions consistently perform better at all levels. 

Women also now make up half of all EU university graduates, indicating their potential as catalysts for change at decision-making levels. Yet data on gender diversity continue to show women as the odd ones out.

Still no seat at the table

Today, the gender wage gap across the EU energy industry is nearly 20%. Further, women only occupy up to 20% of senior roles in some sub-sectors; in fossil–fuel–related ones, it’s only up to 15%.

At the EU decision-making level, just four women sit in the European Council. In the European Parliament, less than 10% of climate and energy legislative files are led by women, despite women making up 40% of Members of the European Parliament.

Women are actively missing from the discourses that decide both their immediate and long-term socioeconomic realities. 

This includes not having an equitable say in the energy mixes available in their communities, and thus the price of energy and how this trickles down into the price of food. 

Women are thus also absent from decisions about how to improve their employment opportunities in energy and policy. 

Similarly, given that women are more heavily impacted by climate change than men, having an equal voice in decision-making arenas to reduce energy-related emissions is essential to their long-term well-being.

Gender parity for carbon neutrality

Offshore wind is fast becoming a key player in Europe’s blue economy. EU Member States have pledged to reach at least 116 GW by 2030 — a 625% increase from 2022 levels. 


And no time is being wasted: just this summer, Germany announced the results of its biggest auction to date, with €12.6 billion pledged for 7 GW of new projects.

However, a transition from fossil fuels to renewables does not necessarily mean a more diverse and equal future for all. 

Many of the companies currently leading investment in offshore wind have a background in oil and gas (BP and TotalEnergies won the German auction), a historically male-dominated sector. 

And targets set by the industry to improve diversity are woefully inadequate: 30% of women across management levels by 2025 is a far cry from equality.

During the 2023 State of the EU address, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen emphasised the Commission’s commitment to the EU Gender Equality Strategy and announced the development of a “European Wind Power Package”. 


These are excellent opportunities for policymakers, offshore wind project developers and civil society to ensure gender-responsive investments in new technologies and skills training that will see more women enter the industry.

Building the winds of change

If our leaders are to make good on their energy transition promises, it’s time to deeply challenge the social and cultural norms that affect our perceptions — both women’s and men’s — of what roles women can play. 

As long as key stakeholders remain absent from the decision-making table, climate action falls radically short of being truly sustainable.

The EU and its member states should radically increase efforts to promote the entry of more women into the renewable energy sector by improving their involvement in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields. 

Further, gender-balanced stakeholder participation should be legally required in all renewable energy project consultations, as well as in the development of community compensation schemes designed to mitigate any negative impacts of new developments.


Gender equality must also be firmly embedded in all EU renewable energy policy forums.

But, as we’ve seen, the proof lies in the numbers, and we need a different story than the one being told so far. 

A common framework to collect gender-specific data is needed to monitor progress towards gender equality across all energy sub-sectors. 

The knowledge gained from these datasets will also support the EU in empowering women to actively and effectively participate in the carbon-neutral transition.

It’s time to set the EU apart

Proactively raising the roles and profiles of women in the global fight against the climate crisis would set the EU apart, providing a positive example for countries all over the world to follow.

Ultimately, though, the shift to a clean, renewables-based energy system should simply affirm the social values we want for our society, including the fundamental human right of gender equality. 

Offshore wind is clearly the EU’s way forward, and women need to be an equal part of it.

Helena Rodrigues is Ocean Policy Officer and Larissa Milo-Dale is Senior Communications Officer at the WWF European Policy Office.

At Euronews, we believe all views matter. Contact us at [email protected] to send pitches or submissions and be part of the conversation.

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Gender inequality in sport: The challenges facing female athletes

By Ilaria Federico, Mario Bowden, Stéphane Hamalian

Despite the progress made in women’s sport, major challenges remain, particularly regarding equal pay, visibility and training conditions.

As the FIFA Women’s World Cup kicked off last week, women’s football finds itself at the centre of the world stage. Despite the progress made in women’s sports, major challenges remain, particularly in terms of equal pay, visibility and training conditions.

“The European Commission is monitoring the situation closely” explains Ligia Nobrega, senior analyst at the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE). In 2018, the institute was commissioned by the Council of Europe to collect data on gender equality and sport in the EU Member States and check whether countries are applying the quota policy established in 2022.

According to this policy, by mid-2026, at least 40% of non-executive seats on boards of directors must be held by women, as well as at least 33% of executive and non-executive seats. This means female presidents, vice presidents, members and managers within the European sports confederations. 

