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James Skinner

'All the guy did was punch out at a man molesting a woman which was the most
natural thing to do!’

Juan Luis Garzon, the proprietor of a small catering business in Pontevedra, north-western Spain, on entering his premises one autumn morning, heard screams emanating from the inside of one of the offices. He dropped his briefcase and rushed to where the sound was coming from only to find one of his female employees being sexually molested by another male member of his staff. Without giving it a second thought, he lashed out with a hard right at the aggressor’s jaw knocking him down onto the floor. Two front teeth were later found under a desk at the opposite end of the office.

Weeks later, Juan Luis was being sentenced to 9 months imprisonment for the use of ‘excessive force’ in averting an unconsumed criminal act.

Part of the actual phrasing of the sentence was as follows: ‘it has not been proven that a defensive act of such intensive excess was necessary’. The tribunal added insult to injury by suggesting that the aggressor had not considered a more lenient method of avoiding the assault such as ‘pulling at his shirt’ or ‘dissuading him through some form of verbal warning’.

‘Once again it is brought to light that attacks on women are minimized in court’, said Mabel Perez, member of a Galician woman’s movement called ‘Women’s Voices’. ‘All the guy did was punch out at a man molesting a woman which was the most natural thing to do!’ she added. ‘This type of sentence will only deter others from coming to the aid of women in distress’, said Dolores de Ozamiz, member of ‘Progressive Women’, another feminist movement in Spain. Both agreed that the social implications of the sentence could add to further distrust of the Spanish judicial system where female aggression is concerned.

It is a known fact that ever since the concern for women’s rights was brought to the fore in the 18th Century as laid out in Mary Wollstonecraft’s works, ‘A vindication of the Rights of Woman’, published in England in 1792, the Feminist Movement has grown from strength to strength. Suffragettes aside, the stereotype female during the early part of the 20th century has gradually been eroded. A more modern, equal, stern, and almost dictatorial defender of every conceivable right available to her sex has replaced her. Women in today’s modern society work, play, suffer and cry alongside their male equals in every walk of life. Nevertheless, aggression towards women by the opposite sex is still a major problem.

Simone de Beauviour, in her book ‘The second sex’, suggested that women’s liberation would equally affect men and that life would be rosy all round. However, it wasn’t until Betty Friedan founded the National Organization for Women in the USA that necessary reforms in the law were eventually produced to make way for the equality of women in modern society. Although western society males began, reluctantly, to accept the changes, acts of violence against women continued at an alarming rate. A great deal was related to the very reasons established by the law in the equal rights of women. Many males could not fathom a free woman, practising medicine, running a corporation, deciding on her future maternity or even burning the candle at both ends. Violence was bound to erupt.

On the other hand, women have also grown aggressive but in a different manner. They have learned to live on their own, not depend on a male for support or even fatherhood. Many have opted to ignore men altogether. Artificial insemination can lead them to motherhood without even knowing, let alone feeling the father of the future off spring. Has the pendulum swung so far in the other direction, that males now feel threatened and revert to vengeance sometimes in the form of violence? Have some males interpreted this women’s liberation as a passport to free sex with whomever they please thus increasing the statistics of sexual assault, hence the case before the judges in Spain?

But let us reflect for a minute. In this particular case, the Spanish court was defending the sexual aggressor, the very perpetrator of so many other types of assault on women and not the defender of female justice, the kind of male, chivalrous and defensive, that would be accepted into the realms of the Feminist Movement. As Dolores of Ozamiz stated after the court hearing: ‘although the court recognised a certain existence of sexual aggression being committed, no case was opened against the supposed aggressor’. So where does sexual assault on women stand in the name of the law if a bystander is not permitted defend the victim in distress?

The tragedy of this particular case is that it has opened up Pandora’s box as to what is considered an act of defence as opposed to an act of aggression between male and female. Two drunks in a bar can beat each other’s brains out and both would probably receive a fine and a caution, yet a sober, honest, workingman is jailed because, in eyes of the law, he ‘started’ the brawl in the first place.

Juan Luis is taking his case to the Supreme Court of Spain. He insists - feminists take note - that he would not hesitate to come to his employee’s defence again should she be attacked. ‘It would not be right to see someone being attacked and to just turn a blind eye’, he added. The whole case, however, has drained his bank balance and he is now concerned about his future financial situation. So much for justice.

© James Skinner. 2001. email:

James Skinner is our Spanish Correspondent and has just completed a screenplay on the Falklands conflict.

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