Legislative and policy framework

Article 1(1) of the Constitution of Spain includes equality as a fundamental value, with Article 14 stating that all people are equal before the law, prohibiting any kind of discrimination based on place of birth, race, sex, religion, or opinion or personal or social situation.

Although steps towards gender equality have been taken since the late 1990s, a key milestone for gender equality policy was the approval of Organic Law 3/2007[1] (Ley Orgánica 3/2007, de 22 de marzo, para la igualdad mujeres y hombres) on effective equality between women and men (known as the Equality Law), which is applied at the national, regional, and local levels. The Equality Law formalised the institutionalisation of gender mainstreaming, requiring public administrations to mainstream gender in the adoption, implementation, and budgeting of all policies[2]. The Equality Law covers a wide range of issues, from paternity leave to more gender-balanced political representation and includes the obligation of public bodies and companies with more than 250 employees to develop equality plans, in cooperation with workers’ representatives. The Equality Law also prescribes the creation of gender units within all ministries to reinforce gender mainstreaming, as well as an Inter-Ministerial Commission for Equality that coordinates and monitors equality policy which must meet at least twice every year[3].

No action plan was in place at the time of data collection before December 2021, but one was planned for adoption in March 2022. In March 2022, the Spanish Council of Ministers adopted the Third Strategic Plan for Effective Equality between Women and Men 2022-2025 (Plan Estratégico para la Igualdad Efectiva de Mujeres y Hombres 2022-2025)[4]. The budget allocated to the plan is EUR 20 319 million. The plan is aligned with the objectives of the Agenda 2030, the Council of Europe’s relevant Conventions and the European Strategy for Gender Equality 2020-2025. It is the most important national action plan on gender equality implemented in Spain and contains six themes. It replaces the Strategic Plan for Equal Opportunities which was in place from 2014-2016[5]. Previous draft versions were not adopted including the Equal Opportunities Strategic Plan 2016-2020 and Equal Opportunities Strategic Plan 2018-2021. The III Strategic Plan for the Effective Equality of Women and Men (PEIHM) presents a political agenda on gender equality for the next four years (2022–2025) and is the main instrument of the government to guide institutional and social changes toward achieving equality between women and men.

The Plan is structured around 4 lines of intervention:

The III Strategic Plan for the Effective Equality of Women and Men - Lines of intervention

  1. ‘Good Government: towards more inclusive ways of doing and deciding’
  2. ‘Economy for life and fair distribution of wealth’
  3. ‘Towards the guarantee of lives free of male violence against women’
  4. ‘A country with effective rights for women’


Governmental equality bodies

The Ministry of Equality and the Inter-Ministerial Commission for Equality between Women and Men are the two main entities in charge of conducting the governmental gender equality policy. In March 2020, the former body transitioned from the Secretariat of State for Equality Policies (Secretaria de Estado de Igualdad) within the Ministry of the Presidency, Parliamentary Relations, and Equality (MPR) to the status of a full Ministry.

The Ministry of Equality (Ministerio de Igualdad)[7] is the highest governmental body for the promotion of gender equality in Spain. The Ministry is also in charge of other equality grounds.

The Ministry of Equality (Ministerio de Igualdad) Functions

  • drafts both gender equality and anti-discrimination policy for the government
  • conducts a gender-sensitive analysis of policies and legislation
  • coordinates and implements related government decisions
  • coordinates and implements gender mainstreaming processes and methodologies including gender budgeting
  • integrates gender equality considerations in EU and international affairs
  • publishes and disseminates gender equality-related information
  • conducts training

The Ministry of Equality has the following structure:

  1. The Secretary of State for Equality and against Gender Violence, to which the following governing bodies depend:
    • The Government Delegation against Gender Violence, with the rank of General Directorate.
    • The General Directorate for Equal Treatment and Ethnic Racial Diversity.
    • The General Directorate of Sexual Diversity and LGTBI Rights.
  2. The Undersecretariat for Equality, to which the General Technical Secretariat depends[8].

134 people currently work for the Ministry of Equality and they allocate 75%-100% of their time to gender equality work.

The Ministry of Equality is consulted by departments or ministries in other policy fields about almost all new or existing policies, laws or programmes developed. Indeed, draft laws, royal decree laws, legislative royal decrees, and regulatory proposals, as well as plans of special economic, social, cultural, and artistic relevance which are submitted to the Council of Ministers, are also systematically sent to the Ministry of Equality for comment.

The Inter-ministerial Commission for Equality between Women and Men is responsible for the coordination and mainstreaming of the principle of equal treatment and opportunities across government departments. This structure was created by the Organic Act 3/2007. All ministries participate in the Commission and meet at least twice a year (Article 5 of Royal Decree 1370/2007).