“We have tried to follow and monitor this initiative and we find that countries that have implemented quotas are achieving a more balanced representation of the sexes more quickly than countries that have not […] And the best-performing countries are Finland, Sweden and the United Kingdom”, explains the expert. “But we are still a long way from having 40% women represented in these organisations”, she adds.

Equal pay: A match yet to be won

Despite considerable progress, equal pay remains a major challenge in women’s sport. Unlike the United States women’s national team – which, through its fight for parity, succeeded in obtaining a collective agreement guaranteeing equal pay for male and female players in the national team – many international federations continue not to offer fair pay to their female athletes.

Although some improvements have been made, women’s salaries are still significantly lower than those of their male counterparts.

“We have huge pay inequalities. If I just tell you, for example, that the average salary of a female WNBA player was 110 times less than that of a male NBA colleague, that gives you an idea of the inequalities involved,” comments Julian Jappert, director of the Think Tank Sport et Citoyenneté.

In a move aimed at closing the pay gap, FIFA has announced a 300% increase in bonuses for the 2023 Women’s World Cup, bringing the total to €135 million. While this is a positive step, there is still a significant gap between the bonuses awarded to men and women at major tournaments. Indeed, at the last Men’s World Cup 2022, FIFA allocated around –  in performance bonuses to the federations of the participating teams.

According to a recent report by FIFPRO (the International Federation of Professional Footballers’ Associations) on the qualifying conditions for players at the World Cup, of the players taking part in the 2023 World Cup, only 40% considered themselves to be professional footballers. While 35% said they were amateurs, 16% said they were semi-professionals and 9% were unsure of their status.

“Among the 362 players we interviewed from six continents around the world who had taken part in the 2023 World Cup qualifiers, there were huge disparities in their salaries,” explains Alex Culvin, Head of Women’s Football Strategy and Research at FIFPRO. “29% of players received no pay at all for this competition. This means that 66% had to take unpaid leave – or time off from their other professional activities – in order to take part in the World Cup qualifiers,” she continues.

These figures are echoed by former French national team player Mélissa Plaza, who is now a sports psychologist: “For all the teams playing in the D1, we’re talking about an average monthly salary of between €1,300 gross and €1,600 gross […] When you’re well below €1,300 gross a month, that means one thing, it means that you’re not a professional, that you’re not being paid exclusively to play football and that you need to have a job on the side,” she explains.

Women’s training: a field strewn with obstacles

According to Mélissa Plaza, training conditions for female football players are problematic and inadequate compared to the preparation of their male counterparts:

“We often pick up the scraps left over from the boys. All the equipment that’s left over from the boys and that’s too big or too small, for example, that’s what we pick up. So typically, I’ve got girlfriends who used to play for FC Nantes not so long ago and they used to collect the size 43 socks left over from the boys. And obviously, a size 43 when you’re a size 38 doesn’t make sense. Often, they were forced to buy their own socks in their own size”.

She adds: “When you’re a female footballer today when you’re playing in the D1, you can regularly find yourself in situations where you find yourself with the last time slot left free by the boys for training, i.e. the 8 pm / 10 pm slot…”

These obstacles are confirmed by the data collected by FIFPRO.

“We have received reports from dissatisfied players who feel that each confederation needs to make significant improvements to its infrastructure, training pitches, accommodation, transport when travelling, as well as outfits and footwear,” explains Alex Culvin. What the data tells us, and what we hear repeatedly from players, is that they are not treated or valued as they should be, either by their club or their federation, and that they often have insufficient and random access to infrastructure and facilities.

From the pitch to the screens: in search of popularity

The media play a key role in perpetuating these inequalities, often giving insufficient coverage to women’s sporting events compared to their male counterparts. Greater visibility for women’s sports has the potential to inspire future generations to take up the sport. Higher attendance at Women’s Super League (WSL) matches, with clubs such as Arsenal Women outnumbering the attendance of men’s teams, is a testament to the growing interest and commitment of fans. Such visibility plays an essential role in the popularity of these sports.

As Julian Jappert confirms: “There are huge inequalities between the broadcasting of women’s sport and men’s sport, even though studies show that viewers are interested and that when the channels finally broadcast and take this financial risk and also in terms of ratings, they get results.

But the popularity of a sport is built up from childhood, according to Cécile Locatelli, a former football player who is now a coach: “Clubs need to make the effort to put competent people in the right place to be able to motivate and bring these young girls into the sport.

Stefan Bergh, President of the NGO ENGSO, which represents young Europeans in order to promote guidelines for children’s and young people’s sports, is optimistic: “What I’ve noticed over the last four or even six years is that there are higher and stronger expectations at local level too, on the part of every individual practising sport”, explains the analyst. “We are_not only seeing women but also many young men expressing themselves on gender issues in a way that we did not see ten years ago”.

