SPAIN: Man Avoids Abuse Charges After Changing Legal Gender Identity

A man in Spain who beat his female partner for opposing his transition has avoided charges of gender-based violence by legally changing his identification to “female” and adopting a woman’s name.

As legal proceedings are ongoing, the names of those involved cannot be released, and pseudonyms Carmen and Manolo are being used for the purposes of this article.

The couple, who are in their 60s, had been together for 11 years, but it wasn’t until 2020, according to Carmen, that Manolo began pressuring her to participate in his sexual fetish.

“He wanted to wear women’s underwear in intimate moments. I thought it could be a fetish but later he told me that he felt like a woman and asked my permission to take hormones. He never wanted to change sex,” Carmen told El Mundo, explaining that Manolo wanted to take estrogen in order to grow breasts, but expressed a desire to keep his penis.

“I told him that if he wanted that path, I would accompany him… but as a friend, never as a couple because I am heterosexual,” Carmen explained, noting she was simply not attracted to the thought of her partner having breasts.

Due to Carmen’s unstable financial situation, she was unable to move out of the home and into her own residence following Manolo’s revelations. Carmen had attempted to end the relationship, instead telling Manolo she would support him “as a friend,” but it was at that time that the man became increasingly abusive towards her.

Manolo would often attempt to get into bed or the bath with Carmen without her consent, molesting her and verbally abusing her. Carmen then attempted to create a space for herself within the residence by putting a padlock on her bedroom door while she was out of the home.

On August 15, Carmen came home to find her padlock ripped off and her possessions destroyed after Manolo had broken in while she was visiting her grandchildren. An argument broke out between them which culminated in Manolo violently assaulting Carmen.

Carmen went to the hospital and called the local Catalonian police squadron to file a report, only to discover that Manolo had changed his legal gender identity months prior, and therefore could not be charged with gender-based violence — a specific charge which exists in Spain to classify male violence against women. Instead, Manolo could only be charged with domestic violence, which is a broader criminal category that removes the sex distinction.

Gender-based violence charges provide the female victim specific protections and resolutions which can impact divorce or separation proceedings, custody, and other important factors. As a result of Manolo not being charged with gender-based violence, the court cannot provide Carmen with a specific protection order, and will not remove Manolo from the home.

Speaking to Reduxx, Núria González López, one of Carmen’s legal advisors, expressed disappointment with the way the Spanish legal system has handled the case. López and head lawyer Meritxel Cabezón are working with Carmen to help her proceed with the abuse charges.

“The system is making victims available to their abusers,” López said, noting that Carmen is now being “forced to live with her abuser” due to the lesser crime Manolo is being charged with, and her difficult financial situation which makes it impossible for her to move away.

“The abuser’s change of his legal sex means that, in the eyes of the law, the female in the situation is not at risk. This means the victim has fewer rights,” López explained. “Most likely, he will have to pay a fine and there will be no jail time.”

“Women’s safety appears to be less important than men’s feelings.”

Since being charged for injuring Carmen, Manolo has reportedly filed a criminal complaint against his ex-partner for misgendering him.

Earlier this year, Spain’s Cabinet of Ministers approved a new draft law on gender identity, one which allow anyone over the age of 16 to legally change their name and sex without any medical consultation or intervention. Minors between the ages of 14 and 16 will be allowed to change their name and sex with parental consent, and those as young as 12 can do so with a Judge’s authorization.

Known as “The Trans Law,” the Government is now attempting to push through the legislation earlier than expected, leading to some concern it will not be properly debated or assessed.

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Nuria Muíña García
Nuria Muíña García
Nuria is a news contributor and the head of Spanish translation for Reduxx. Nuria is a passionate advocate for the rights of women and girls, and seeks to connect feminists across borders. A Spanish native, Nuria currently lives in Switzerland.