The Inter-Ministerial Commission for Equality Functions

  • Monitoring and coordinating the implementation of the principle of equal treatment and opportunities between women and men in the General Administration of the State and its active integration in the adoption and implementation of its regulatory provisions, in the definition and budgetary allocation of their public policies and the development of all their activities
  • Analysis, discussion, and follow-up of the ‘Strategic Plan for the Effective Equality of Women and Men’
  • Coordinating and supervising the elaboration of the Government's periodic report, as established in Article 18 of the Organic Law on Equality, on the effectiveness of the principle of equality between women and men in all its actions
  • Monitoring and coordinating the development and implementation of the gender impact reports and the actions of the Equality Units set up in each ministerial department, as well as the participation of women in the posts of representation and management of the General Administration of the State
  • Monitoring of the agreements adopted, and the development of the actions undertaken within the European Union and international bodies, relating to the achievement of equality between women and men and the elimination of all discrimination on the grounds of sex, without prejudice to the powers conferred on other bodies in the field

Besides the Inter-Ministerial commission, the Gender Equality Units, created within each ministry, are a key organisational instrument to ensure effective mainstreaming and to monitor the application of equality legislation through reports and gender impact assessments of legislative and regulatory proposals or plans, as regulated by the Royal Decree 259/2019, of April 12.

Independent equality body

The Institute of Women (Instituto de las Mujeres)[9] is an independent gender equality body that was established in 1983 by Law 16/1983, of October 24. While the Institute is autonomous, it is nonetheless attached to the Ministry of Equality and was previously located in the General Directorate for Equal Opportunities. Under Law 15/2014, of September 16, the powers of the General Directorate for Equal Opportunities were integrated within the tasks and structure of the Institute of Women. The Institute of Women was called the ‘Institute for Women and Equal Opportunities’ until 2014 when it was changed in the General State Budget Law for 2021, Fourth Additional Provision.

The Institute of Women Functions

  • Providing legal support to victims of discrimination on the grounds of sex or gender
  • Receiving and deciding on complaints of discrimination on the grounds of sex
  • Conducting gender-sensitive analysis of policies and legislation
  • Coordinating and/or implementing gender mainstreaming processes and methodologies, including gender budgeting
  • Drafting gender equality policies for the government, particularly public policies aimed at improving the employment position of women and promoting work-life balance
  • Coordinating and/or implementing anti-discrimination policies for the government
  • Conducting research and collecting data on gender equality issues to monitor the situation of Spanish women across a wide range of fields, including by the State System of Gender Indicators designed by the Institute of Women
  • Integrating gender equality considerations in EU and international affairs
  • Monitoring progress in achieving gender equality
  • Publishing and disseminating gender equality-related information and reports, and conducting training
  • Promoting the provision of services to women, particularly vulnerable women
  • Contributing to the promotion and evaluation of the implementation of equality plans in companies, and especially in SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises)

The Institute is regularly invited by other departments or ministries to consult on new policy plans, which, in nearly all cases, leads to relevant adjustments.136 people work for the Institute of Women. The Institute for Women and Equal Opportunities runs a gender mainstreaming programme, co-financed by the European Social Fund (ESF)[10]

The key objectives of the programmes are:

  • Supporting the General State Administration in the integration of a gender perspective in its policies;
  • Supporting the European Social Fund in the incorporation, monitoring and assessment of gender mainstreaming in the action at the regional level;
  • Incorporating equal opportunities in transnational projects and activities;
  • Advising and supporting the European Gender Mainstreaming Network; and
  • Strengthening the women's associative movement and promoting its participation in the development of public equality policy.

Parliamentary bodies

Both chambers of the Spanish Parliament - the Congress of Deputies and the Senate - have a Commission of Equality (Comisión de Igualdad). Created as a single commission for both chambers in 1988, this body was split in two in 2008. It monitors the role of government in gender equality issues, as well as the effective fulfilment of related laws. High representatives of the Ministry of Equality regularly present the main lines of action and projects before this Committee at least twice a year, where parliamentary initiatives related to gender equality are also discussed.

Consultation with civil society

Consultation with civil society in Spain primarily takes place through the Women's Participation Council[11], which is a collegiate advisory body created to provide a participation and dialogue channel between women’s rights NGOs and the government. Among its main functions, the Council aims to collect and support proposals from civil society organisations active in the field of equality between women and men. The Council also reports on debates and organises meetings of women's organisations and associations at an institutional level, to provide them with information on the social reality of women.

