The death of sixty-year-old Ana Orantes Ruiz on 17 December 1997 had national repercussions which resulted in legal protection against gender and domestic violence being added to the criminal code of Spain.
Orantes was killed by her ex-husband, José Parejo Avivar, whom she was forced to share the family home with even though she had divorced him one year previously.
Orantes, who was the fifty-ninth victim of domestic violence-related murder in Spain in 1997, claimed that the violence began shortly after she had married Parejo. The abuse is said to have intensified over the next 40 years, but, although she reported her husband to the police on numerous occasions, there were no specific laws in Spain that protected victims of domestic violence at that time.
Following her divorce, Orantes agreed to appear on a programme on the Andalusian television channel Canal Sur, where she described the sexual abuse and violence that she had been subjected to for the previous four decades. She claimed that the physical and emotional abuse included being punished if another man simply looked at her, complete isolation from her family, sexual misconduct with their young daughters and countless near-death beatings.
Less than two weeks after the programme was aired, Orantes was burned alive by Parejo, outside their home in the Granada village of Cúllar Vega. The murder outraged the country, especially as Orantes had opened her heart on television, and also because the Conservative government dismissed the murder as an isolated event.
This instigated rallies and demonstrations across Spain in a call for the protection of women in danger of domestic violence.
Parejo received a 17-year jail sentence for the murder of his ex-wife. In addition, the magistrate prohibited Parejo, whom he described as "cowardly and treacherous" from having contact with his children following the completion of the sentence.
Parejo died of a heart attack in 2004, the same year the Spanish parliament approved the first 'organic' law (one that requires an absolute majority in Congreso) devised to combat domestic violence. The law comprised many different measures aimed at rapid protection for victims or potential victims and swiftly punishing the aggressors. These included victim support, the creation of emergency helplines, along with the creation of social centres for assistance of victims and their children.
(Information and advice regarding any kind of violence against women is available on the free helpline 016.)