By Rachel D. Rojas (Progreso Weekly)
HAVANA TIMES – A group of 40 Cuban women, knowledgeable and with great sensitivity of the issue of violence against women, submitted a request to Cuba’s National Assembly of Popular Power (ANPP) on November 21st of last year, hoping to include a comprehensive law against gender violence in the country’s legislative calendar, which was initially announced for next April.
Although Latin America is the area with the most legislation passed in favor of women and against sexist violence because of the region’s high rates of gender-based aggression, Cuba still debates whether this specific and different law is necessary at a time when other issues, especially dealing in economic matters, are considered more urgent.
The request had remarkable support on social networks in a short time period. They included prominent personalities in the fields of Cuban art and education, who added their names to the YoSíTeCreo (IDoBelieveYou) website in Cuba.
During the parliament’s last sessions (Dec. 21), the legislative calendar through 2028 was unanimously analyzed and approved. In his closing statement, President Miguel Díaz-Canel said: “We must prepare ourselves to legislate, due to their high sensitivity, on issues such as gender violence, racism, animal abuse and sexual diversity.”
His pronouncement demonstrated the willingness, at the highest levels, of dealing with the subject. However, the issue did not go beyond the discussion level, at least when dealing with a specific law. In the schedule that appeared days after its approval in parliament, there was no Comprehensive Law against Gender Violence. When the official version of the first part of said calendar was finally made public, the result was no different: a law against such violence was left out of the 107 legal norms that will be created or modified during the next almost 10 years.
Meanwhile, the 40 citizens who submitted the request to the ANPP did not receive a formal response from the legislative body representing the people, which has the obligation to process and respond to complaints and petitions of the people as established in Article 61 of the Constitution.
It was on January 10 that a meeting was held, and cited by the Assembly itself, between four of the signatories, and the representatives of the ANPP. Applicants present were Lidia Magdalena Romero Moreno, Liliana Ariosa Roche, Rita María García Morris, and Teresa Díaz Canals. Participating on the institutional side were Arelys Santana, president of Attention to the Youth, Childhood and Equal Rights of Women Commission of the ANPP; along with José Luis Toledo, president of the ANPP Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs; and Madalina Marrero, head of the Area of Attention to the Population of the ANPP.
During the meeting, the official group explained that it had met with representatives of the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), the National Union of Jurists of Cuba, criminologists, and other professionals, to “analyze whether there is the existence of impunity in cases of gender violence, as per the request presented.” They reported finding no evidence in known cases from an institutional framework while recognizing the existence of unreported or overlooked cases and the need to improve existing legal remedies.
They also reported that in November 2019, the National Group for the Prevention and Care of Domestic Violence, in existence since 1997, had been reactivated. They explained that the legal route confronting gender violence has yet to be determined, and although the Law was not included in the calendar, they insisted that the issue will be reviewed every six months in a flexible manner.
They added that “the proposal so far is to do it by successive means, improving the State’s institutional framework and creating specific niches in existing laws (Criminal Code and Criminal Procedure Law).”
The signatories present expressed the need to effectively protect “half of the Cuban population, who is also charged with the other half through their unpaid domestic work and care.” They also requested details regarding which standards are going to be mainstreamed and what would be the proposed work schedule for that purpose.
They “requested to be called, heard and participated in decisions on how to legislate on sexist violence in Cuba, as well as on gender-based inequality in general. They asked to maintain open the dialogue initiated at the meeting, in addition to a written response to their request.”
The signatories highlighted the request for a law based on the fact that a comprehensive law would allow greater regulatory coherence, while mainstreaming the process that is intended to be initiated without contradictions in the treatment within other standards. A law, the applicants insisted, would function as a binding center for the rest of the rules and avoid the fragmentation of government policies and regulations on the subject. It would also express, without a doubt, the enunciated political will, and greater institutional force.
During the meeting the women delivered a second document with specific proposals for the proposed mainstreaming process. The objective is to contribute to the fact that, even without the Integral Law, the process is comprehensive and coherent in terms of forms and contents and benefits from the experience and training in the field of activists and academics in Cuba.
Cuba in the past has signed on to international laws [among them, the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979), the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (1993), the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development] that imply a commitment, as a society, to carry out actions at the legal, political and institutional levels to eradicate violence against women, recognized as a problem that also exists in Cuba, by the new constitution and the Island’s highest authorities.