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FOOTBALL

Spain women’s national football team to get same pay as men’s side

Female players belonging to 'La Selección' will receive the same pay for representing their country as male players, the Spanish football federation announced on Tuesday.

equal pay women's football team spain
Spain's players (back row L-R) Spain's defender Andrea Pereira, Spain's midfielder Patri Guijarro, Spain's defender Maria Leon, Spain's striker Jenni Hermoso, Spain's goalkeeper Sandra Panos and Spain's midfielder Alexia Putellas, (front row L-R) Spain's striker Amaiur Sarriegi, Spain's midfielder Aitana Bonmati, Spain's defender Ona Batlle, Spain's striker Mariona Caldentey and Spain's defender Leila Ouahabi. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP)

The agreement will be for the next five years and while salaries are not paid for playing for Spain, the deal ensures male and female players enjoy the same terms regarding bonuses and image rights.

Working conditions will also be made equal, including provisions for travel, food and accommodation.

“From now on, the players of the national team will have an advance on bonuses, exactly the same as for the men’s team. We have closed an agreement for the next five years,” said the federation’s president Luis Rubiales.

“All the players will also have a percentage of the sponsorships from now on. I think it is difficult to find (anywhere else) such a complete agreement.”

Spain joins countries like Brazil, England, the United States, Norway and Denmark in reaching an agreement over equal pay for international players.

Amanda Gutierrez, president of the Futpro union, who represented Spain’s female players in the negotiations, said: “Today is an historic day.

“It makes equal the conditions enjoyed by the men and women’s teams.”

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GENDER RIGHTS

Campaigners in Spain bring ‘obstetric violence’ out of the shadows

When a United Nations committee ruled Spaniard Nahia Alkorta had suffered obstetric violence during the birth of her first child, it was the culmination of a ten-year quest for justice.

Campaigners in Spain bring 'obstetric violence' out of the shadows

Alkorta was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after her treatment at a hospital in northern Spain in 2012 and turned to the UN, having failed in the Spanish courts.

The UN’s Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) found in July that she had been subjected to a litany of unjustified interventions which amounted to obstetric violence, including a caesarean without her consent, with her arms immobilised and her partner barred from the room.

“Since the ruling, more than 100 women have contacted me saying this kind of thing happened to them,” Alkorta, now 36 and a mother-of-three, told AFP in an interview.

“It isn’t talked about because of the pain it causes, because of the sense of shame. There’s an idea that this is just the way it is,” she said.

The CEDAW decision described obstetric violence as “violence suffered by women during childbirth at medical facilities”, adding that it is a “generalised and systemic phenomenon”.

It said Spain should compensate Alkorta for physical and psychological damage and ensure that women’s reproductive rights are safeguarded by the health and judicial systems.

The ruling came as campaigners across Europe raise awareness about obstetric violence, which often goes unrecognised.

Some national medical associations in Europe even take issue with the term itself, saying that it cannot be applied to their practices.

But Alkorta argues: “Women are telling a different story.”

Obstetric violence refers to harm inflicted during or in relation to pregnancy, childbearing, and the post-partum period.(Photo by ANDER GILLENEA / AFP)

‘At their mercy’

Alkorta suffered nightmares, insomnia and flashbacks after an ordeal that began when her waters broke at 38 weeks.

At her local public hospital in San Sebastian, in Spain’s Basque region, she was induced with the drug oxytocin, despite having contractions and without any medical reason given, she said. Staff responses to her questions became increasingly aggressive, she recalled.

The day after she was admitted, gynaecologists decided to deliver the baby via caesarean, without seeking her consent and despite a midwife telling her that her labour was progressing, she said.

“When I asked for a clear explanation, they just said they would take out the baby and it would be over in 40 minutes,” Alkorta, who lives in the Basque town of Zizurkil, told AFP.

With her arms tied down, a protocol that some hospitals follow during caesarean births, and her husband barred from the room, she trembled with fear. “I felt completely at their mercy,” she told AFP. Alkorta was unable to hold her son, who was healthy, for the first hours of his life.

There is a lack of comprehensive data measuring obstetric violence in Europe, but advocacy groups say women are routinely denied informed consent, subjected to rude and degrading behaviour by medical staff and, in some cases, dangerous practices.

A recent “Stop Obstetric Violence” petition in Serbia gathered 70,000 signatures in five days, calling for the state to cover the cost of somebody accompanying a woman in the delivery room — currently some Serbian public hospitals require the extra person to pay, even if it is the woman’s partner.

“Many mothers in Serbia would prefer to forget the day they gave birth, because they experienced various forms of violence by medical staff,” the petition said, listing insults, humiliation, shouting, neglect and medical errors among the problems.

Some countries in Europe, including Spain and Italy, have set up obstetric violence observatories, but campaigners say legal cases are rare.

“We are approached by many mothers who have suffered a traumatic birth, but almost no one ends up filing a lawsuit,” Nina Gelkova, from Bulgarian campaign group Rodilnitza, told AFP.

“The state does not acknowledge that such a problem exists.”

Consent and respect

Observations submitted by Spain to CEDAW as part of Alkorta’s case warned that “an ‘a la carte’ birth does not exist” and backed the domestic courts’ findings that the hospital was not at fault.

Alkorta counters that what she is fighting for should not be considered a luxury.

“I wasn’t looking for an ‘a la carte’ birth, I was looking for humane treatment,” she told AFP.

“I’m not against justified interventions, I think they save many lives — but they should always be done with consent and respect.”

Lawyer Francisca Fernandez Guillen, who has worked with Alkorta since the beginning of her legal journey, explained that medical professionals and even women’s own relatives can play down traumatic experiences during childbirth.

“Sometimes even the partner or family advises the woman just to ‘forget’ about what happened,” Fernandez told AFP.

However, some medics believe attitudes are changing.

Daniel Morillas, vice president of Spain’s Federation of Midwife Associations (FAME), told AFP that in the 16 years he has been working as a midwife, he has seen increased awareness of the rights of the mother and her role as an “active participant” in childbirth, although he admits there’s still a long way to go.

“The first thing we have to do in order to combat obstetric violence is acknowledge it exists,” he told AFP.

“Many doctors and midwives already recognise that it happens and are trying to change things.”

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