National frameworks in Spain

1. Legislation
2. Law enforcement and protective orders
3. Support for victims
4. Preventive measures
5. Data and research
6. Collaboration with international organisations

1. Legislation

What national laws exist to address and prevent domestic violence?

  • Organic Law 27/2003 of July 31, regulating the Order of Protection for Victims of Domestic Violence.
  • Organic Law 1/2004, of December 28, on Comprehensive Protection Measures against Gender-based Violence.
  • Organic Law 3/2007, of March 22, for Effective Equality of Women and Men.
  • Organic Law 2/2010, of March 3, on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Voluntary Termination of Pregnancy.
  • Organic Law 1/2015, of March 31, amending and updating some of the offenses related to gender violence in the Penal Code.
  • Law 4/2015, of April 27, on the Statute of the Victim of Crime, expands assistance and protection for victims.
  • Organic Law 7/2015, of July 21, amends Article 87 ter of LO 6/1985, of July 1, on the Judiciary, collecting the competences of the Courts of Violence against Women.
  • Organic Law 8/2015, of July 22, on the modification of the system for the protection of children and adolescents; regulation arising from the State Pact against Gender Violence signed in 2017.
  • State Pact against Gender Violence – Congress and Senate – (2017).
  • Royal Decree-Law 6/2019, of March 1, on urgent measures to guarantee equal treatment and opportunities between women and men in employment and occupation.
  • Royal Decree-Law 752/2022, of September 13, establishing the functions, operation regime, and composition of the State Observatory on Violence against Women.
  • Organic Law 10/2022, on the comprehensive guarantee of sexual freedom.
  • Legislative Decree 1/2023, of March 15, which approves the revised text of the Law for the Equality of Women and Men and Lives Free of Gender Violence against Women (only for the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country).

Code of gender-based violence in Spain:

How is domestic violence defined in the legal framework of Spain?

The Organic Law 1/2004 aims to act against gender-based violence, which is produced as a manifestation of discrimination, inequality, and power relations of men over women. It is exercised against women by those who are or have been their male partners or those who are or have been linked to them by similar affective relationships, even without cohabitation. This law also includes any act of physical and psychological violence, including sexual assaults, threats, coercion, or arbitrary deprivation of liberty. Gender-based violence referred to in this law also includes violence that is exercised against women’s family members or minors with the aim of causing harm or damage to them by the persons indicated in the first section.

Domestic violence is spoken of when one of the members of that family group has an abusive behaviour towards one or all other members of the family. It occurs within the family nucleus and between people who live together. More precisely, people included in the concept of domestic violence are mentioned in art. 173(2) Criminal Code: descendants, ascendants or biological, adopted or fostered siblings of the perpetrator or the spouse or cohabitating partner; minors or persons with disabilities requiring special protection who live with the perpetrator or who are subject to the parental rights, guardianship, care, fostership or safekeeping of the spouse or cohabitating partner; persons protected by any other relation by which the perpetrator is a member of the core family unit; persons who, due to their special vulnerability are subject to custody or safekeeping in public or private centres.

Are there specific laws or provisions that protect victims of domestic violence?

  • Law 8/2015, of July 22, amending the system of protection for children and adolescents, considers the daughters and sons of victims of gender-based violence as direct victims.
  • State Pact against Gender Violence approved by the Congress of Deputies on July 27, 2017.

2. Law enforcement and protective orders

Are there specialised units or protocols for dealing with domestic violence cases?

In Spain, there are police groups specialised in the attention and management of cases of gender-based violence. These groups are designed to provide a specific and efficient response to victims of gender-based violence and to work on the prevention and prosecution of these crimes. The following are some of the police groups and units specialised in the fight against gender-based violence:

  • National Police – Family and Women’s Attention Units – UFAM
  • Gender-based Violence Units of the Civil Guard – EMUME
  • Protocol of action of the telephone service of attention and protection for victims of Gender-based violence – ATENPRO
  • Local police specialised groups as Abuse Care Group – GAMA at the Policía Local Valencia
  • Basic protocol for intervention against child abuse in the family

There are also specific justice resources as:

  • Courts of Violence Against Women: Specialised criminal courtrooms associated to the Inquiry Courts, established by the Organic Law 1/2004 of Comprehensive Protection Measures against Violence against women. According to data provided by the Observatory against Domestic and Gender Violence of the Spanish Judiciary, there are 128 exclusive courts for violence against women in 79 judicial districts, 328 judicial districts with compatible courts for violence against women and 24 grouped judicial districts. In total, 59.5% of Spanish women have access to courts exclusively for violence against women (updated 31/1/2024).
  • Crime Victims’ Assistance Offices: a free public service created by Law 35/1995, of 11 December, on aid and assistance to victims of violent crimes and crimes against sexual freedom.  They provide support and assistance to victims, whether direct or indirect, of all types of crime, including gender-based violence and domestic violence.
  • Integral Forensic Assessment Units (UVFI): units integrated by professionals in medicine, psychology and forensic social work, in order to build a quality evidentiary system in cases of gender-based violence, which would include the medical, psychological and social work perspective in the evaluation of the victim, aggressor, environment and circumstances and thus provide the maximum information to the judge in his work of resolving the criminal and civil aspects derived from the prosecuted facts.

