Published online by Cambridge University Press: 14 January 2010
The current Spanish Constitution was enacted in December 1978, marking Spain's transition to democracy after Franco's death. The Constitution expresses its commitment with a territorially decentralized rule of law-based state inspired in democratic and welfare-state principles and establishes a parliamentary monarchy. It recognizes the separation of powers and a list of fundamental rights, which, according to an explicit interpretive rule (Art. 10.2) are to be read in conformity with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant international treaties and agreements that Spain has ratified.
The Constitution also foresees the creation of a new organ, the Constitutional Court, which is the ultimate guardian of the Constitution, and is not conceived as part of the ordinary judiciary. This Court has been functioning since 1981. The twelve justices that comprise it are elected for a nine-year term and are appointed by the different branches of government. Among its main attributes for our purposes are those of exercising judicial review of statutes (the ordinary judiciary is not entitled to review laws) and the protection of constitutional rights through amparo. Individuals can bring an action known as an amparo before the Constitutional Court when public authorities have violated their most fundamental rights and the ordinary judiciary has failed to redress their claims.
In few areas can we observe the transformation that Spain has undergone since 1978 better than in the changes women have experienced under the new constitutional order.