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15th Apr 2024

'It's over': World Cup kiss prompts Spain's 'metoo' protests

  • Spanish football chief Luis Rubiales has refused to step down over the unwanted kiss on the lips he gave (Photo: RFEF)
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Under placards such as "It's not a kiss, it is aggression," "For a feminist sport" and "We are with you, Jenni," hundreds of people gathered on the streets of Madrid on Monday evening (28 August) in support of Spanish star footballer Jenni Hermoso.

Outrage grew during the day as the Spain's high court prosecutor announced a preliminary investigation into the Spanish football chief Luis Rubiales to clarify whether his kiss on the lips of Hermoso, after Spain won the Women's World Cup, constituted an offence of sexual assault.

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"We have agreed to contact Jennifer Hermoso in order to inform her of her rights as a victim of an alleged crime of sexual aggression in the next 15 days," reads the statement from the Spanish prosecutor's office.

Under Spanish law, those found responsible for sexual assault can face up to four years in prison.

But if Hermoso refuses to formally complain, the case will likely be closed.

Under the slogan "Se acabó" [It's over], Spaniards and the international community have expressed their support for Hermoso online and offline — prompting analogies with the #metoo movement which sparked millions of women across the world to talk about their experiences with sexual harassment in 2017.

UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said on Monday that sexism remains an issue of sports culture and urged Spanish authorities to deal with the matter, respecting the rights of female athletes.

"How difficult is it not to kiss somebody on the lips? … I don't see any indication that anything was consensual," he said.

The Greens in the European Parliament also came out in support of the football world champion on Monday. "It's time to kick misogyny out of sports and our culture. We are with Jenni," they tweeted.

'Unacceptable' behaviour

The inappropriate kiss has triggered disgust, a week of continuous criticism, and multiple calls for the resignation of Rubiales, who is currently under a 90-day suspension by Fifa.

And all players in the Spanish World Cup-winning team have refused to play again under the leadership of Rubiales.

Blaming "false feminism" and arguing that he had consent from Hermoso to kiss her, Rubiales refused to step down over the incident last week.

But the midfielder in an official statement confirmed that she was "vulnerable" and a "victim of an impulse-driven, sexist, out of place act without any consent on my part".

Following an extraordinary meeting on Monday, the regional chiefs of the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) urged Rubiales to present his resignation as president of the institution without delay.

They said his "unacceptable" behaviour has damaged the image of Spanish football.

RFEF had previously backed Rubiales threatening to take legal action against Hermoso and accusing her of lying. But it quickly deleted the communique.

RFEF said it had activated its sexual violence protocol on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Rubiales' mother has gone on a hunger strike because of what she termed the "bloody hunt" against her son. 

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