Spain progresses toward strengthening anti-discrimination laws

Lawmakers pass document that could see anti-Roma discrimination become explicit crime for 1st time.

Spain progresses toward strengthening anti-discrimination laws

Spanish lawmakers passed a proposal to make significant changes to Spain’s anti-discrimination laws on Wednesday.

Beatriz Micaela Carrillo, the Socialist Party politician behind the proposal, said it was a “historic day” for Spain.

“Spain is taking a fundamental step to protect the freedoms and rights of citizens and turning the demands of minority groups who have been and continue being discriminated against into a reality,” she said during the debate.

The text, which was approved by all political parties except for the far-right Vox, could lead to important changes in Spain’s criminal code. One of the changes would include adding the term “anti-gypsyism” into the criminal code for the first time and making discrimination against the Roma community punishable with up to four years in prison.

The new text, however, aims to protect all groups from discrimination, “no matter their nationality, their age or whether or not they reside legally in Spain.”

Carillo said the law is the culmination of 15-year work by the Socialist Party.

“We’ve tried to present the project on four separate occasions and despite the setbacks, we’ve remained committed to the people who need it most, especially the minority groups who have endured the hard lashes of history in this country such as the Roma community,” said Carrillo.

While the right to non-discrimination is protected in Spain’s Constitution and current legislation, the changes aim to diminish discrimination in all aspects of life including housing, education and even in algorithms used by the public administration to make decisions.

The new law would allow the government to fine people for more types of discrimination and boost legal support for those who are suffering from prejudice.

Just 20% of discriminatory crimes in Spain are thought to be reported to the police.

Since the bill will require changes to the penal code, it will move on to the Spanish parliament for debate and final approval.