Ivana Moral, 48, like many married women, did all the household chores during her marriage. Now that she’s divorced, a Spanish court ruled that she ought to get back pay for all the years she did it.
In a decision that became public on Tuesday, a court in Velez-Malaga, southern Spain, even calculated the precise amount that she is owed by her ex-husband: Є204,624.86 ($215,664). It is compensation for unpaid housework during their 25-year marriage.
The groundbreaking ruling means that she will receive the equivalent of Spain’s minimum monthly professional wage for the years they were married.
The ruling said that Moral performed all of the house chores “exclusively” during their marriage, which included contributing “punctually” to the family gym business, Euronews reported.
In deciding on the compensation, it also took into account that she was “deprived of any possible career due to her exclusive dedication to the home and family,” adding that the unnamed man exponentially increased his assets throughout their marriage.
According to the report, the man was able to buy a Porsche, a Range Rover, BMW motorbikes, and a 173-acre olive oil farm with the earnings from the family gym business. The Spanish newspaper NIUS reported that the olive farm brings in up to $4,000 ($4,215) for the ex-husband each month. These investments and their returns, were made possible by the woman’s contribution of free labor.
Meanwhile, Moral couldn’t even afford to buy her daughters a set of workbooks, she told NIUS.
The situation isn’t very different for women who work at home in the US. Statistically, in the United States, women earn an average of $0.80 for every dollar earned by a man. There are many causes for this pay gap, but one major factor is that women are doing work they’re not getting paid for. Uncompensated labor is often referred to as “invisible work,” and includes essential household responsibilities like cleaning, child care and taking care of sick family members.
“The reason I decided to speak to the media is I wanted women to know that we can claim for housework when there is a separation of goods agreement,” Moral said in an interview with the publication.
Moral’s lawyer, Marta Fuentes, told the newspaper that the ruling was a victory for women who have labored in the “shadows” of their husbands. Fuentes added: “So he could get on in his career, she [Moral] stayed at home to look after the children… She was his shadow, working behind [him] so he could rise professionally and become someone.”
Some couples have tried to find other solutions, for example, one woman invoiced her husband every week for the hours she spent doing housework.
The idea of paying, or charging, your partner for domestic work done in a marriage, may not be for everyone, but it’s not new. In 1898, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, an American writer and feminist, wrote Women and Economics, arguing that caregiving should be done by paid specialists (both men and women), to make it accessible to everyone, rather than burden only mothers and wives. Almost a century later, in the 1970s, an Italian movement called Wages for Housework made its way to the United States. The movement petitioned the government to pay women for domestic work, arguing that it was central to the economy: How, without mothers and wives, would male workers make it out of the house, fed and ready for work? Not surprisingly, the Wages for Housework eventually fizzled out.
The saying that behind every successful man stands a woman seems to be particularly apt in Moral’s case and this time, she has vindicated all those women who live in their husbands’ shadows.