What types of protection orders are available for victims of domestic violence?

  • In 2015, the National Police Corps created the Central Unit for Family and Women’s Care (UFAM) through Order INT/2678/2015, of December 11, which modifies Order INT/28/2013.
  • The Civil Guard has had the Women-Minor Team (EMUME) since 2005 in the fight against gender violence and violence against minors.
  • Protocol of Collaboration and Coordination between the State Security Forces and Bodies and the Local Police Forces for the protection of victims of domestic and gender-based violence, signed on March 13, 2006, by the Ministry of the Interior and the President of the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces.
  • Instruction No. 10/2007, of the State Security Secretariat, approving the Protocol for Police Assessment of the Level of Risk of Violence against Women in cases under Organic Law 1/2004, of December 28, and its Communication to the Judicial Bodies and the Public Prosecutor’s Office and its subsequent modifications in Instructions No. 14/2007 and Instruction No. 5/2008.
  • Instruction 7/2016, of the State Security Secretariat, establishing a new Protocol for Police Assessment of the Level of Risk of Gender Violence of the Victims.
  • Instruction No. 12/2018, of September 28, 2018, of the State Security Secretariat, on the reinforcement of police actions in the assessment of risk in cases of gender violence and the management of the security of the victims.
  • Instruction 4/2019, of the State Security Secretariat, establishing a new protocol for Police Assessment of the level of Risk.

3. Support for victims

What support services are available for victims of domestic violence in Spain?

National resources are available at the Government Office against Gender-based Violence webpage.

  • Emergency telephone numbers (016 GBV victims support – 012 Regional services support) and access to aid services. 016 helpline offers multilingual support 24 hours a day and is free of charge.
  • ATENPRO: Attention and Protection Telephone Service for victims of violence against women. This is a service that was created to support female victims of intimate partner violence 24 hours a day. It provides professional and individual support and counselling through regular phone calls.
  • Monitoring System by Telematic Tools of the Measures and Sentences of Distance in the field of Gender-Based Violence.
  • The website offers a tool to search for support and prevention resources in cases of gender-based violence close to the victim.

Each autonomous community offers specialised resources such as:

  • Women’s shelters, including emergency shelters that operate 24 hours a day and where women may stay for up to two months.
  • Municipal Women’s Centers, Women’s Houses, Comprehensive Centers of Information and Attention to Women or Gender-Based Violence Victims located in every municipality or grouping of municipalities.
  • Municipal and regional Social Services.
  • 24-Hour Crisis Center for Victims of Sexual Violence.
  • SATEVI. This is a telephone service that guarantees 24-hour attention 365 days a year and is staffed by a team of professionals specialised in providing assistance to women victims of any manifestation of violence against women. In addition, this service also provides advice and information to professionals, as well as to family members or relatives who need to resolve any doubts or questions.

As mentioned previously, Crime Victims’ Support Offices of the Spanish Ministry of Justice, and Victim Assistance Service of the Basque Government also offer aid and assistance to victims of GBV and domestic violence.

Assistance organisations for victims (local and regional women’s organisations, charities in charge of programs for gender-based violence victims, services for women in trade unions, ANAR Foundation, ALANNA Association).

Healthcare services:

  • Local emergency resource SAUS: it is a local resource of the City Council of Valencia, available 24h, throughout the whole year. It is for crisis situations caused by an unexpected situation, psychosocial and immediate damage that aims to avoid or minimise the bias caused by a situation that is so demanding.

Are there sufficient numbers of shelters or safe houses for individuals fleeing domestic violence situations?

According to the Autonomous Community Resources Statistics on Violence against Women (DERA 2020), in Spain, there are 54 emergency shelters (758 places, 144 for women with disabilities), 99 shelters (2041 places, 91 for women with disabilities), 123 sheltered housing (840 places, 75 for women with disabilities). There are also 1146 public or subsidised housing units offered with preferential access for survivors of violence against women.

How is counselling or psychological support provided to victims?

In Spain there are psychological support programs for women victims of gender violence and for their children in the 17 Autonomous Communities and the two autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla. There are also preventive psychological therapy programs for potential abusive men in 8 of the 17 autonomous communities: Castilla y León, Cataluña, Comunidad Valenciana, Galicia, Murcia, Navarra, País Vasco and La Rioja (DERA, 2020). The typology of the psychological therapy provided varies according to the services providing the assistance.

