Danger in Cuba for Potential Rise in Violence against Women

Social isolation implemented on the Caribbean island to limit the spread of the coronavirus may aggravate violence against women.

By IPS Cuba    

Experts warn of the need to activate resources and response mechanisms to attend to women victims of violence during these moments, when social isolation measures have been taken to prevent the spread of covid-19. Photo: Jorge Luis Baños / IPS

HAVANA TIMES – The necessary measures of social isolation against the expansion of the coronavirus are accompanied by an additional risk for a significant number of women who, anywhere in the world and also in Cuba deal with situations of violence from their partners and in their own homes.

“Forced daily cohabitation, limitations during isolation, the effect that this serious global state which endangers our lives has in each person; in addition to poor anger management and difficulty in controlling emotions, can increase violent relationships,” said psychiatrist Ivón Ernand.

Member of the Legal and Psychological Counseling for Women Victims of Gender Violence team, at the non-governmental organization, Oscar Arnulfo Romero Center (OAR), Ernand considered it “paradoxical” that not all people are safe inside their homes, especially women.

The situation could worsen for Cuban women who were already living at risk of violence before the isolation caused by the coronavirus. “To help these women, so that they can get out of these abusive situations and seek help, it is essential that network support works,” warned sociologist Clotilde Proveyer.

Global Risks in Cuba

United Nations sources advise that, in emergency contexts, “the risks of violence against women and girls, especially domestic violence, increase.

According to UN Women, at times like this, victims face additional obstacles in accessing “essential and life-saving services”.

Specialized UN agencies report that, since the beginning of the pandemic, cases of violence against women have skyrocketed in China, Italy, France and Korea. While in Spain all criminal acts except gender-based violence decreased, in Mexico requests for shelter due to gender-based violence doubled.

The problem takes on other nuances in Cuba, where public recognition of this type of violence is relatively recent, there is no specific law on gender-based violence against women, nor shelters, and existing care services are still very limited, remote, and little known by the population.

A survey on sexual abuse victims, conducted in 2018 by lawyer Lázaro Enrique Ramos, revealed that 29 percent of the women interviewed acknowledged having been victims of sexual violence, more than 30 percent of the cases occurred in the victim’s home, and 74.2 percent were never reported.

According to the National Gender Equality Survey 2016, 26.7 percent of Cuban women had been victims of violence by their partners in the 12 months prior to the study. Women acknowledged psychological violence first, followed by economic, physical and sexual violence.

Responses from civil society

In face of the inability to continue to provide in-person attention to women, the legal and psychological counseling team at OAR, based in this capital, provides services to victims of violence through the following e-mail addresses: consejerí[email protected] and [email protected].

“We are in contact with the Attorney General’s Office and the Federation of Cuban Women to agree on the necessary actions in each case,” said Ernand.

Likewise, the Christian Center for Reflection and Dialogue (CCRD)-Cuba, activated a telephone helpline (45521510), and posted the information visibly on the front and back doors of the center, located in the city of Cárdenas, 150 km east of Havana.

“Attention to women as well as children who are victims of violence, will remain to be provided together with the police,” said Rita García, Executive Director of the CCRD.

And the YoSíTeCreoenCuba (Yes I believe you) support platform for victims of violence opened a telephone counseling center on March 27th (+53 55818918), which provides psychological help, legal advice and accompaniment to women in abusive situations.

Journalist Jesús Muñoz additionally warned on his Facebook profile about the dangers of harassment against women in now empty public spaces.

Regardless of social networks, Proveyer believes that alternatives need to be sought in the government’s national media to raise awareness.

“We must pay attention to the needs of those around us–a neighbor, a family member, a work colleague–call them, advise them, and, of course, share options with them so that in a crisis they know where to go,” Proveyer added. 

“Maybe they will have to come to our house or to a medical service, taking all the required protective measures, but it is a way of preventing and fulfilling our responsibility as citizens. Being in physical isolation does not mean we are in human isolation,” said Proveyer.


