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