Female, pregnant – and leading macho Spain's defences
IT'S AN image Spaniards will not soon forget: their new defence minister, reviewing trim, crisply uniformed soldiers, with her belly plump from seven months of pregnancy.
The appointment of Carme Chacon, 37, and with no military experience, is the boldest statement yet from a Socialist government that has made gender equality a priority.
Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the prime minister, who won re-election in March, unveiled a cabinet this week that not only includes the first female defence minister but also has nine women to eight men.
Pictures of Ms Chacon reviewing the soldiers ran on the front page of seven national newspapers the next day, and footage of the event dominated the television news.
Mr Zapatero has enacted sweeping laws to rid male-dominated Spain of gender discrimination.
He has legalised gay marriage, streamlined divorce, forced political parties to field more female candidates and passed a law designed to promote women in the workplace.
Now he has even created an equality ministry. The portfolio went to a woman, Bibiana Aido, who is only 31. Women's groups are delighted with the choice of Ms Chacon to oversee a military force that was not even open to women a generation ago. Now, 15 per cent of its 130,000 troops are female.
Ms Chacon, who was previously housing minister, wore a maternity blouse as she reviewed the troops.
She called them to attention, ordered them to join her in saying: "Long live Spain, long live the king", and told them her appointment was a sign of progress.
"The fact that a woman is taking over responsibility for the defence ministry is proof of integration between Spanish society and its armed forces," Ms Chacon said.
Spaniards are now wondering how the military will digest having a female boss.
A senior military official told El Pais: "We receive her with the same respect as her predecessors, and with even more politeness."
The conservative newspaper El Mundo said: "All signs are that Zapatero is using the armed forces as a guinea pig for a provocative experiment. Time will tell if this is major progress or nonsense."
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