By Javier Herrera
HAVANA TIMES – I don’t like to write about the same subject more than once, but reality is forcing me to. I published an article with a similar headline on Havana Times on February 6th, reporting and warning about the awful death toll gender-based violence is leaving on Cuban women. This article is called 2.0 just to give it a name, because the truth is this isn’t just my cry for help, and it hasn’t only been made twice, but thousands of times and it resounds in the sensitive ears that hear it.
Since February 6th, different persons from Cuban civil society have made a similar appeal and issued a similar warning. I’d like to especially thank the Femicide Observatory at Yo Si Te Creo Cuba and the Gender Observatory on El Toque’s digital magazine for their vast work keeping gender-based violence statistics up to date, investigating cases that come to their attention and making these results public; all of this despite the harassment and persecution by the Police, who should really be doing this work instead.
It doesn’t matter how many voices are complaining, the Cuban State remains indifferent and only bothers to do the police work once the murder has taken place. Since February 6th up until today, there have been another 40 femicides this year, reaching the spine-chilling number of 46 women murdered (including a trans woman).
A few days ago, Mariela Castro, Director of CENESEX and daughter of former Cuban President Raul Castro, announced that we have the conditions for safety against gender-based violence incidents with the Federation of Cuban Women and the country’s civil and criminal corpus juris.
Her speech got me angry because it was so brazenly false. Despite Cuba having pretty much a brand new Constitution, a recently approved Family Act that is now in force and a Criminal Code that came into force just a year ago, none of them categorize and condemn femicide as a specific crime.
On the other hand, gender-based violence accusations normally end up in a fine for the perpetrator if the police file the complaint, because there have been cases where the police refuse to process the complaint.
It’s worth pointing out that gender-based violence is the breeding ground for femicide, and that it begins a long time before the fatal outcome. For that reason, it would be fair to think that serious efforts to tackle gender-based violence could reduce the number of cases. But if we add the police’s and courts’ slack attitude to these incidents, we realize that there aren’t any real conditions here to eradicate this evil that is trying to plant roots in our country.
The Federation of Cuban Women, which the Cuban Government praises so highly, is a women’s organization that only promotes pro-government actions to its members. Meanwhile, it hasn’t carried out a single study and statistical analysis of gender-based violence, at least not publicly. Nor does it directly provide protection, shelter, or relocation services for the victims of this violence.
Lots of the time, perpetrators of femicide have been in police stations time and time again because of gender-based violence, and then they are back out free on the streets a few days later, on the prowl, intimidating, abusing, and finally killing the victim. Thus, if you launch a large arrest operation to find the murderer… then it doesn’t matter what sentence you give the criminal, no sentence will ever bring back that victim’s life.
In the meantime, the Cuban State uses the Police to persecute and harass people who dare to do the work it should really be doing itself, resorting to violence a lot of the time.
If there’s anyone here thinking that 46 feminicides isn’t a lot or doesn’t seem so high, I’d like to say that one, just one woman who is a victim of gender-based violence is too much, and therefore intolerable. We come from a women, we feed from a women, most of the time it’s women who are responsible for raising and educating us, we marry a woman, we have our descendants with a woman… it would make sense for us to look after women instead of abuse and kill them.
But putting this figure in a comparative context, I think it’s wise to point out that last year, independent observatories recorded 34 femicides, while we’re already at 46 so far this year and we haven’t even reached half-way yet. To make this number even more terrifying – if that’s possible, I’d like to point out that a woman is being murdered every 3.82 days, which means a woman is being killed every 3 days and 20 hours.
The time to stop the massacre was yesterday, the massacre should never start again. I urge men to stop and think what they would feel and think if it was their mother who was on the receiving hand of this violence or a victim of murder… What if it was his sister, or even his daughter?
I appeal to the Cuban State, the media and pro-government journalists to wake up to this silent epidemic. It’s time to complain by every means possible, it’s time to take effective and real action to stop the bloodshed. It’s unacceptable that the State isn’t taking pressing action. Different feminist organizations on the island have been calling for a State of Emergency for Gender-Based Violence for a long time now… this isn’t a “fairytale invented by Imperialism,” these are our women dying, leaving children abandoned, families devastated… What else does the Cuban State need to do on this issue?
- Reliable and immediate information about gender-based violence incidents.
- Publish reliable statistics on the issue.
- Educational work focused on society on the whole, via mass media, schools and educational centers.
- Preventive work via social workers, psychologists, police, courts and other institutions and factors that might have an impact.
- Setting up shelters and enabling relocation for victims of violence.
- Declare a state of emergency for gender-based violence.
- Set up hotlines so victims can report violence and receive anonymous guidance.
- Classify femicide as a specific crime, as well as harsher sentences for perpetrators.
… and a lot more that experts in the field or with knowledge of the cause might be able to suggest.
Laws aren’t enough to stop the killing on their own. It’s a multifaceted problem, and as such needs to be attacked from different angles… We just need the will to do so.
While the Cuban State ignores the many voices that are crying out, I’ll turn to God and shout:
God, please, NOT ONE MORE!