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Activist confronts Spanish far-right leader on gender violence declaration

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By Sofia Sanchez Manzanaro  with Reuters
Javier Ortega Smith, secretary general of Spain's far-right party VOX
Javier Ortega Smith, secretary general of Spain's far-right party VOX   -   Copyright  REUTERS/Jon Nazca   -  

Activist Nadia Otmani confronted a leader of Spain's far-right party Vox after he refused to sign a declaration presented by Madrid's city council condemning violence against women.

Vox secretary-general Javier Ortega Smith said the declaration, on the United Nations’ International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, addressed only one side of gender violence.

"The life of a man and a woman is worth the same. I'm talking about lives", Ortega said.

Ortega is a member of both the Madrid city council and the national parliament.

Otmani, wheelchair-bound for 20 years after her brother-in-law shot her as she tried to defend her sister, approached Ortega Smith in tears after his speech.

“You cannot do this! You cannot play politics with gender violence!”, she cried. The activist currently runs an association that fights for the rights of abused women.

Vox’s refusal to sign the declaration by the Madrid city council meant that for the first time since a landmark 2004 law on gender violence, local authorities in the Spanish capital were unable to issue a joint all-party statement.

All political parties, including conservative People's Party (PP) and liberal Citizens, Vox allies in Madrid, condemned Ortega's decision.

Madrid's mayor José Luis Martínez-Almeida, who on relies on four Vox votes for a majority in the city council, challenged Ortega Smith to point out "a single measure" agreed by the Consistory to fight gender violence that "is not justified".

"Tell me only one of those measures if you know any. I am deeply sorry that you are coming here today to blow up this event. What you have done here today is not politics," he said.

On Tuesday, Vox published on Twitter Otomani's income and the amount of public funds her organization has received.

The far-right party accused the activist of being "the prototype of a subsidised feminist who uses everyone's money for her own, rather than for abused women".

According to official statistics, 1,024 women have been killed in Spain by their partners since 2003. To date this year, 52 women have been killed.