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By Sarah Jane O’Connor

The role of women in Spain has changed dramatically throughout history. General Francisco Franco (Spanish dictator who ruled Spain for 36 years) and the Catholic Church influenced the role of women in Spain during the time of his rule. Once Franco established his dictatorship in 1939 he closed women off from the rest of the world. However the role of women changed dramatically after his death in 1975. One influence that had contributed to this dramatic change would be globalisation (bringing people of the globe closer together).

Now the question is what was the role of women in Spain during Franco’s rule? We can then see why this role change, thanks to globalisation, was such a positive one. Let me explain. Firstly Franco was a capable, though ruthless military leader and he changed the course of the lives of the people of Spain. He had final word on all decisions regarding citizens of Spain, which would effectively include women. These women became isolated from the rest of the world because of the strong policies Franco put in place.

But wait, the church played a part too. Catholicism was the official religion at the time. And the state supported the Church laws. This meant that women were denied divorce, contraception and to have an abortion would have been looked upon as a crime! Marriage had to be performed under Roman Catholic Laws. Both Franco and the Church supported these procedures.

In addition, women were also subordinate to men. Married women were not permitted to hold a job. Women couldn’t even open a bank account, apply for a passport or sign a contract without her husband’s permission. Their role was to be a housewife and mother. Public laws enforced a set a social structures aimed at preserving the traditional role of the family. While the father was the main supporter, the authority laid with him. Back then, women could only strive to be good mothers and good wives.

The state even took measures to prevent women’s labour outside the home. As an example, marriage bars were put in place, these prohibited women from working in some companies or sectors of the economy after they were married. Women were also strongly discouraged from attending university in the fear that they would pursue a career and have any financial independence. It was the man of the house that played that role.

However, after Franco’s death in 1975 this misery for women came to an end. Spain’s neighbourhoods are now no longer filled with young mothers and babies but young single women. Women eventually gained their independence. Globalisation set in. Spain was re-opened to the influences of the rest of the world. Spain’s borders were lifted. Women were able to experience the glorious effects of globalisation that most women in other western societies were already experiencing. Women began to go to work, play a part in politics, receive an education and even go out at night without men as escorts.

Globalisation empowered the women of Spain. It offered many employment opportunities for the women of Spain that had not existed while Franco was in rule. Well known companies such as Nike, Levis, McDonald’s and Coca Cola set up offices and distribution centres in Spain. Today women make up nearly 40 percent of the labour force.

The women of Spain have come a long way, up until only a few years ago, the best a women could do was be quiet and today there are more women than men in the Spanish cabinet.

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