4. Preventive measures

What national initiatives or programs exist to prevent domestic violence?

The main preventive measure is the State Pact against Gender Violence. Spain approved, in December 2017, this state pact, ratified by the different Parliamentary Groups, Government, Autonomous Communities, Cities of Ceuta and Melilla (CCAA) and the local entities represented in the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces (FEMP). This is a historic milestone in our country to eliminate violence against women. A five-year evaluation report (2018-2022) has recently been published.

Are there educational campaigns aimed at raising awareness about domestic violence in Spain?

In Spain, there are numerous and constant awareness campaigns against gender-based violence promoted by the Government Delegation for Gender Violence. The campaigns launched since 2006 are available on the Delegation’s website. As an example, we show the campaigns launched in the last two years:

  • #AhoraYaYaEspañaEsOtra [Spain is now a different country], on the occasion of the 2023 25N, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The campaign aims to show the change that Spanish society has experienced over the years in terms of impunity for acts of sexist violence, breaking the silence and accompanying and giving reparation to women who have suffered it.
  • #SerLibres.EstarViva.España. [Be Free. Bee Alive. Spain]. Awareness campaign against sexist violence for the summer of 2023. The objectives of this program include raising awareness of the different forms of violence against women, identifying and denouncing all forms of violence, and informing victims about the different comprehensive hepl services available to them.
  • #EntoncesQuién? [So Who?] on the occasion of the 2022 25N. The campaign aims to break the complicity of the men’s agreement, a pact that transcends origins, ideologies, social or generational characteristics and that always needs the complicity of the group for the perpetuation of privileges. With this, it seeks to question all men who want to take that step forward to break the pact and get their involvement using phrases such as “We all know a victim of GBV, but almost no one knows an aggressor”, “If neither you nor I have been, then who?”, “If you are not going to do anything to stop it, then who?”.
  • Nahiko. It is a co-educational program for Equality, Respect and Non-violence. It aims at coexistence in equality, through education in values, based on human rights and critical analysis of gender roles for the elimination of violence against women. It promotes the transformation from a mixed school model to a coeducational school model. It is implemented in primary schools, where teachers acquire knowledge about the program’s didactic material and put it into practice with their students.
  • Beldur Barik. It is a program promoted by the institutions of the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country, aimed at preventing sexist violence among young people, and its objective is to promote reflections and debates together with young people to collaborate in the transformation of society and transform a sexist society into an egalitarian society.

How does the government work with NGOs and other organisations to address domestic violence prevention?

There is a close relationship between local and regional governments, and NGOs and other organisations that assist victims of gender-based violence. On the one hand, at the financial level, these NGOs and organisations are often partially funded by grants from state, regional and local governments. On the other hand, at the level of providing resources to victims, they often share information and refer victims from one service to another in a coordinated manner between public services and specialised NGOs. This work is organised regularly through work and coordination meetings between the General Directorate for Gender Equality of the autonomous governments, the Coordination Unit against Violence against Women of the Government Delegations in each Autonomous Community and the NGOs.

5. Data and research

Is there ongoing research on the causes and effects of domestic violence in Spain?
How regularly is information on domestic violence updated and made publicly accessible?

The Government Delegation against Gender Violence offers on its website various statistics, surveys, studies and research:

  • A statistical website with indicators and variables in different areas of analysis related to gender-based violence.
  • Reports with quantitative data on killing women and children victims of GBV: femicides in intimate partner or ex-partner relationships, and children killed by the perpetrator (vicarious violence).
  • Macro-survey on Violence against Women (every four years), with the aim to estimate the prevalence of violence against women in Spain, differentiating between violence occurring within the couple or ex-partner, and violence suffered by women outside the couple. Identify and quantify the types of violence suffered, distinguishing between physical, sexual, emotional, controlling and economic violence in the case of intimate partner violence, and between physical and sexual violence in the case of violence perpetrated by third parties.
  • Monthly and annual statistical bulletins with the objective of providing statistical information on gender violence.
  • Reports of the State Observatory on Violence against Women.
  • Other publications, studies and research.

Link to the Spanish Ministry of Equality, where national studies, research and publications regarding gender-based violence are indicated:

6. Collaboration with international organisations

Is Spain involved in any international collaborations or partnerships to address domestic violence?
How does Spain engage with global initiatives focused on combating domestic violence?

Are there specific international conventions or treaties related to domestic violence that Spain has ratified or adopted?

  • The Council of Europe’s Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence – Istanbul Convention
  • Convention for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms
  • The European Social Charter
  • Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings