Discriminate in Spain will no longer be free

An image of the LGTBI Pride celebration in Madrid. / ef

The Senate approves the 'Zerolo law', which fines up to half a million anyone who marginalizes or excludes another and which imposes on websites and apps the obligation to be accessible to the elderly and disabled

Alfonso Torres

Discrimination in Spain will never be free again. What was the vital and political motto of the socialist Pedro Zerolo, the father of the same-sex marriage law who died just seven years ago, is no longer a wish or a claim but a reality. The Senate, after four failed parliamentary attempts over fifteen years, completed this Wednesday the approval of the first Spanish law for equal treatment and non-discrimination, a text that its signatory, the socialist group, nicknames as 'Zerolo law ', in tribute to those who promoted and defended it from 2007 until a few days before his death.

The norm that punishes prejudice, marginalization, humiliation or exclusion against any citizen, whatever it may be or wherever it comes from, goes ahead on the eve of the Pride party by overwhelming majority. It is supported by two thirds of Parliament, all groups except PP and Vox. In favor of the law, which will enter into force in a matter of days, as soon as Congress ratifies the last minute amendments of the Senate, the two partners of the Government, ERC, Ciudadanos, PNV, JxCat, EH Bildu and all the minority voted.

The law does not create new rights, but strives to ensure that all existing ones are respected. Its raison d'être is that no one can be discriminated against because of their place of birth, ethnicity, age, gender or orientation, religion, beliefs, disability, religion or socioeconomic status. It seeks that the maxim leaves the theoretical plane and becomes a reality in everyday life, in school, health, housing, employment, the police and the courts, shopping, access to public places or in the digital world . In fact, one of the innovations introduced in the Senate, at the proposal of the PNV, has an impact on this level, which requires any website or computer application to be accessible to any user, with special attention to the elderly or people with disabilities.

It persecutes behaviors that are not crimes, but discrimination and hate speech both in the public and private spheres and establishes obligations and sanctions that can reach half a million euros.

Who will watch?

The prosecution of discrimination and the imposition of sanctions is the task of the administration concerned in each case. But, the Independent Authority for Equal Treatment is created, a single-person position with functional autonomy, similar to the Ombudsman, which will be proposed by the Government and ratified by Parliament for a period of five years. It will support the victims, it will be a mediation body, it will investigate ex officio or on demand, it will promote legal actions and demand administrative sanctions.

injustices of every day

Examples of behaviors to be banished or punished are preventing someone from being denied a rental or purchase of a flat because they are Roma, entering a nightclub or a shop because they are an immigrant, disabled or black, receiving medical treatment because they are lesbian or losing her job for wearing a hijab.

Segregator algorithms

The rule incorporates measures such as the review of the algorithms used by the Administration in decision-making, to prevent them from having discriminatory biases, or the loss of the subsidy of educational centers that obstruct the access of students due to sex or other personal characteristics.


The sanctions will range from minor (300 to 10,000 euros) to serious (10,001 to 40,000) or very serious (40,001 to 500,000). The most serious are multiple discrimination, harassment and pressure on authority. Fines of more than 300,000 euros will be imposed by the Council of Ministers. The money will go to raise awareness against these prejudices.

Officer aggravation

In order to graduate the varied range of sanctions, intentionality, damage, those affected, recidivism, and social repercussion will be taken into account. The fine will always reach the maximum if it is committed by a public worker in his function.

reverse the burden of proof

A transcendental element for the success of the law is that it reverses the burden of proof. If there are well-founded indications of discrimination, it will be the suspect who must prove that he did not commit it.

crime of antigypsyism

An amendment by PSOE, Podemos and Cs reforms the Penal Code and converts anti-Gypsyism, incitement to hatred or discrimination against this ethnic group, into a crime identical to anti-Semitism or racism (1 to 4 years in prison).

Closures and losses of aid

Very serious offenses, in addition to fines, can lead to loss of aid or contracts, payment of compensation or the closure of the premises or the temporary cessation of professional activity for a maximum of five years. For minor and serious cases, the fines may be replaced by courses or work to repair the damage.

special prosecutor's office

The norm modifies the Fiscal Statute to consecrate by law the existence of the Prosecutor's Office for Hate Crimes with the highest category and with delegates and its own means in all provinces.

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