By Laura Becquer
Havana, Nov 10 (EFE).- Last month’s conviction of a singer-songwriter with ties to ruling circles on charges he sexually assaulted multiple women has been hailed by some Cuban feminists as a sign that authorities on the Communist-ruled island are taking the problem of gender violence seriously.
Other activists, however, are more focused on the non-custodial nature of the five-year sentence imposed on Fernando Becquer, 52.
The verdict, handed down Oct. 18, is subject to appeal by both the prosecution and the defense.
In a brief Twitter post omitting any mention of Becquer by name, the official Federation of Cuban Women (FMC) invoked the concept of “zero tolerance” and said that the trial was conducted “as established by the law.”
A year ago, independent online magazine El Estornudo published a story based on the accounts of five women who accused Becquer of assaulting them during the period 2002-2012.
Becquer denied the allegations and reaction on social media was mixed, with some expressing sympathy for the purported victims and others dismissing the charges as “slander.” But as time passed, 25 other women came forward with accusations against the singer.
When EFE reached out to victims for comment, they said that they will wait for a final ruling before issuing a joint statement.
Yet some of them have been vocal on social media.
“He has not spent one day in prison,” accuser Massiel Carrasquero, who testified at the trial, said, describing the sentence as “weak and unrealistic.”
“Becquer remains on the loose, with access to his ‘hunting’ grounds, with his social status supported by his privileges and liberties and doing what he wants, including harassing his victims on social media,” she wrote.
Another women who testified, Lilliana H. Balance, complained about “institutional silence,” the failure of the culture ministry to prevent Becquer from performing and the “abandonment of the FMC.”
The singer was sentenced to five years of “deprivation of freedom,” which entails having to work at a job assigned by authorities and being required to report regularly to the court and a prohibition on changing residence without permission.
Aylin Torres, an academic who specializes in gender issues, told EFE that the sentence is “inadequate” because there is no reason to think that Becquer will not re-offend.
One who prefers to see the glass as half-full is the director of the feminist website Matria, Monica Rivero, who called the verdict an “important precedent.”
“An accusation that began in the independent press and social media had sufficient resonance for other victims to break the silence and ultimately, take the perpetrator to court. In this case, moreover, a public person close to the institutions,” she told EFE.
The case spurred renewed debate on the need for a law against gender violence, a long-standing demand of activists that the government rejects as unnecessary.
But Rivero is among the experts who see such a law as vital.
“Its specificity would address the gaps and maladjustments in prosecutions for mistreatment, harassment, abuse or rape,” she said. “There would be an essential guide for the management, prevention and punishment of machista violence.”
A gender violence law “would place the discussion in a broader, more complex and comprehensive frame that allows thinking about processes of prevention of violence,” Aylin Torres said.