Welcome to Bilbao, unless you’re a wife beater.

Imagine my surprise upon arriving at Spain’s Bilbao airport a couple of weeks ago to discover that the vast majority of the advertising space throughout the airport – including the arrivals lounge – was dedicated to a government campaign against violence towards women. Then again, considering modern day Spain is a country with a majority-female cabinet, headed by a man who has repeatedly condemned its domestic violence rate and traditional machismo and whose government’s first act was to draft a gender violence law, I guess this isn’t really that surprising, but I think I’d fall to the floor in astonishment if I saw similar posters in Stansted.

The first one reads: “Don’t even think about hitting me. Ever”, followed by ‘Zero tolerance of abusers’.

The second attacks the idea that violence against women is a normal and desirable expression of masculinity: “When you abuse a woman you stop being a man”.

The third I’m a little dubious about: “Mummy, do it for us, act now”. While it is probably designed to encourage assertiveness in the context that the woman will be supported if she speaks out, it places the onus on the victim rather than the abuser to put an end to violence, and seems to play somewhat into the “why didn’t she just leave” victim blaming narrative.

Come to think of it, the same could be said of the first poster, though I think the implication is more that she has the law on her side so he won’t get away with hitting her again, rather than that violence would just end if women stood up for themselves and stopped “tolerating” it.

All the posters include a helpline number for “victims of gender based violence”.

So, it’s not a perfect campaign, but it’s certainly heartening to see such a high profile attempt by the Spanish government itself to raise awareness of the issue of domestic violence against women.

Nice that they have an Equality Ministry, too. *Ahem, Mr Brown*

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