Regional structures

The regional level is truly relevant to gender equality and gender mainstreaming in Spain, as regions have devolved competences on specific issues, such as employment, education, housing, and social services. Regions also have shared competence for gender equality policy with the central state, thus they have developed their own laws for gender equality. The autonomous communities took the European guidelines as a starting point for their public policies, sometimes even making more progress than the central state. Although the approval of the Organic Law of Effective Equality of Women and Men in 2007 was a key moment for gender equality in Spain, it was not the first gender equality law in Spain. The Equality Law did provide a legal basis for parity in elected bodies of different autonomous communities (Article 44bis). However, some of them had already approved their own regional equality laws. Nevertheless, Article 21 of the Equality Law states that Spanish regions should cooperate with the national government to achieve effective gender equality, providing the legal basis for gender mainstreaming at the regional level.

In practice, the regions vary considerably in their mechanisms, competence and available resources[12]. According to the Spanish regional system, each region approves its Statute (which is then approved by the Spanish parliament) and local gender equality bodies thus have different structures.

Twelve regions have at least one governmental body for the promotion of gender equality and five do not, however, in those who do not have one, such tasks are carried out by an independent body for the promotion of gender equality in the form of an Institute of Women and/or Equal Opportunities. Some autonomous communities have created autonomous administrative bodies responsible for gender equality policies, while others have designated a specific department or office such as Andalucía and Castilla la Mancha. Other regions have integrated into the equality body within a ministry dedicated to women’s rights and social policy, for example, the region of Murcia.

Article 21 of the Equality Law states that local authorities should cooperate with other public administrations (within their competence) to achieve effective gender equality. At the local level, Councils of Equality (Consejos de Igualdad) have been created in most large municipalities, which assume responsibility for gender equality policy and are, in some cases, responsible for the implementation of gender mainstreaming as well. Some municipalities are very committed to gender mainstreaming, with Bilbao, Madrid and Barcelona City Councils being good examples. These local administrations have incorporated key instruments to implement gender mainstreaming, such as sex-disaggregated data, gender impact assessments or gender budgets[13][14][15].

Methods and tools

Note: the methods and tools listed under this section were the focus of EIGE's 2021 assessment. If certain methods and tools are not mentioned in this section, this does not necessarily mean that they are not used at all by Spain.

Gender impact assessment and gender budgeting

To ensure the inclusion of a gender perspective in the design implementation and evaluation of policies, laws and programmes, several Spanish laws have established a legal obligation to conduct ex-ante gender assessments as well as the practice of gender budgeting.

Article 19 of Organic Law 3/2007 for effective equality of women and men sets a legal obligation to undertake an ex-ante gender impact assessment when drafting laws and policies. It states that ‘bills of a general nature and plans with particular economic, social, cultural and artistic relevance submitted to the Council of Ministers for approval, must include a report on their gender impact’. The Equality Act also instructs the government to implement, in due form Law 30/2003, of 13 October, measures to incorporate the gender impact assessment of regulatory provisions. For this reason, Royal Decree 1083/2009, of 3 July, regulates the different impact assessment reports affecting norms, including gender impact assessment. It states that gender impact assessments constitute a method of ensuring the principle of equality in all norms. This Decree has since been substituted by Royal Decree 931/2017, of October 27, which also developed provisions as set out in Law 50/1997 of the Government, which concerns the Regulatory Impact Analysis Report of laws, royal decree laws, legislative royal decrees, and regulatory proposals, including the “ex-ante” gender impact assessment report that accompanies the General State Budget Bill (GSBB)”. The Third Additional Provision of Royal Decree 931/2017 states that the provisions of the Royal Decree related to gender impact assessment will also be applicable to draft plans of special economic, social, cultural, and artistic relevance. These plans are submitted to the Council of Ministers for approval and for calls for selective tests to access public employment, in the terms established in articles 19 and 55 of the 2007 Equality Act.

In addition, on an annual basis, the Ministry of Finance and Public Administration, sets out a series of rules concerning the preparation of the General State Budget Bill, with instructions on how to evaluate the gender impact assessment. Gender budgeting is widely used in most ministries, for example, a gender impact assessment was conducted vis-à-vis the General State Budget Bill[16]

Training and awareness-raising

Efforts to raise awareness of the importance of gender-sensitive language have also been undertaken in Spain. For example, the Spanish Federation of Associations of the Higher Bodies of the State Civil Administration (FEDECA) contributes to writing guides on the use of non-sexist language[17].

In terms of training to facilitate the advancement of gender mainstreaming, the Third Strategic Plan for the Effective Equality of Women and Men 2022-2025 includes training for all public personnel on gender-sensitive public policies[18].