According to the President of ENGSO, those in positions of authority should raise society’s awareness of gender issues: “People in positions of leadership like myself, as President of ENGSO and also Secretary General of the Swedish Sports Confederation, must set an example in terms of achieving gender parity, but also in terms of ensuring that funding is equal between men and women”.

More sexism

Sexism in women’s sports is a persistent problem that hinders the progress and equality of women athletes. Despite some progress in the recognition and visibility of women’s sports, prejudice and gender stereotypes continue to have a negative influence on the perception of women in sports. Sexist comments and unjustified criticism of women athletes’ performances persist, helping to devalue their achievements and talents.

A recent example from Italy illustrates the problem.

During the broadcast of a women’s diving event at the World Swimming Championships being held from 23 to 30 July in Fukuoka, Japan, two sports commentators, Lorenzo Leonarduzzi and Massimiliano Mazzucchi, made degrading and inappropriate comments about the physical appearance of the women divers, live on the national public broadcaster RAI:

“The Dutch girls are fat, like our Vittorioso”, “They’re big, aren’t they”, “But in bed, they’re all the same”, “This one is called Harper, she’s a harpist, how do you play the harp? Do you…? “Do you touch it? Do you pinch it”. 

These degrading comments sparked a wave of indignation among viewers and led to the suspension of the two journalists.

Mélissa Plaza recounts how she too witnessed episodes of sexist violence within her team: “I witnessed the prevailing misogyny in this environment. We ‘only’ won 3-0 at half-time. The guy who coaches us is extremely unhappy with the score and ends up clearly threatening to rape us” “He tells us ‘Do you want to be sluts with me? I’m going to fuck you all one by one.”

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Femicide: Is Luxembourg failing its women?

Luxembourg has made huge progress in recent years to improve gender equality and tackle domestic violence. But when it comes to women being murdered by men some have raised concerns.

Diana Santos, a Portuguese woman in her 40s who had recently moved to Diekirch, Luxembourg, was found brutally murdered and dismembered in Mont-saint-Martin, across the French border in September last year.

Three weeks later, a 20-year-old woman was beaten to death with a hammer at a house in Luxembourg’s capital. 

In December 2022, the body of another Portuguese emigrée – 32-year-old Diana Martins Cachapa – was discovered “partially dismembered and mutilated” in her apartment in Bonnevoie. 

These horrific deaths sent shockwaves across Luxembourg, a country known for its tiny size, serene landscapes and wealth, boasting one of the largest GDP per capitas in the world. 

In other European countries, such murders can be deemed “femicides”. That’s the deliberate killing of a woman motivated by sex-based hate. 

Past cases have caused a reckoning among governments and members of the public, with officials trying to confront an epidemic of violence against women.

But not in Luxembourg. Here three women’s deaths were labelled as simple homicides and considered legally no different than any other murder in the country.

While femicide has become part of the mainstream debate around much of Europe, only two European countries currently recognise it as a crime in its own right – Cyprus and Malta.

Still, Luxembourg’s homicide rate is generally much lower than elsewhere in Europe. In 2021, it was 0.6 cases per 100,000 population, while in France the homicide rate was 1.35 per 100,000 people the year before. 

“From the perspective of other countries like France, there are not a lot of femicides in Luxembourg,” Emilie Chesné, a French reporter who researched the issue for the Luxembourg Times, told Euronews. 

“But for a country like Luxembourg, that it’s so small, it’s a lot.”

Surrounded by Belgium, France and Germany, Luxembourg is one of the smallest countries in Europe, with a population of around 640,000. 

“In Luxembourg, we have normally about 1-2 femicides per year,” Andrée Birnbaum, a spokesperson for the domestic violence support group Femmes en Détresse said. “This seems not to be a big number, but it is more or less the same proportion as in France.”

In Luxembourg last year, 2,521 people were affected by physical violence, 2,374 by psychological violence, 150 victims of sexual domestic violence and 264 victims of economic violence – when a partner exerts control through finances – according to data from the government’s Equality Observatory. 

Two-thirds of those who suffered domestic violence at the hands of a partner or ex-partner last year in Luxembourg were women.

Is Luxembourg ‘falling short’ when it comes to femicide?

“We are one of the only countries that have a Ministry for Equality,” Gabrielle Antar, a reporter for the Luxembourg Times who has worked with Chesné to bring the issue to the public’s attention, told Euronews.

“On a superficial level, it looks like we’re doing a lot. But when you look at the concrete issues, and what actually needs to be done to tackle them, that’s where you can see that Luxembourg falls short.”

Murders of women in Luxembourg are often interpreted by the media on a case-by-case basis instead of being seen as symptomatic of a wider phenomenon, Antar said.

