Spain lived under a dictatorship for forty long years less than half a century ago. This fact is worth recalling given that today we have one of the freest countries in the world. Protests and marches such as “8M” (the International Women’s Strike), the LGTBI pride demonstrations and the 15M protests (anti-austerity movement) would have been unimaginable in the 1970’s. No one could have ever imagined that citizens would protest for independence in the heart of the capital or that there would be such political pluralism in our Parliament.
“All human beings are born equal in dignity and rights”. This is how article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights starts, which recognises the essential civil liberties and political rights of all human beings, including equality before the law, recourse to justice, freedom of expression, association, assembly, the right to political participation and the freedom to vote.
All these freedoms have combined to shape todays society, institutions and political parties. The ghosts of the past are now a distant memory.
The Preamble of the Spanish Constitution states “the desire of the Spanish nation to establish justice, freedom and security and to promote the well-being of those who form part of it”. When it was passed in 1978, citizens wanted these values to form the basis of a democratic co-existence which has been highly successful during the last four decades.
Today Spain is recognised as one of the freest countries in the world. This is cited year after year in the Freedom in the World 2019 report by Freedom House. In actual fact, as shown in the index of this non-governmental organisation, Spain is ranked 20th out of 195 countries and it obtains a score of 94 out of 100 with regard to basic freedoms. On the list of all countries with the greatest freedoms, Spain is ranked ahead of its European neighbours France, Italy and the UK.
The Freedom House index is based on a questionnaire carried out amongst citizens in each of the countries and territories analysed in which the status of their basic freedoms is assessed; particularly those pertaining to the freedom to vote, of assembly, association, movement and expression through the media. Spain obtains the highest score (1st out of 7, on a scale in which 1 is the maximum and 7 the minimum) in the three indicators: freedom, political rights and civil liberties.
Spain’s high ranking is particularly important given that it occurred in a year (2018) in which there was “a global decline in liberties” according to Freedom House. All regions, except for Asia-Pacific, have a lower average score in 2018 than the one they obtained in 2005. The report expresses concern, about the increase in authoritarian governments who “are banning opposition groups or imprisoning their leaders, ignoring the limits of their mandates and persecuting independent media”.
A legal framework to protect our freedom
When assessing how free the citizens of a country are, the annual study by the World Justice Project, the Rule of Law Index, is also relevant. In its 2019 edition, Spain’s position is particularly noteworthy with regard to the fundamental rights of citizens and it is ranked 16th amongst the 126 countries analysed.
Nor should we forget that according to the Pew Research Center, our citizens are amonst the most tolerant in the world respecting the rights of its citizens to love who they chose. Its studies have actually demonstrated that only 9% of the population objects to or opposes the equality of the LGTBI collective.