The National Institute of Public Administration (Instituto Nacional de Administración Pública - INAP), the government’s leading civil service training school in Spain, also provides training as outlined in its ‘Training Plan on Equality and Non-Discrimination 2020-2022’ which covers Equal treatment and non-discrimination in the broad sense, including equality between women and men and the prevention of violence against women. It is open to the participation of public employees from the different public administrations (General State Administration, Autonomous Communities, local entities, and other organisations)[19]. Training is therefore available for all categories of staff, but it is not mandatory.

Gender statistics

The National Statistical Institute (INE) and other public administrations that produce data are legally obliged to collect gender-disaggregated data (Article 20(a) of the Equality Law). In practice, sex-disaggregated data can be found to a moderate extent (around 50–75% of variables are disaggregated by gender).

There is no specific unit in charge of promoting the production of sex-disaggregated data within the INE. However, it regularly publishes statistics disaggregated by sex and its website has a dedicated section on gender statistics[20] with a thematic breakdown of the statistics covered and direct access to analyses and datasets that can be viewed online or downloaded.

Since 2006, the INE has published an extensive annual report, ‘Women and Men in Spain’[21] (in collaboration with the Institute of Women). The report includes a broad set of data on employment, salaries, income, social inclusion, education, health, work-life balance, science, technology, information society, crime, violence, and power and decision-making.

Monitoring progress

Indicators for monitoring progress on institutional mechanisms for the promotion of gender equality and gender mainstreaming in the EU, under Area H of the Beijing Platform for Action

This section analyses the scores achieved by Spain for data collection in 2021 for the four officially agreed-on indicators on institutional mechanisms for the promotion of gender equality and gender mainstreaming, and to monitor progress on Area H of the Beijing Platform for Action. It also analyses scores under an expanded measurement framework which includes the role of independent gender equality bodies and assesses the effectiveness of efforts to disseminate statistics disaggregated by sex. Institutional mechanisms refer to national machineries that implement, monitor, evaluate, and mobilise support for policies that promote gender equality and gender mainstreaming. All indicators and sub-indicators are available on the Gender Statistics Database here, including metadata about how the scores are calculated.

For Indicator H1 on the status of commitment to the promotion of gender equality and considering only the governmental commitment in line with the officially adopted indicator, Spain scored 6.5 out of a possible 12, which was below the EU average of 7.2. It scored the highest on sub-indicator H1c on the position of the governmental body within the governmental structure because an entire ministry is devoted to gender equality (alongside Luxembourg). However, it lost 4.0 points out of a possible 5 in sub-indicator H1e on accountability of the governmental body because it had no strategy or action plan in place as of 31 December 2021.

Under an expanded measurement framework, which includes sub-indicator H1f on the mandate and functions of the independent gender equality body, Spain scored all 3 points as the mandate of the independent gender equality body is exclusively focused on gender equality rather than gender equality combined with other non-discrimination areas. The overall score for the expanded H1 indicator was 9.5 out of a possible 15, above the EU average of 9.1. Spain was the highest scoring Member state, along with Luxembourg and Finland.

Indicator H2 analyses the personnel resources of the national gender equality bodies. For sub-indicator H2a, regarding the governmental body, Spain scored the maximum of 2 points, along with three other Member States (DE, EL, SE), against an EU average of 1.0, because there were 100 or more employees working on gender equality in the governmental body. For sub-indicator H2b, regarding the independent body, Spain was the only country to score the maximum of 2, against an EU average of 0.8, because there were 100 or more employees working on gender equality in the independent body.

Indicator H3 relates to gender mainstreaming. Here, Spain scored 10.0 out of a maximum possible 12, which was above the EU average of 5.1. It lost 0.5 points because it only implements ad hoc, rather than regular training of governmental employees on gender equality.

Under an expanded measurement framework, which includes sub-indicator H3d on consultation of the independent equality body, Spain scored 12.0 points out of a maximum of 14, which was the highest score received by any Member State and over twice the EU average of 5.4. Under sub-indicator H3d, Spain was the only country to score both points because the independent gender equality body is consulted by departments or ministries on the gender impact of new or existing policies in all or nearly all cases, and those consultations, similarly, lead to relevant adjustments in all or nearly all cases.

For Indicator H4 on the production and dissemination of statistics disaggregated by sex, Spain scored the maximum of 6 points. This was almost double that of the EU average of 3.4. The high score is because Spain has measures in place including a legal obligation on the national statistical office to collect statistics disaggregated by sex and the national statistical office has a section of its website dedicated to gender statistics which ensures effective dissemination.