Por Alejandro Langape
HAVANA TIMES – In a country where the news is often told late and poorly (if it is even told at all) in official media, social media has turned into a unique opportunity for people to learn firsthand about events that would have reached our ears as Radio Bemba (gossip) before breakthrough technologies appeared.
Checking Facebook, I found the following post from Roxana Petrovna Krashnoi Vladivostova, and here is a fragment:
“On the 31st (referring to December 31, 2019), a young woman was chopped to pieces in Jarahueca, Sancti Spiritus province. An ex-convict and ex-husband and father of her daughter, raped her and threw her body over the side of a cliff. This happens quite frequently in this rural area. He sat down and had dinner calmly and then told his brother later on in the evening to call the Yaguajay police, to come for him…”
Facebook also acknowledges that on January 13th, the body of a woman was found in the ruins of the old Neptune movie theater and that on the same very day, Mel Herrera asked himself on his Facebook wall “How can a country be so inept for so long and over and over again” and he told the story about the many beatings, the rape and verbal abuse his mother suffered and how when she tried to report Mel’s father to the police, she didn’t find support and understanding from the police authorities.
Lastly, at about the same time, journalist Lissette Bustamente reported her own torment with her daughter’s father, a militaryman who also repeatedly beat and threatened her.
These aren’t coincidences, isolated cases, much less fake news. In Cuba, gender-based violence is a real, complex and common phenomenon, even though people don’t really pick up on it, especially among young people. This is because for many Cubans, street harassment and hounding with clear connotations, groping and lewd gazes that Cuban women have to endure on the street, in the workplace and public transport, are just part of our Latin idiosyncrasy and bloodier violent behavior such as femicide.
It’s true that the new Cuban Constitution talks about women’s rights and their protection, but the idea of establishing an explicit gender-based violence law isn’t absurd. It would clearly lay out a body of laws that would have to be duly abided by in cases that are considered as such, regulating procedures that are to follow with the alleged aggressors and the women exposed to their violence.
Always under the precept that the women are the victims and should never be blamed. I think about the famous performance piece “A rapist in your path” which was repeated in Havana, and official Cuban media ignored it.
I also think about the conduct that official authorities (namely the police, officials responsible for recording these events, lawyers, therapists, society in general) must have, and even the opportunity to create interdisciplinary support groups for victims. These would include restraining orders for aggressors, setting up centers where victims can turn to find specialist help and a free phone number they can call to report domestic violence and receive information.
All of this and more would fit into the Comprehensive Law Against Gender-Based Violence which forty women proposed for debate during the National Assembly of People’s Power next legislature. The deputies didn’t believe it was necessary to publish an official reply to the petition, it just wasn’t included in the legislative timeline for possible debate, which was quite surprising if we bear in mind the stories I told you at the beginning and the fact that Cuban Parliament is made up by more than half women.
Twenty-five years ago, before the World Conference on Women in Beijing, another group of Cuban women saw their hopes of pushing forward projects that defended Cuban women’s rights crushed. In spite of receiving funding for their trip to Beijing, the Magin women were not allowed to attend. That group outside of the party-line Federation of Cuban Women was frowned upon, and the women were treated like dissidents and a small group that would dissolve by itself.
Not too long ago, Teresa Amarelle, the current president of the Federation whose program of work promotes the integration of women in the revolutionary process above respect for women’s rights and demands (not feminist at all, clearly) spoke about that event in China.
She didn’t mention it to recall the unfair exclusion of the Magin women, but used it instead to highlight advances made, quoting the number of Cuban women in Parliament and their significant presence in productive areas. Nothing was said about gender-based violence and its victims, or that the law in this respect wasn’t included in the debate, at least not in the summary that official media made of her words.
Looking the other way, ignoring that demands that aren’t coming from official bodies. Yesterday, the Magin women were disappointed, now there are forty women who will have to carry on waiting, as well as the many other women who will only be able to beg their current or former partners “not to hit them on the same side” as Melendi sings in one of his songs.