HAVANA TIMES – The essence of the MeToo movement still hasn’t taken firm root in Cuba. The country prefers to remain tied up in its statistics and slogans.
The numbers given for the number of women in the national workforce, at university, working in professions that were thought of as “male” in the past, and overall achievements, are real, there’s no doubt about that.
The inclusion of women in public spaces or in senior positions can’t be denied either. In fact, our National Assembly being composed of over 52% women is a huge achievement. At universities, there are lectures about gender studies; and women make up 62% of further education graduates. The subject of recognizing women is becoming more and more visible in the media: official and alternative media, movies, festivals, international days to commemorate important issues and events.
This is all true, but there are also problems; and violence is one of the worst problems Cuba has because it is so deeply rooted in the fabric of its society. Sexual harassment in any of its possible and real settings, is a constant on our streets, in schools, workplaces, families. Very little is said about it, and it is almost always approached in an improper manner.
If you come to think of it, this silence is almost “understandable” because it means questioning the Power, and we all know what the consequences of this is. Power doesn’t only mean to say people who hold important positions, whether they are a public figure or have been touched by fame; but people who are used to suppressing others, treating them like dirt, seeing them as an object.
At least two people are needed for sexual harassment to take place; but in a machista environment like our own, it involves society as a whole. Some are harassers, others are accomplices (voluntary or not) and others are on the receiving end. A person might shift from one role to another without even realizing it; many victims have been accomplices at some point or another. This is the result of the normality with which we observe certain violent events within a relationship between a man and a woman, regardless of the emotional bond they have.
Many alternative voices and independent organizations have been bringing this issue to the spotlight for years, demanding statistics, analyses, reports. Now, as a result of Dianelis Alfonso filing a domestic violence complaint against musician Jose Luis Cortez (El Tosco), feminists who support the woman have come to the fore, and the subject has been debated online.
However, ordinary Cubans who know very little about the Internet (as they only connect to communicate with relatives and friends) are almost always left in the dark, with no knowledge whatsoever of these media ups and downs.
In spite of the novelty of this news and the support it has garnered, the domestic violence complaint hasn’t had the results it should. When something like this comes to light in another country, it has an immediate impact on the aggressor’s life, but here we still don’t even know what the authorities’ stance is on this subject.
Silence on behalf of the Ministry of Culture and the Federation of Cuban Women is also violence by neglect, covering up or undervaluing our analytical abilities. According to a source close to MINCULT: “measures to be enforced with El Tosco are still being contemplated, although it isn’t easy.” The FMC at least had a meeting with him, but their secrecy prevents us from learning what it was they discussed, what their position was, what we can expect.
There shouldn’t be any silence in a sexual abuse or harassment case because it isn’t a private matter, it’s a public issue that affects our entire society.
Making an incident of sexual harassment or abuse public knowledge doesn’t mean that only stories about famous people matter, on the contrary, the best thing would be to unravel these dark stories anywhere they happen.
Havana Times has compiled accounts from women who have been victims of sexual harassment, but none of them have wanted to disclose their true identity, up until now. Others have even kept secret where these events took place and the name of the aggressor never comes up. This is why Dianelis’ complaint is so important because it is not only the right thing to do, but because it also helps other women who are victims to find strength, and to show men the dangers they expose women to when they abuse them.
We believe that there is still a long way to go in Cuba before these kinds of events are publicly recognized by the mass population. And not because there aren’t harassment cases to report, or rapes to expose; on the contrary, these happen in schools, in workplaces, in military units, on our streets and in our families.
Cuban women don’t live in such a safe country, although when we compare national statistics to other countries, we can verify that there are places where this is still a lot worse. The life stories of our friends, relatives, neighbors, work colleagues confirm that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.
We all have a story to tell when it comes to harassment or abuse, it doesn’t matter where we live, where we work or study, the kinds of clothes we wear or how we present ourselves, whether we are famous or unknown, and regardless of age; it’s the same everywhere, this is the reality for women in a machista society.
We know that very few women will want to go public with their stories, that they are still hesitant or afraid of repercussions, and they sometimes even feel guilty; now is the time to leave all of this behind, we can’t make progress if we don’t recognize what is going on around us. We invite these women to tell their stories, analyze and exorcize the hidden demons that still torment them even when time has passed.
Our pages are also open to the stories of men who have abused their partners at some point. The circumstances don’t matter, we just want you to tell your story and reflect upon what happened. It is an arduous, painful road we have to travel down if we really want a better society.
Please tell us your story of abuse, in any of the forms it has taken in your life. You can contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.