Though some observers have started to talk about femicides, others have not. 

“It’s still a conversation that hasn’t really reached the mainstream yet,” added Antar. 

Luxembourg authorities have focused on tackling domestic violence instead – another problem growing in recent years – she continued. 

By establishing femicide as a crime in its own right, journalists Antar and Chesné said authorities could collect data on the phenomenon and take action to protect women better.

“The moment you recognise something you are able to collect data on that,” Antar said. “The data for violence against women except for domestic violence is almost nonexistent, even for femicide.” 

“It’s a shame that we see these cases as just women being murdered and not women being murdered because they’re women,” she added. 

Why recognise femicide as a separate crime?

UN Women estimates that globally 81,000 women and girls were killed in 2020.

Around 47,000 of them – 58 per cent – died at the hands of an intimate partner or a family member.

Some women 2,600 were killed in Europe, according to UN data. “However, the number of victims is much higher as not all cases are recognised as femicides,” a spokesperson from the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) added.

In its recent research on the issue, EIGE has identified the lack of legal recognition of femicide as one of the most important challenges.

“The experts we interviewed noted that recognising femicide as a separate criminal offence could bring numerous benefits,” the spokesperson said. “They pointed out that it could improve awareness raising, prevention and applying the law.”

Experts also mentioned that this change would contribute to making femicide visible and aid prevention by recognising gender-based violence and increasing reporting to the police by victims.

“What does not exist, is also not discussed,” a professional counsellor from Germany told EIGE. “Neither with the investigating authorities nor with the investigating procedures nor with the judges.”

Belgium has recently introduced new legislation which defines different types of femicide and puts focus on data collection.

Is Luxembourg going to recognise femicide as a crime?

At the moment, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg does not intend to recognise femicide as a crime. 

In a statement to Euronews, the Ministry of Justice said: “There are currently no plans to create a specific offence of this kind, given that the legal scope of such an offence would be considerably limited.”

Intentional assault and battery against an intimate partner is punishable by 6 months to 5 years imprisonment in Luxembourg. Meanwhile, murder is punishable by life imprisonment, “regardless of the gender of the victim,” the Ministry added. 

“The introduction of an offence of femicide would therefore have no legal impact, particularly in terms of sentencing,” it said. 

A new law introduced on 28 March this year adds discrimination as an aggravating circumstance for a crime, which the Ministry described as “the most effective way of taking femicide into account in law.” 

“This law will enable the courts to find that a person has been killed because of her sex or gender, which will result in an increase in the sentence for offences punishable by prison sentences other than life imprisonment, including assault and battery,” it explained.

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These women ran an underground abortion network in the 1960s. Here’s what they fear might happen today | CNN


The voice on the phone in 1966 was gruff and abrupt: “Do you want the Chevy, the Cadillac or the Rolls Royce?”

A Chevy abortion would cost about $200, cash in hand, the voice explained. A Cadillac was around $500, and the Rolls Royce was $1,000.

“You can’t afford more than the Chevy? Fine,” the voice growled. “Go to this address at this time. Don’t be late and don’t forget the cash.” The voice disappeared.

Dorie Barron told CNN she recalls staring blankly at the phone in her hand, startled by the sudden empty tone. Then it hit her: She had just arranged an illegal abortion with the Chicago Mafia.

The motel Barron was sent to was in an unfamiliar part of Chicago, a scary “middle of nowhere,” she said. She was told to go to a specific room, sit on the bed and wait. Suddenly three men and a woman came in the door.

“I was petrified. They spoke all of three sentences to me the entire time: ‘Where’s the money?’ ‘Lie back and do as I tell you.’ And finally ‘Get in the bathroom,’” when the abortion was over, Barron said. “Then all of a sudden they were gone.”

Bleeding profusely, Barron managed to find a cab to take her home. When the bleeding didn’t stop, her bed-ridden mother made her go to the hospital.

At 24, Barron was taking care of her ailing mother and her 2-year-old daughter when she discovered she was pregnant. Her boyfriend, who had no job and lived with his parents, “freaked,” said Barron, who appears in a recent HBO documentary. The boyfriend suggested she get an abortion. She had never considered that option.

“But what was I to do? My mom was taking care of my daughter from her bed while I worked — they would read and play games until I got home,” Barron said.”How was either of us going to cope with a baby?

“Looking back, I realize I was taking my life in my hands,” said Barron, now an 81-year-old grandmother. “To this day it gives me chills. If I had died, what in God’s green earth would have happened to my mom and daughter?”

Women in the 1960s endured restrictions relatively unknown to women today. The so-called “fairer sex” could not serve on juries and often could not get an Ivy League education. Women earned about half as much as a man doing the same job and were seldom promoted.

