Tegucigalpa, Jan 26 (EFE).- Xiomara Castro is set to make history on Thursday when she is sworn in as the first female president of Honduras, a country where male chauvinist attitudes and violent crimes targeting women are commonplace.
The victory of the candidate of the left-wing Liberty and Refoundation Party in the Nov. 28, 2021, balloting was a milestone in terms of the influence women are exercising in different social and political aspects, the head of the National Human Rights Commission of Honduras (ombudsman’s office), Blanca Izaguirre, told Efe.
Castro is taking power 67 years after women achieved the right to vote in Honduran general elections.
“It was 67 years ago that we were permitted to vote. The path for a woman in Honduras hasn’t been easy, but (Thursday’s inauguration) is momentous and we now hold the positions necessary to effect the changes we long for,” Izaguirre said.
Women’s suffrage was granted by decree on Jan. 25, 1955, during President Julio Lozano’s administration. The first president elected in part by women voters was Jose Ramon Villeda, who was overthrown in an Oct. 3, 1963, military coup shortly before the end of his six-year term.
The wife of former President Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted in a 2009 military putsch, Castro took a lead role in protests demanding his reinstatement and then unsuccessfully ran for the presidency in 2013 and 2017.
She was finally elected to a four-year term in last November’s balloting and will succeed Juan Orlando Hernandez, who has governed the country since 2014.
Izaguirre, Honduras’ first female human rights commissioner, sees a “promising future” for the 62-year-old Castro but said she also will face major challenges in a country where a “male-chauvinist culture” predominates.
Women in Honduras are victims of “misogyny and smear and discrimination campaigns,” Izaguirre said, adding that despite Castro’s victory they still need a broader role in the country’s political and socioeconomic decision-making.
Although significant strides have been made in terms of political participation, women continue to be victims of violence, forced disappearance, rape, repression and intimidation due to the “indifference of many authorities,” the human rights commissioner said.
Under a gender parity law, women must make up at least 50 percent of political parties’ candidate lists. Yet they currently hold only 26.6 percent of seats in Honduras’ Congress.
Regina Fonseca, of the Tegucigalpa-based Women’s Rights Center (CDM), told Efe that the lack of opportunities for women is one of the outcomes of a “patriarchal mindset.”
“Women are the most sophisticated by-product of the patriarchy because we help perpetuate that way of thinking,” she lamented.
Bringing an end to the social, economic, political and cultural inequality women face will require fostering a “culture of respect and recognition,” Fonseca said.
Although the activist sees the long wait for a female president as evidence of Honduras’ deep-rooted “patriarchal culture,” she said feminist organizations are very hopeful that the situation for the country’s girls and women will improve after Castro takes office.
The CDM’s director of international advocacy said that despite the president-elect’s rise to power “there is still a lot to do” to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence against women in Honduras.
Fonseca said that scourge is one of the most pressing problems facing Honduras, a country of 9.5 million inhabitants where, according to feminist organizations, more than 320 women were murdered in 2021. EFE