(Bloomberg) -- A session in Spain’s already fraught congress of deputies took a nasty turn when a right-wing congresswoman lobbed a sexist insult at a female government minister.
Lawmaker Carla Toscano, a member of the far-right nationalist Vox party, questioned whether Irene Montero is qualified to be equality minister, saying, “the only merits you have earned is to have studied Pablo Iglesias in depth.”
“You are the worst thing that has happened to Spain in a very long time,” Toscano added during the session on Wednesday.
Montero has a masters degree in psychology and joined far left-wing Podemos shortly after the party’s beginnings in 2014. She is also the wife of former Podemos leader and Spanish deputy Prime Minister Pablo Iglesias.
At the heart of the row is a dispute over Montero’s signature sexual consent bill — it was approved last August and requires an explicit expression of consent in sexual relations to try to remove ambiguity from rape and assault cases; but over the past few weeks the interpretation of the law by some judges has led to several sexual offenders getting their prison sentences shortened.
A parliamentary official requested that Toscano’s comment be scrapped from the record. Montero replied that she wanted it to remain “so everyone remembers the political violence and those who exert it.”
“Also so everyone knows that feminists and democrats are more numerous,” she said. “We’ll stop this gang of fascists with more rights.”
Toscano, who has come out in the past against the MeToo movement and the rights of LGTBQ people, also accused Montero of being “obsessed with sex.”
“Your ministry’s budget goes toward violating fundamental rights, inventing fake rights, criminalizing men, giving privileges to women, gay and transexual people,” she said.
But in the end, Toscano’s speech seemed only to have served to unite an otherwise fragile coalition government around Montero.
A two-minute standing ovation followed Montero’s short intervention, with applause from members of her own party, as well as from the Socialist Party, regional parties and even some conservatives. Socialist ministers and Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez himself expressed their support for her and the government’s initiatives on equality.
“We stand together against sexist violence, to deny it is a way of committing it,” Sanchez wrote on a message on Twitter. “To take it to the congress’ stand is to cross an intolerable line — all my support to Irene Montero.”
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