Women could not get a credit card unless they were married — and then only if their husband co-signed. The same applied to birth control — only the married need apply. More experienced women shared a workaround with the uninitiated: “Go to Woolworth, buy a cheap wedding-type ring and wear it to your doctor’s appointment. And don’t forget to smile.”

Marital rape wasn’t legally considered rape. And, of course, women had no legal right to terminate a pregnancy until four states — Alaska, Hawaii, New York and Washington — legalized abortion in 1970, three years before Roe v. Wade became the law of the land.

Illinois had no such protection, said Heather Booth, a lifelong feminist activist and political strategist: “Three people discussing having an abortion in Chicago in 1965 was a conspiracy to commit felony murder.”

Despite that danger, a courageous band of young women — most in their 20’s, some in college, some married with children — banded together in Chicago to create an underground abortion network. The group was officially created in 1969 as the “Abortion Counseling Service of Women’s Liberation.”

But after running ads in an underground newspaper: “Pregnant? Don’t want to be? Call Jane,” each member of the group answered the phone as “Jane.”

Despite their youth, members of Jane managed to run an illegal abortion service dedicated to each woman's needs.
From left: Martha Scott, Jeanne Galatzer-Levy, Abby Pariser, Sheila Smith and Madeline Schwenk.

“We were co-conspirators with the women who called us,” said 75-year-old Laura Kaplan, who published a book about the service in 1997 entitled “The Story of Jane: The Legendary Underground Feminist Abortion Service.”

“We’ll protect you; we hope you’ll protect us,” Kaplan said. “We’ll take care of you; we hope you’ll take care of us.”

What started as referrals to legitimate abortion providers changed to personalized service when some members of Jane learned to safely do the abortions themselves. Between the late 1960s and 1973, the year that the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade, Jane had arranged or performed over 11,000 abortions.

“Our culture is always searching for heroes,” said Kaplan. “But you don’t have to be a hero to do extraordinary things. Jane was just ordinary people working together — and look what we could accomplish, which is amazing, right?”

Even after several members were caught and arrested, the group continued to provide abortions for women too poor to travel to states where abortion had been legalized.

“I prayed a lot. I didn’t want to go to jail,” said 80-year-old Marie Learner, who allowed the Janes to perform abortions at her apartment.

“Some of us had little children. Some were the sole breadwinners in their home,” Learner said. “It was fearlessness in the face of overwhelming odds.”

Marie Learner opened her home to women undergoing abortions. Her neighbors knew, she said, but did not tell police.

The story of Jane has been immortalized in Kaplan’s book, numerous print articles, a 2022 movie, “Call Jane,” starring Elizabeth Banks and Sigourney Weaver, and a documentary on HBO (which, like CNN, is owned by Warner Bros. Discovery).

Today the historical tale of Jane has taken on a new significance. After the 2022 Supreme Court reversal of Roe v. Wade and the mid-term takeover of the US House of Representatives by Republicans, emboldened conservative lawmakers and judges have acted on their anti-abortion beliefs.

Currently more than a dozen states have banned or imposed severe restrictions on abortion. Georgia has banned abortions after six weeks, even though women are typically unaware they are pregnant at that stage. In mid-April, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill that would ban most abortions after six weeks. It won’t go into effect until the state Supreme Court overturns its previous precedent on abortion. Several other states are considering similar legislation. In other states, judicial battles are underway to protect abortion access.

“It’s a horrific situation right now. People will be harmed, some may even die,” said Booth, who helped birth the Jane movement while in college.

“Women without family support, without the information they need, may be isolated and either harm themselves looking to end an unwanted pregnancy or will be harmed because they went to an unscrupulous and illegal provider,” said Booth, now 77.

A key difference between the 60s and today is medication abortion, which 54% of people in the United States used to end a pregnancy in 2022. Available via prescription and through the mail, use of the drugs is two-fold: A person takes a first pill, mifepristone, to block the hormone needed for a pregnancy to continue.  A day or two later, the patient takes a second drug, misoprostol, which causes the uterus to contract, creating the cramping and bleeding of labor.

In early April a Texas judge, US District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk – a Trump appointee who has been vocal about his anti-abortion stance — suspended the US Food and Drug Administration’s approval of mifepristone despite 23 years of data showing the drug is safe to use, safer even than penicillin or Viagra.

On Friday, the Supreme Court froze the ruling and a subsequent decision by the Fifth US Circuit Court of Appeals at the request of the Justice Department and the drug manufacturer. The action allows access to mifepristone in states where it’s legal until appeals play out over the months to come.

