BARCELONA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A Spanish woman whose two children were murdered by her abusive ex-husband has begun knitting purple butterflies to rally support for action against domestic violence, with politicians from the prime minister downwards donning her handiwork.
Itziar Prats’ two daughters, Nerea and Martina, aged six and two, were murdered last year by their father, Ricardo Carrascosa, at their home near Valencia in eastern Spain. He then jumped out of a window to his death.
Prats, 43, said she filed complaints with the police and courts several times over her ex-husband’s death threats to the girls and his violence but her case was classified as “low risk” and her complaints were not taken seriously.
Going public with her story and butterfly campaign, Prats has joined a growing a debate over how gender violence is treated by police and judiciary in Spain where about 55 women have been murdered by partners or ex-partners so far this year.
“For me, the sharing of the butterflies signifies that (my daughters) are still with me and means I can help other people who face violence in their day-to-day lives,” Prats told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Prats said she was determined to give greater visibility to gender violence in Spain, where a total of 1,033 Spanish women have been murdered since 2003 by partners or ex-partners, according to latest government data.
Prats normally makes between 10 and 15 deep purple butterflies a day, and has given away more than 3,000, including to school children during educational visits, she said.
She said she wanted to rally support for action, including taking away the rights of violent partners to visit their children until they have been rehabilitated and getting better help for minors in domestic violence situations.
She is also demanding an official investigation into the way her own children were treated by the judiciary.
“I would like ... for children to be heard and taken into account and, above all, be protected,” she said.
Several high-profile figures, including Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, have been photographed wearing her butterflies.
“He threatened to kill them. Itziar reported it but something failed,” Sanchez wrote on Twitter last month, alongside pictures of himself with the butterflies.
“We must focus on the protection of women and minors who are victims of domestic violence. We can’t fail again.”
A debate over how gender violence cases are treated by Spain’s police and judiciary hit the spotlight again last month when a Barcelona court cleared five men of raping a 14-year-old girl and jailed them on a lesser charge of sexual abuse.
The men took turns to have sex with the teenager after a party in Manresa, north of Barcelona, in 2016, the court heard, but they were charged with sexual assault not rape because the girl was drunk, did not fight back, and they were not violent.
The verdict reignited a debate over the Spanish judiciary’s treatment of women, which intensified with the 2016 “Wolf Pack” case, in which an 18-year-old woman was gang-raped by five men during the running of the bulls festival in Pamplona.
The men, including a former policeman and a former soldier, shared videos of the incident in a WhatsApp group and joked about it afterwards but were convicted of sexual abuse.
However after mass protests across Spain over chauvinism and sexual abuse, the Supreme Court in July this year ruled the men were guilty of rape.
The case helped put the treatment of women at the heart of public debate in Spain during campaigning for April’s election, and prompted a government promise to change the law.
But last month Spain’s far-right Vox party - which became the third-largest party in the Spanish parliament in last month’s general elections - refused to sign an all-party declaration condemning violence against women.
It also used the International day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on Nov. 25 to reiterate its call to scrap a landmark 2004 gender violence law, denying that gender violence was a problem and saying there were male victims too.
Spain’s Minister of Education Isabel Celaá, who has joined the lawmakers choosing to wear butterflies, condemned the move.
“I felt sympathy with everything that this symbol represents, the support for all women and girls and boys who are victims of domestic violence, even more so in these times when the far-right has broken the consensus,” she said.
“The government, through a declaration approved in the council of ministers, stood against that decision that protects the weakest. The Itziar butterfly represents our commitment to all victims of gender violence.”
Reporting by Sophie Davies, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org