Crime & Justice

Cuban activists, independent media put spotlight on femicides

Havana, Mar 5 (EFE).- Feminism and, above all, denunciations about machista violence has been emphasized in Cuba over the past few weeks thanks to activist online platforms, independent journalists and the social networks, and these issues are things that are also starting to become visible, albeit timidly, in the state-run media.

In the forefront of the ongoing campaign is the independent Cuba-based observatory that monitors violence against women Yo Si Te Creo (Yes, I believe you – YSTC) and the specialized Alas Tensas (Taut Wings) magazine, which have begun keeping track of femicides – that is, murders of women on the basis solely of gender – tabulating 16 so far this year.

“We feel that the greater visibility and public denouncement of femicides is the result of the sustained work by different voices since 2019,” the YSTC activists, who preferred not to be identified, told EFE.

They noted that currently there exists “greater awareness of the problem” and emphasized that thanks to the internet (with mobile online networks being introduced in Cuba in 2018) and to structures like the observatory to monitor anti-female violence, which has tallied 129 women killed due to their gender alone since its founding in 2019.

Some independent media outlets have begun reporting on machista violence and certain Cuban journalists have even been directly confirming such cases through relatives and publishing articles about them.

Thus, the activists said, “a problem is becoming more and more visible, the dimensions of which were not known.” In Cuba, there are no official statistics kept on femicides, just sporadic figures.

The National Gender Equality Survey in 2016, the most recent such canvassing, found that 39.6 percent of the women interviewed said they had been the victims of machista violence. The 2019 national report on fulfilling Agenda 2030 reported 0.99 femicides per 100,000 women 15 years old or more.

YSTC said that “until a real figure is available, starting with official statistics, it will not be possible to define a point of departure and know whether femicides are increasing or decreasing.”

Their list, they said, is merely underreporting. But they said that the message transmitted by the figures is “alarming, worrying and discouraging.” But, they said they believed that starting in 2019 there has been greater visibility for feminist agendas among all media outlets.

The work of these platforms and the dissemination of their activities by some unofficial media outlets has contributed to putting a spotlight on the issue, especially that of violence against women.

In recent weeks, they have broken their silence to report on femicides in the east-central province of Camaguey and the eastern region of Las Tunas. The information from both regions comes from public entities, specifically a police station and a hospital.

But that’s not all. A recent op-ed on the state-run Cubadebate Web site asked if Cuba is experiencing “a wave of femicides.”

The authors themselves responded by saying “We don’t know if more women are actually dying, or if now we’re just learning more (about the incidents). We don’t have all the figures we need,” pointing to the need for more government-compiled statistics.

They also acknowledged that big challenges exist “to develop more effective means of prevention of, attention to and confrontation of gender violence in all its phases” and joined with independent activists in calling for “a comprehensive law focusing on gender violence as a specific issue.”

On Saturday, the secretary of the official Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), Teresa Amarelle, acknowledged that “challenges” persist in achieving gender equality, and she called for the “comprehensive” attention to machista violence.

EFE on several occasions has requested an interview with FMC but so far has received no response.

In this context, YSTC and Alas Tensas have been pushing for a “Declaration of a State of Emergency in Cuba over Gender Violence,” an initiative backed by 15 civil society organizations.

The document denounces the lack of protocols and effective preventive mechanisms in Cuba, the failure to enforce restraining orders, the lack of women’s shelters and problems within the protection networks.

It also demands a comprehensive law against machista violence and condemns the Cuban government for not expressly designating femicide as a crime in the new Penal Code – which went into effect last December – despite the fact that it includes violence due to gender-related motives.

Meanwhile, Alas Tensas last week sent “a strong demand to the official Cuban institutions to act against the increase in femicides” and the disappearance of women and girls, which often go hand in hand.

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