However, 15 states currently restrict access to medication abortion, even by mail.

The actions of anti-abortion activists, who have been accused of “judge shopping” to get the decisions they want, is “an unprecedented attack on democracy meant to undermine the will of the vast majority of Americans who want this pill — mifepristone — to remain legal and available,” Heather Booth told CNN.

“This is a further weaponization of the courts to brazenly advance the end goal of banning abortion entirely,” she added.

If women in her day could have had access to medications that could be used safely in their homes, they would not have been forced to risk their lives, said Dorie Barron, thinking back to her own terrifying abortion in a sketchy Chicago motel.

“I’m depressed as hell, watching stupid, indifferent men control and destroy women’s lives all over again,” she said. “I really fear getting an abortion could soon be like 1965.”

Chicago college student Heather Booth had just finished a summer working with civil rights activists in Mississippi when she was asked to help with a different kind of injustice.

Heather Booth, 18, with civil rights heroine Fannie Lou Hamer during

A girl in another dorm was considering suicide because she was pregnant. Booth, who excelled at both organization and chutzpah, found a local doctor and negotiated an abortion for the girl. Word spread quickly.

“There were about 100 women a week calling for help, much more than one person could handle,” Booth said. “I recruited about 12 other people and began training them how to do the counseling.”

Counseling was a key part of the new service. This was a time when people “barely spoke about sex, how women’s bodies functioned or even how people got pregnant,” Booth said. To help each woman understand what was going to happen to them, Booth quizzed the abortion provider about every aspect of the procedure.

“What do you do in advance? Will it be painful? How painful? Can you walk afterwards? Do you need someone to be with you to take you home?” The questions continued: “What amount of bleeding is expected, and can a woman handle it on their own? If there’s a problem is there an urgent number they can call?”

Armed with details few if any physicians provided, the counselors at Jane could fully inform each caller about the abortion experience. The group even published a flyer describing the procedure, long before the groundbreaking 1970 book “Our Bodies, Ourselves” began to educate women about their sexuality and health.

“I don’t particularly like doctors because I always feel dissatisfied with the experience,” said Marie Learner, who spoke to many of the women who underwent an abortion at her home.

“But after their abortion at Jane, women told me, ‘Wow, that was the best experience I’ve ever had with people helping me with a medical issue.’”

Eileen Smith, now 73, was one of those women. “Jane made you feel like you were part of this bigger picture, like we were all in this together,” she said. “They helped me do this illegal thing and then they’re calling to make sure I’m OK? Wow!

“For me, it helped battle the feeling that I was a bad person, that ‘What’s wrong with me? Why did I get pregnant? I should know better’ voice in my head,” said Smith. “It was priceless.”

Like many young women in the 60s, Heather Booth often protested for civil and women's rights.

Many of the women who joined Jane had never experienced an abortion. Some viewed the work as political, a part of the burgeoning feminist movement. Others considered the service as simply humanitarian health care. All saw the work as an opportunity to respect each woman’s choice.

“I was a stay-at-home mom with four kids,” said Martha Scott, who is now in her 80s. “We knew the woman needed to feel as though she was in control of what was happening to her. We were making it happen for her, but it was not about us. It was about her.”

Some volunteers, like Dorie Barron, experienced the Jane difference firsthand when she found herself pregnant a few years after her abortion at the hands of the Mafia.

“It was a 100% total reversal — I had never experienced such kindness,” Barron said. Not only did a Jane hold each woman’s hand and explain every step of the process, “they gave each of us a giant supply of maternity sanitary pads, and a nice big handful of antibiotics,” she said. “And for the next week, I got a phone call every other day to see how I was.”

Barron soon began volunteering for Jane by providing pregnancy testing for women in the back of a church in Chicago’s Hyde Park.

“It wasn’t just abortion,” Barron explained. “We also said, ‘You could consider adoption,’ and gave adoption referrals. And if the woman wanted to continue with her pregnancy, we said, ‘Fine, please by all that is holy make sure you get prenatal care, take your vitamins, and eat as best you can.’ It was women helping women with whatever they needed.”

Most of the women who contacted Jane were unable to support themselves, in unhealthy relationships, or already had children at home, so the service was a way of “helping them get back on track,” said Smith, who, like Barron, had begun working for Jane after her abortion.

“We were telling them ‘This isn’t the end of the world. You can continue to leave your boyfriend or your husband or continue to just take care of those kids you have.’ We were there to help them get through this,” said Smith, who later became a homecare nurse.

From left: Eileen Smith, Diane Stevens and Benita Greenfield were three of the dozens of women who volunteered for Jane.

