Appointment of pregnant defence minister sparks controversy in Spain
(dpa) - The appointment of Carme Chacon, 37, as Spain's first female defence minister sparked controversy on Tuesday.
Conservative analysts expressed concern that Chacon's seven-month pregnancy would interfere with her duties, while leftist commentators accused the conservative camp of "machismo."
On Saturday Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero appointed Spain's first cabinet with more women than men, after winning elections on March 9.
The cabinet has nine women, including Zapatero's deputy Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega, and eight men. Men retain heavyweight portfolios such as economy, interior, foreign affairs and justice.
Chacon inspected troops in her first official act as defence minister on Monday, describing her appointment as a contribution to the advancement of women, who make up nearly 20 per cent of Spanish soldiers, within the armed forces.
The leftist daily El Pais stressed Chacon's calm and responsible manner, but the conservative daily El Mundo said the former housing minister knew nothing about military policy and that her profile "clashes with the traditional values and culture of the Spanish army."
Chacon was the world's first defence minister in an advanced state of pregnancy, the daily observed, expressing concern that her upcoming maternity might prevent her from visiting troops on peace missions abroad or from attending NATO meetings.
Zapatero had appointed Chacon in an "exercise of political marketing," El Mundo charged in an editorial.
The conservative daily ABC criticized the creation of the new Equality Ministry to promote parity between the sexes as unnecessary, because equality questions did not concern only women and should be taken care of by the Justice and Interior Ministries.
The new ministry is headed by 31-year-old Bibiana Aido, Spain's youngest minister ever.
Conservative commentators have expressed doubts over the qualifications of Aido and other female ministers, with one columnist describing the cabinet as a "battalion of seamstresses."
Such comments exuded "the foul smell of prejudice and machoist and misogynist opinions," the pro-Socialist daily Publico complained on Tuesday.
Appointments such as that of Chacon should stop being news, Publico columnist Salome Garcia wrote, expressing hope that they would later be seen as something completely normal.