By Guy Hedgecoe-Madrid
https://www.bbc.com/-Image source, Mujeres en Igualdad Burela
Image caption, Activists have taken to the streets this year to protest about the treatment of the women
A Spanish judge has shocked women’s rights groups by dismissing a case that involved women being secretly filmed urinating in public and the videos then being posted on porn websites.
Recordings of some 80 women and girls were made as they urinated in a side street because of a lack of facilities.
They were caught by hidden cameras at the A Maruxaina local festival in the north-western town of Cervo.
In many cases the footage showed close-ups of the women’s genitals and faces.
It was uploaded to porn sites, some requiring payment to view.
On discovering this, many of those affected took legal action in 2020, calling for the recordings, whose author remains unknown, to be investigated on the grounds that their right to intimacy had been violated.
‘I was just panicking’
A local judge, Pablo Muñoz Vázquez, shelved the case, triggering an appeal led by the Women for Equality Burela (Bumei) association.
The same judge has now confirmed his initial decision not to proceed, on the grounds that because the videos were recorded in a public place they cannot be deemed criminal.
According to court documents, the judge also decided that there was “no intention to violate the physical or moral resistance” of the women affected.
“I was just panicking,” said Jenniffer, who was one of the women filmed during the local festival in 2019.
She remembered when a friend told her that footage of her had been uploaded to a porn site. “And then when I saw the video I was crying, I was really embarrassed, I didn’t know really what to do.”
Like many of those affected, Jenniffer sought therapy afterwards. But the latest judicial ruling has added to the pain.
“It makes me feel so frustrated,” she said. “They are basically saying it is OK if someone records you on the street and then they post it on a porn site and they make money from it.”
Ana García, of the Bumei association, warns that a precedent could be set by this case, giving those who make such recordings impunity.
“Just because you’re in a public space, that doesn’t mean that filming intimate images and then distributing them is not a crime, because this is about fundamental rights,” she said.
The decision not to continue with the case has provoked protests and an online campaign under the hashtag #XustizaMaruxaina (Justice Maruxaina).
The case has also entered the political arena, with Equality Minister Irene Montero speaking out.
Gender rights have been the subject of fierce debate between left and right in Spain in recent years and this is not the first time a judicial decision has drawn a backlash from women’s groups.
In 2018, a court in Pamplona sparked mass protests by deeming an assault on a young woman by five men, nicknamed La Manada (the Wolfpack), sexual abuse rather than rape.
The Supreme Court eventually overturned the verdict, finding the men guilty of rape and increasing their jail sentences from nine years to 15 years.
The women affected by the A Maruxaina case are now appealing again, this time before the provincial court in Lugo, in the hope that the case will, finally, be investigated.