Activists Denounce Political Violence Against Women in Cuba

Saturday, March 21, 2015
From El Nuevo Herald:

Activists denounce violence against opposition women in Cuba

Political violence against opposition women and civil society activists in Cuba was denounced by several Cuban representatives attending an international conference on the status of women in Latin America and the Caribbean, which takes place this Thursday at Florida International University.

“Being a woman in Cuba is more than a gender. It is also a political classification of the dictatorship,” said the leader of the Ladies in White movement, Berta Soler, who defined the Cuban government as “a racist, sexist, and discriminatory dictatorship.”

Soler said that in Cuba, “the freedom of women and blacks can only exist if they adjust to the premise of ‘within the Revolution everything, outside of the Revolution nothing,’” alluding to the speech known as Words to the Intellectuals, given by Fidel Castro in June 1961 which set the limits of political expression in the decades that followed.

Attorney Laritza Diversent, president of the Legal Information Center Cubalex, denounced what she considered “institutionalized violence” and “specific forms of discrimination” against women associated to the opposition, among them “threats of punishments against their sons” and “sexual elements in [police] searches.”

The attorney cited practices such as “making [women] undress to search their genitals” looking for recording devices and their jailing in cells that lack privacy, situations which she charged are “habitual” according to her experience providing legal assistance to some of these women.

 For Yoani Sánchez, known blogger and director of the digital journal 14ymedio,“being a woman has sometimes become an added difficulty to doing my job,” according to her comments to those present via teleconference from Georgetown University, where she is carrying out research on digital journalism. “We are in a continent with a very masculine policy based on confrontation, and in Cuba’s case, one of the worst examples in the region,” she added.

Sánchez denounced domestic violence as “an underlying drama that the official propaganda does not want to show.” She listed the problems Cuban women face, including being trapped in a double-shift work day, lacking the possibility of “organizing in an independent way to defend women claims.”

“Despite the government’s gloating about women’s participation [in society], women have little real power in Cuba; it is enough to see how many women drive a car, own a home or have a small business and we will see what remains for women to do,” she said.

“The most important challenge is to find political space for women, not only in terms of participation but also so that they can bring women’s concerns into politics. Being a woman  does not signify weakness,” she clarified, [what is needed is] “a policy of reconciliation,” an “inclusive” character, which according to her, should be a priority in Cuban politics.

“I hope that the policy will cease being defined by gender,” she added.