Discovery of girl’s body prompts nationwide protests in Spain
Protests against gender-based violence are to be held across Spain after the discovery of the body of a six-year-old girl who is suspected to have been murdered by her father and dumped at sea.
A surge in domestic violence cases has coincided with the end of Spain’s state of emergency restrictions last month.
On Thursday afternoon, search teams looking for two sisters, who were taken by their father at the end of April, recovered the body of the elder child, Olivia, six. She was found inside a sports bag, weighed down with an anchor, at a depth of 1,000 metres about three miles (5km) off the coast of her home island of Tenerife.
A similar but empty bag was found nearby by an oceanographic research ship equipped with specialist sonar. Officers from Spain’s Guardia Civil police force are continuing to search for Olivia’s one-year-old sister, Anna, and for the girls’ father, Tomás Gimeno.
Their mother, Beatriz Zimmerman, told officers her ex-husband had phoned to tell her she would never see the girls again after he took them on 27 April.
The case has shocked and angered Spain. The prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, said on Twitter on Thursday night: “I can’t imagine the pain of the mother of little Anna and Olivia, who had disappeared in Tenerife, given the terrible news we’ve just had. I’m sending a hug, my love, and that of my whole family, who today stand in solidarity with Beatriz and her loved ones.”
Irene Montero, who serves as equality minister in Sánchez’s socialist-led coalition government, also sent her condolences and attacked what she called the “vicarious violence” of the case. “There are no words to help Beatriz in this moment of terrible pain,” she said on Twitter. “This violence committed against women who are mothers to hit them where it hurts the most is a national issue. We are here to do whatever is necessary.”
A few hours later, Montero also offered her sympathy to the family of a teenager, Rocío Caíz, 17, who is thought to have been the 18th woman to be murdered by a partner or ex-partner in Spain this year. On Thursday evening, Caíz’s 23-year-old former boyfriend confessed to her murder in the southern region of Seville.
Since the Spanish government began recording gender-based violence murders in 2003, it has registered the killing of 1,095 women. Since 2013, 39 children have been murdered in cases of domestic violence.
In the five weeks since Spain’s Covid-19 state of emergency was lifted on 9 May, 10 women have been murdered by current or former partners. Experts suggest the increase could be because of women trying to escape abusive situations after the end of lockdown.
On Friday, Victoria Rosell, the government’s anti-gender-based violence delegate, told Spanish radio: “We’d warned that gender-based violence was one pandemic on top of another. As we get past the Covid-19 pandemic, we’re seeing what was underneath it.”
The rise in murders and the discovery of Olivia’s body has prompted a wave of “urgent protests” that will take place outside town halls across Spain on Friday night under slogans such as “If you touch one of us, you touch all of us”.