Suggestions for women during social isolation

As a measure of self-care, OAR recommends that it is important to share with neighbors or allies a word or sound that will alert them if you are threatened or in danger. Or create a password –either a number or a word–, that you can quickly send via WhatsApp or messenger and share it with your contacts or support networks.

Under current conditions, you can request help or information via telephone:
Attorney General’s Office: 802-12345
FMC (National office): 7 838-3540 /7 838-3541/7 838-3542
PNR (Police): 106
More information on the OAR website or by email: [email protected]


7 thoughts on “Danger in Cuba for Potential Rise in Violence against Women

  • The battle of the sexes exacerbated. Can we all get along ?

  • I ask: if you think you know of Cuban Culture, If a Lady Meets a Canadian Man After more then 2 years of Divorce from her Ex Husband, The Ex Husband has the right to Beat on the Ex Wife with No interference from the Police. I am That Canadian that had taken my Cuban Wife directly to the Doctor in the Mid of Night. Now I know you will never meet my wife or her ex Husband & I asked her how possible this could happen to a 40 yr old lady that is Country Olympic Tuff, The Ex Husband is a soft school teacher of young children. She Explains with her 6 year old daughter in her arms she had NO Defense. If the Husband pulls a Lady,s hair over the side of the Bed & in one swipe of his Machete removes much of her near waste long Hair, As she was Sleeping. Why Do Cuban Ladys Come find Canadian Men. I write Honestly to Help all the Ladys Equal of Cuba.

  • @Jan
    Nor did I Jan. I pointed out the proportional difference. The Courts in many countries now realize that in cases of divorce where children are involved, the rights of both father and mother have to be considered. Because of that, it is no longer the practice to award custody almost automatically to the mother. But, as ‘Stephen’ has explained, in Canada they have established “safe houses” to protect women and their children from physically abusive fathers (or subsequent partners) – and they are usually fully occupied.

  • @ Carlyle,
    I don’t condone any violence against women.
    But if a man is injured by the verbal arrows, the woman fires at him all day.
    She can expect the man to take his sword
    It is incorrect to put the blame for this entirely on men.

  • This article does a very good service particularly to women who are, overwhelmingly, the victims of severe violent spousal abuse during this pandemic.

    Humans by their very social nature are not accustomed to be being cooped up for long periods of time. Add to this significant stress is perhaps the loss of a job and money, the family headed usually by a male bread winner, kids constantly at home bored and frustrated with little to entertain them, and someone having to go out to put bread on the table when the authorities insist everyone to stay home. This is a metaphorical elastic ready to snap.

    In Cuba there is even more stresses and strains on the family as a single person must go out to literally search for food and must stand in a line for countless hours hoping to be able to buy something to feed the family. More often than not the shopper comes home empty handed or with food that really hadn’t been planned to buy: crackers rather than chicken.

    So, the entire family becomes a house of depressed, anxious, and emotionally frustrated and very angry with outside forces that they have absolutely no control in ameliorating. Spouses begin bickering, yelling, screaming taking out anger at one another.

    Statistically in this very extreme pandemic situation and even at the best of times, males are more prone to be perpetrators of physical violence towards women leading to extreme potential physical harm towards their spouse and children. This is a universal fact and occurs too often as correctly stated in the article.

    In Canada, the government has recognized this unfortunate fact and has allocated millions of dollars to “safe houses” where, usually women, trying to escape physical harm can receive respite. These are safe places where a person has access to a private living quarters or apartment with all the amenities to ensure physical and emotional protection from the abuser. The abuser is reported to the police and cannot venture close to the victim’s domicile otherwise will be arrested.

    Proveyer is absolutely correct in his statement: “Being in physical isolation does not mean we are in human isolation”. There are people and places ready to help out there no matter what country one resides.

  • A question for Jan Vangriezegrubbe. How many cases of verbal abuse have given black eyes, broken noses, cracked ribs and serious injury? It is called having a sense of proportion Jan!

  • This article describes this problem very unilaterally
    The verbal violence of women against men is completely disregarded

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