Instituto de la Mujer
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Our history

The origins of the Institute

The recognition that women should have the same rights and opportunities as men to education, employment, form families and take part in political and economic decisions, is a social fact that has established itself throughout the 20th century thanks to the development of democratic principles of justice, liberty and equality and the demands of women themselves.

The enactment of the Spanish Constitution, on 6 December 1978, represents the legal affirmation of equality between women and men and the desire to eradicate discrimination based on race, sex or religion, as well as their recognition as the main inspiration for Spain's legal system.

However, it became clear that for women to fully access equal opportunities, it would take more than a change of laws. Attitudes and behaviour also had to change, as did the ways of life and social structures that represent a barrier to the full development of women as individuals with a right to actively participate in a country's culture, political life and employment market.

Conscious of this need, a group of progressive feminists strived to set up an organisation within the Spanish public administration, similar to those that exist elsewhere in Europe and further afield, responsible for drafting equality policies, putting them before the Government and coordinating the work of the various ministries in this field.

This demand resulted in the draft bill that led to the creation of the Institute.

The Institute of Women is born

The Institute of Women came into being through Law nº 16/1983, of 24 October and was published in the Spanish Official Gazette on 26 October. It was created as an independent organisation attached to the Ministry of Culture, with its main aim established as ensuring compliance with and development of the constitutional principles set out in Articles 9.2 and 14, detailing the promotion of conditions to facilitate social equality between the sexes and the participation of women in political, cultural, economic and social life.

Two clearly differentiated lines of action were established. The first promotes the creation of information and assistance services and the development of training programmes for women. The second is aimed at promoting and coordinating specific policies which focus on women from within the Public Administration.

The Institute's work at the outset focused on running information campaigns on women's rights and informing of the key legal changes that allow women to claim and exercise these rights that many would otherwise not know about. It also publicised the problem of the physical and psychological abuse of women, as well as carrying out studies regarding the situation of women in Spain, the results of which were widely broadcast.

These activities were soon complemented by an important international element, clearly strengthened when Spain joined the European Community.

Institutional equality policy: the Women's Equal Opportunities Plan

With the emergence of the Institute of Women came an institutional policy for equal opportunities, gathered under a series of Women's Equal Opportunities Plans,(PIOM)aimed to eradicate gender differences and ensure that women are no longer discriminated against by society.

The equality plans represented the creation of a framework which outlined the objectives to be met by all involved, objectives which would then be monitored whilst the plans were in force.

Based on the monitoring reports, the plans were then assessed, with two fundamental objectives: on one hand, to find out the extent to which the expected action is being undertaken, and, on the other, to watch the activities undertaken by the various State Administration bodies to ensure compliance.

The First Women's Equal Opportunities Plan 1988-1990

The First Women's Equal Opportunities Plan was presented to the Council of Ministers in September 1987, representing a political strategy which sought to improve the social situation of women with 120 measures grouped into six areas: Legal Equality, Family and social protection, Education and culture, Employment and labour relations, Health and International cooperation and associationism;

This first plan followed the model of programmes promoting equal opportunities for women and men within the European Community, which Spain joined in 1986. The studies undertaken at this time were the basis for action proposed in the first plan.

The Second Women's Equal Opportunities Plan 1993-1995

The central aim of the second plan was the adoption of measures that advance formal equality toward real equality, in other words, promoting and developing positive action, especially in the areas of education, training and employment.

All 172 specific courses of action in this second plan can be considered to be political measures which were implemented in order to ensure structural changes that allow for the free development of women and their active participation in the worlds of culture, work and politics.

The Third Women's Equal Opportunities Plan 1997-2000

The third plan saw the introduction of the principle of equality in all Government policies and the promotion of the participation of women in all spheres of social life, in order that they might become co-participants in decision-making, given that, without their participation, it is impossible to meet the twin objectives of equality and development. With this Plan, Spain assumed the commitments from the Action Platform approved at the 4th World Women's Conference in Beijing, as well as the guidelines from the 4th Community Action Programme

The Fourth Women's Equal Opportunities Plan 2003-2006

The fourth of these plans, based on directives established by the Community Framework Strategy on Equality between Men and Women (2001-2005), sought to strengthen gender mainstreaming, promoting, in those areas where it is necessary, specific equal opportunities policies - positive action in other words.

The setting up of the General Secretariat for Equality Policy and the passing of the Organic Law which aims to ensure effective equality for women and men, as well as the Strategic Equal Opportunities Plan 2008-2011

In the 8th legislative period, which began in March 2004, the then socialist government committed itself to ensuring the implementation of equality in all areas of society, beginning with the appointment of a ministerial cabinet in which gender parity was observed, and creating the General Secretariat for Equality Policy within the Ministry of Employment and Social Affairs, to which the Institute of Women was attached.

The General Secretariat for Equality Policy was the administrative body which, alongside the Institute of Women, was the driving force behind the two most significant acts passed during this legislature: the Comprehensive Protection Measures against Gender-Based Violence Act - Organic Law 1/2004, of 28 December 2004; and Organic Law 3/2007 which strives to ensure effective equality for women and men.

These laws have undoubtedly been the most important pieces of legislation so far in terms of advancing equal treatment and opportunities for women in Spain, as well as one of the pioneering initiatives within the legislative framework of European Union countries, given that they generally establish the principle of equality in all social structures.

Equality policies at the highest level: the Ministry of Equality

In the legislative period which commenced in 2008, the Ministry of Equality was created, to which the Institute of Women was attached, through the General Secretariat for Equality Policy. This ministry was to be responsible for the proposal and implementation of Government policy in the areas of equality and the fight against discrimination of all kinds and against gender violence

Later, as a result of the need to make economies, the Ministry became the General Secretariat for Equality, part of the Ministry of Health, Social Policy and Equality. After the administrative restructuring that took place in December 2011, and through Royal Decree 200/2012 of 23 January, which created the new State Secretariat for Social Services and Equality, administration of the Institute of Women was passed on to the Equal Opportunities General Management.

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