Women Denounce Sexual Assaults in Cuba

HAVANA TIMES – The complaints of women published by the independent media El Estornudo in an investigative report titled Five complaints of sexual abuse against Fernando Becquer seem to have raised the alarm of #metoo in Cuba.

The report collects the testimonies of five women who say they were sexually abused years ago by the troubadour. Becquer, apparently, resorted to religion to recommend to his victims cleansing sessions, in which there were blowjobs, touching, ejaculations, cunnilingus and other sexual practices, as part of the supposed healing of the girls.

His prey were young women between 18 and 23 years old, generally followers of the troubadours that entertained at jam sessions.

Becquer (1970) is a self-taught singer-songwriter who has developed his musical career mainly in small venues, places that are very popular with adolescents and young people.

He is also the author of some songs with aggressive language regarding women. He is a member of the Hermanos Saiz Association and performs regularly at trova festivals such as Longina and others that take place in different provinces of the country. He has only two albums released: Cubano por donde tú quieras and El negro de tu vida.

The bigger picture

Sexual assaults suffered by women in Cuba are largely invisible in the press, state institutions and political figures, although they occur frequently.

Although these complaints are based only on testimonies, there are patterns that can be distinguished. For example, the use of a position of power and influence of the alleged harasser to achieve placing their victims in a position of vulnerability. Likewise, using religion as an excuse for lewd acts. In the case of Becquer, physical force was not used to materialize his wishes and there was no penetration in any of the reported cases.

In the Penal Code in force in Cuba, lascivious abuses against a person of either sex can be punished with (from three to five years in prison),” and concur or not with the article that regulates the crime of rape.

Sex crimes occur in privacy. They are sanctioned many times with single direct evidence: the victim’s statement. Demanding additional evidence from the victim implies transferring responsibility for the investigation to her and contributes to preventing legal complaints from being produced.

Sexually harassed and assaulted women prefer not to place themselves in the complicated terrain of a police and judicial investigation, where she knows she will be tried without being the perpetrator of the crime, but rather the victim. The criminal investigations of these attacks are revictimizing.

The victim of sexual abuse is investigated to determine if she is an innocent, credible victim, that she has not provoked. If she is a suitable victim, her previous sex life will then be examined. She will be required to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that she resisted, that she has not consented.

The Cuban Family Code in Article 26 regulates the treatment between spouses, and is restricted to gender violence from the perspective of marital relations, leaving out other violent variants for those who are not formally married. The effects of psychological violence or cruel physical or mental treatment are not recognized in this body of law, as other legal systems in the region do.

In Cuban criminal law there is also no section of norms that specifically protects women, nor is intrafamily violence classified as a crime in itself, although it is arrived at by inferring to several other crimes.

Crimes such as the arbitrary exercise of rights, homicide, murder, illegal abortion, injuries, abandonment of minors, disabled and helpless, deprivation of liberty, threats, coercion, violation of the home, crime against the right to equality, rape, pedophilia, abuse Lascivious, pimping and human trafficking, sexual abuse, incest, rape and corruption of minors are applied in the protection of women victims of gender violence.

But femicide is not included in Cuba’s criminal legislation, as it is tried only as murder with the aggravating circumstance of kinship with the victim. Its main defect removes the gender component as a motivation from the crime of femicide which is increasing in the country.

Cuban criminal law does not include the criminal figure of harassment, much less when it takes place through electronic devices, which is known as cyberbullying. Women in these cases lack the tools to guarantee their effective protection, since at the Police units they refuse to accept such complaints and there is total impunity.

However, Cuban women can resort to the figure of “sexual abuse”, which is provided for in article 303 of the Penal Code. In theory, this establishes that “a person who a) harasses another with sexual requirements is punished with three months to one year in prison or a fine of one hundred to three hundred quotas.” However, experience indicates that when filing a complaint under this article, the possibility of obtaining a sanction for the harasser is little or none.   

As a curious fact, in the Becquer case the institutions have yet to speak up, and through posts on Facebook, several close friends of the troubadour have given a political turn to the event. They try to defend Becquer with the argument that he is being attacked by “enemies of the Revolution.” The troubadour himself has made use of this recourse; his only response to his accusers has been: “I don’t believe anything; I believe in the Revolution.”

The political turn comes because everything comes to light in an independent media, El Estornudo. The Communist Party Government does not accept the independent press, in fact it is constantly accused of being financed by “the enemy” (the United States). One of the complainants has said that she also went to various official newspapers but is still waiting for a response.

As a result of these public denunciations, more women have joined who say they were abused or at least suffered an attempt on the part of Becquer. El Estornudo has already announced that it is processing the data.

*With information from El Toque and El Estornudo.

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