Diane Stevens says she came to work for Jane after experiencing an abortion in 1968 at the age of 19. She was living in California at the time, which provided “therapeutic abortions” if approved in advance by physicians.

“I’d had a birth control failure, and I was coached by Planned Parenthood on how to do this,” said Stevens, now 74. “I had to see two psychiatrists and one doctor and tell them I was not able to go through with the pregnancy because it would a danger to both my physical and mental health.

“I was admitted to the psychiatric ward, although I didn’t really know that — I thought I was just in a hospital bed. But oh no, ‘I was mentally ill,’ so that’s where they put me,” said Stevens, who later went to nursing school with Smith. “Then they wheeled me off for the abortion. I had general anesthesia, was there for two days, and then I was discharged. Isn’t that crazy?”

Sakinah Ahad Shannon, now 75, was one of the few Black women who volunteered as a counselor at Jane. She joined after accompanying a friend who was charged a mere $50 for her abortion. At that time, Jane’s fee was between $1 and $100, based on what the woman could afford to pay, Shannon said.

“When I walked in, I said, ‘Oh my God, here we go again. It’s a room of White women, archangels who are going to save the world,’” said Shannon, a social worker and member of the Congress of Racial Equality, an interracial group of non-violent activists who pioneered “Freedom Rides” and helped organize the March on Washington in 1963.

What she heard and saw at her friend’s counseling session was so impressive it “changed my life,” Shannon said. She and her family later opened and operated three Chicago abortion clinics for over 25 years, all using the Jane philosophy of communication and respect.

“It was a profoundly amazing experience for me,” she said. “I call the Janes my sisters. The color line didn’t matter. We were all taking the same risk.”

Sakinah Ahad Shannon and her daughters went on to open and run three abortion clinics in Chicago.

It wasn’t long before the women discovered a “doctor” performing abortions for Jane had been lying about his credentials. There was no medical degree — in the HBO documentary, he admitted he had honed his skills by assisting an abortion provider.

The group imploded. A number of members quit in horror and dismay. For the women who stayed, it was an epiphany, said Martha Scott. Like her, several of the Janes had been assisting this fake doctor for years, learning the procedures step by step.

“You’d learn how to insert a speculum, then how to swap out the vagina with an antiseptic, then how to give numbing shots around the cervix and then how to dilate the cervix. You learned and mastered each step before you moved on to the next,” said Laura Kaplan, who chronicled the procedure in her book.

By now, several of the Janes were quite experienced and willing to do the work. Why not perform the abortions themselves?

“Clearly, this was an intense responsibility,” said Judith Acana, a 27-year-old high school teacher who joined Jane in 1970. She started her training by helping “long terms,” women who were four or five months along in the pregnancy.

“Remember, abortion was illegal (in Illinois) so it could take weeks for a woman to find help,” said Arcana, now 80. “Frequently women who wanted an abortion at 8 or 10 weeks wound up being 16 or 18 weeks or more by the time they found Jane.”

The miscarriage could happen quickly, but it rarely did, she said. It usually took anywhere from one to two days.

“Women who had no one to help them would come back when contractions started,” Arcana said. “One of my strongest memories is of a teenage girl who had an appointment to have her miscarriage on my living room floor.”

The group also paid two Janes to live in an apartment and be on call 24/7 to assist women who had no one to help them miscarry at home, said Arcana, a lifelong educator, author and poet. “But many women took care of it on their own, in very amazing and impressive and powerful ways,” she said.

Judith Arcana learned how to do abortions herself and wrote about the Jane experience in poems, stories, essays and books.

Any woman who had concerns or questions while miscarrying alone could always call Jane for advice any time of the day or night.

“People would call in a panic: ‘The bleeding won’t stop,’” Smith recalled. “I would tell them, ‘Get some ice, put it on your stomach, elevate your legs, relax.’ And they would say ‘Oh my gosh, thank you!’ because they were so scared.”

For women who were in their first trimester, Jane offered traditional D&C abortions — the same dilation and curettage used by hospitals then and today, said Scott, who performed many of the abortions for Jane. Later the group used vacuum aspiration, which was over in a mere five to 10 minutes.

“Vacuum aspiration was much easier to do, and I think it’s less difficult for the woman,” Scott said. “Abortion is exactly like any other medical procedure. It’s the decision that’s an issue — the doing is very straightforward. This was something a competent, trained person could do.”

It was May 3, 1972. Judith Arcana was the driver that day, responsible for relocating women waiting at what was called “the front” to a separate apartment or house where the abortions were done, known as “the place.”

On this day, a Wednesday, the “place” was a South Shore high-rise apartment. Arcana was escorting a woman who had completed her abortion when they were stopped by police at the elevator.

