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Spanish Official: 'Laws Are Like Women, They're To Be Raped'

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Former head of the General Council of Spanish Citizens Abroad José Manuel Castelao.
Former head of the General Council of Spanish Citizens Abroad José Manuel Castelao.

A Spanish government official is drawing international fire for using some violently machista language.

José Manuel Castelao Bragaño, who until Friday served as chief of the government agency that assists Spaniards living abroad, resigned from his post last week after saying at a meeting “las leyes son como las mujeres, están para violarlas.”

Translated literally, the phrase reads: “Laws are like women, they’re there to be raped.” The word “violar” means both “rape” and “violate” in Spanish. Castelao’s expression played off the double meaning.

Castelao, 71, who previously served as a conservative deputy in the provincial legislature in Galicia, told the Spanish daily El País that he’s resigning for personal reasons that have nothing to do with his comments.

He served as president of the General Council of Spanish Citizens Abroad for less than one week.

Last Tuesday, Castelao shared his thoughts on women, rape and the law during an official meeting of the General Council of Spanish Citizens Abroad. The group was voting on a proposal.

“No problem,” Castelao said, according to El País. “We’ve got nine votes? Put down 10 … Laws are like women, they’re there to be raped.”

For those in the room, Castelao’s remark was shocking. “It was an absurd and unfortunate phrase, and worse coming from him, the head of a government agency,” said Ana María Navarro, who sits on the Council, according to El País.

Later that day, Castelao asked for forgiveness. “I don’t have absolutely any thoughts against women, who deserve all of my respect,” Castelao said. “In fact, I’m devoted to women.”

But neither the apology nor the Castelao's resignation three days later proved enough for the leftwing Partido Socialista Obrero de España (PSOE). The Party’s secretary of equality, Purificación Causapié, filed a complaint with the federal Attorney General’s office on Monday, saying: “His statements may constitute the crime of provoking violence.”

The aging Castelao’s comment highlighted a lingering machismo in Spanish society. But the near universal condemnation of his remarks also showed how little tolerance Spaniards now have for offensive comments from public officials.

Of course, insensitive and inaccurate rape comments aren’t limited to the culturally-specific brand of sexism that has historically been a feature of life in Spain and Latin America.

Conservative Missouri Congressman Todd Akin drew national attention earlier this year by drawing a nonsensical distinction between rape and “legitimate” rape then, inaccurately claiming that the female body had ways to avoid pregnancy in the latter case. Akin, a Republican, will challenge Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill in the November election.

In 1990, the Republican gubernatorial candidate in Texas Clayton Williams likened the bad weather at a cattle roundup event to a rape and said “If it’s inevitable, just relax and enjoy it.” Williams ultimately lost the governor's race by a wide margin to Democrat Ann Richards.

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