Fran Rivera: Bullfighter sparks revenge porn row in Spain

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Cádiz bullfight, 20 Apr 19Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Fran Rivera fighting a bull in Cádiz: He is among Spain's most famous "toreros"

A top Spanish bullfighter has drawn a fierce backlash for his comments on the case of a young woman who killed herself days after a sex video featuring her was widely shared.

The 32-year-old mother-of-two, named by Spanish media as Verónica Rubio, took her own life on Saturday.

It is being treated as a case of revenge porn - the non-consensual sharing of sexual images online.

Last week work colleagues had shared the video, reportedly recorded five years earlier, before she was married, by a former partner.

Spanish media report that she hanged herself the day after her husband saw the video.

"It's not manly to make a video like this go viral," the famous matador Fran Rivera, 45, told Espejo Público, a television programme, when asked about the case. "But men, and I say this because I'm a man, were unable to have such a video and not share it."

Although he also said that the deceased woman was "not to blame" his comments provoked immediate criticism.

"Sharing a video without permission is a crime," tweeted television presenter Cristina Pedroche. "Once again women are being blamed. Let's not focus on the woman who made the video, but on the man who shared it and on those who didn't denounce it."

The spokeswoman for the leftist Podemos party, Irene Montero, mocked the bullfighter's comment, tweeting: "We [women] have to be coy and careful how we behave, because a man can't see a video 'like this' and not share it. That's not naive idiocy, it's the kind of logic that blames women in order to hide sexism."

Actress Sara Sálamo tweeted: "How lucky that most of the men I interact with are not like you, Fran Rivera."

Reacting to the criticisms, the bullfighter later tweeted a clip of his TV interview, with the message: "Seeing reality is better than seeing manipulation".

The furore adds fuel to an intense political debate in Spain about harassment and violence targeting women.

Media caption,

Activists say rage over the "wolfpack" case ignited a feminist revolution (Video from 2019)

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The victim worked at a vehicle plant east of Madrid belonging to Iveco. The in-house representative body for staff there said: "We are still in shock and are overwhelmed by grief and outrage. We all know that this should not have happened."

The video started circulating on 20 May and by the middle of the week the attention and ridicule the victim was receiving from colleagues, hundreds of whom had seen it, were causing her severe anguish.

She reportedly left work early on 24 May to recover and her body was discovered at her home in Alcalá de Henares the next day. She left behind two small children.

Spanish media say police are investigating a male employee at the plant who previously had a relationship with the victim. Nobody has been charged over the case so far.

The Comisiones Obreras (CCOO) labour union, which represents workers at the plant, said the victim had complained to her employers, on the Thursday before her death, about the video and the male colleague who had allegedly shared it via WhatsApp.

Soledad Murillo, Spain's Secretary of State for Equality, described this as a case of gender violence.

"Sexism is about power relations," she said. "Who are you to have an image that does not belong to you and to make her the focus of a scandal?"

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Protesters in Madrid on 8 March: A sign reads: "When I walk home I want to be free, not brave"

In a comparable case in Italy, 31-year-old Tiziana Cantone killed herself in 2016, more than a year after sex videos in which she featured had gone viral.

Spanish law on such cases - often described as "revenge porn" - was tightened in 2015, following the case of Olvido Hormigos, a local politician from Toledo, who made a sex video which went viral after her lover shared it.

Now, anyone who makes public content of a sexual nature without the consent of those involved can face a jail sentence of between three and 12 months or a fine.

Feminists and other groups have staged mass protests in Spain against the sexist attitudes blamed for gender violence.

In a notorious case, five men known as La Manada ("the wolf pack") were found guilty of sexually abusing a young woman in Pamplona in 2016. Although they were each sentenced to nine years in prison, the five had rape charges dropped, drawing widespread anger and women's protests.

The sentences are currently under review in the supreme court.