“They asked us, ‘Which apartment did you come out of?’ And the poor woman burst into tears and blurted out the apartment number,” Arcana said. “They took me downstairs, put cuffs on me and hooked me to a steel hook inside of the police van.”

Inside the apartment on the 11th floor, Martha Scott said she was setting up the bedroom for the next abortion when she heard a knock at the door, followed by screaming: “You can’t come in!”

“I shut the bedroom door and locked it,” Scott said, then hid the instruments and sat on the bed to wait. It wasn’t long until a cop kicked the door in and made her join the other women in the living room.

“We tell this joke about how the cops came in, saw all these women and said, ‘Where’s the abortionist?’ You know, assuming that it would be a man,” Scott said.

By day’s end, seven members of Jane were behind bars: Martha Scott, Diane Stevens, Judy Arcana, Jeanne Galatzer-Levy, Abby Pariser, Sheila Smith and Madeleine Schwenk. Suddenly what had been an underground effort for years was front page headlines.

“Had we not gotten arrested, I think no one would ever have known about Jane other than the women we served,” Scott said.

Top: Sheila Smith and Martha Scott.
Bottom: Diane Stevens and Judith Arcana.

An emergency meeting of Jane was called. The turnout was massive — even women who had not been active in months showed up, anxious to know the extent of the police probe, according to the women with whom CNN spoke.

Despite widespread fear and worry, the group immediately began making alternate plans for women scheduled for abortions at Jane in the next few days to weeks. The group even paid for transportation to other cities where abortion had already been legalized, they said.

News reports over the next few days gave further details of the bust: There was no widespread investigation by the police. It was a single incident, triggered by a call from a sister-in-law who was upset with her relative’s decision to have an abortion, they said.

“It wasn’t long after I was arrested that I came back and worked for quite a few months,” said Scott, one of the few fully trained to do abortions.

“I like to think I was a good soldier,” Scott said. “I like to think what did made a difference not only to a whole bunch of people, but also to ourselves. It gave us a sense of empowerment that comes when you do something that is hard to do and also right.”

As paranoia eased, women began to come back to work at Jane, determined to carry on.

“After the bust, we had a meeting and were told ‘Everybody needs to start assisting and learn how to do abortions.’ I was like, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa!’” said Eileen Smith, who had not been arrested. “But you felt like you really didn’t have much of a choice. We had to keep the service running.”

Laura Kaplan volunteered for the Janes, later immortalizing the group in her book,

The preliminary hearing for the arrested seven was in August. Several of the women in the apartment waiting for abortions the day of the arrest suddenly developed amnesia and refused to testify. According to Kaplan’s book, one of the women later said, “The cops tried to push me around, but f**k them. I wasn’t going to tell on you.”

It didn’t matter. Each Jane was charged with 11 counts of abortion and conspiracy to commit abortion, with a possible sentence of up to 110 years in prison.

As they waited for trial, the lawyer for the seven, Jo-Anne Wolfson, adopted delaying tactics, Kaplan said. A case representing a Texas woman, cited as “Jane Roe” to protect her privacy, was being considered by the US Supreme Court. If the Court ruled in Roe’s favor, the case against the Jane’s might be thrown out.

That’s exactly what happened. On March 9, 1973, three months after the Supreme Court had legalized abortion in the US, the case against the seven women was dropped and their arrest records were expunged.

Later that spring, a majority of Janes, burned out by the intensity of the work over the last few years, voted to close shop. An end of Jane party was held on May 20. According to Kaplan’s book, the invitation read:

“You are cordially invited to attend The First, Last and Only Curette Caper; the Grand Finale of the Abortion Counseling Service. RSVP: Call Jane.”

Today, most of the surviving members of Jane are in their 70s and 80s, shocked but somehow not surprised by the actions of abortion opponents.

“This is a country of ill-educated politicos who know nothing about women’s bodies, nor do they care,” said Dorie Barron. “It will take generations to even begin to undo the devastating harm to women’s rights.”

In the meantime, women should research all available options, keep that information confidential, seek support from groups working for abortion rights, and “share your education with as many women as you can,” Barron added.

As more and more reproductive freedoms have been rolled back over the past year, many of the Janes are angry and fearful for the future.

Abortion rights demonstrators walk across the Brooklyn Bridge in New York nearly two weeks after the leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade.

“This is about the most intimate decision of our lives — when, whether and with whom we have a child. Everyone should have the ability to make decisions about our own lives, bodies, and futures without political interference,” said Heather Booth, who has spent her life after leaving Jane fighting for civil and women’s rights.

“We need to organize, raise our voices and our votes, and overturn this attack on our freedom and our lives. I have seen that when we take action and organize we can change the world.”

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