Independent feminism in Cuba regrets that its work is “criminalized”

Independent feminism in Cuba regrets that its work is “criminalized”

After each of the nearly 200 feminicides verified in Cuba since 2019—85 this year—lies the challenging work of activists like Yanelys Núñez, who lament that this work is “criminalized,” but see it as a “significant step” to have placed the issue on the public agenda and prompted the government, albeit belatedly, to take action.

Núñez, coordinator of the Gender Observatory of Alas Tensas, an independent feminist publication, tells EFE how activists operate anonymously or even from exile—such as in her case—to record misogynistic crimes on the island. Over time, they have formed alliances with other independent observatories, such as the one from the platform Yo Sí Te Creo En Cuba.

Núñez describes the devilish task of carrying out this registry of misogynistic violence on the island in the absence of regular, transparent, and real-time official data. The first step is to “triangulate the information for any alert received through social media, online forms, email, or observers,” she explains to EFE.

In addition, feminists contact the victim’s family and neighbors, who “in most cases are the ones who bring to light the alert of feminicide, disappearance, or attempted feminicide.” It is not always easy. “Sometimes, it is difficult for a family member to speak because in Cuban society, there is fear of making a public complaint about any issue, or even giving an interview to independent media,” she laments.

Making the misogynistic murders known on social media “can imply fines, threats, and intimidation by government forces and even criminal sanctions. The reaction in many cases when we approach is one of suspicion,” criticizes this feminist.

The next step is to compile a report with the details of the case: name, age, origin of the victim, and the alleged aggressor. All with the help of foreign experts.

The Franco-Argentine association Mundo Sur recognized the work of Alas Tensas and Yo Sí Te Creo En Cuba and included them in the 2022 Latin American map of feminicides. Mundo Sur urges states to implement public policies that contribute to eradicating violence against women in Latin America, based on statistics from the countries included in its map.

A significant step After four years of “limited and difficult” work by Alas Tensas, Núñez claims that the Cuban government has publicly reacted in recent months and incorporated the issue into its discourse. In Cuba, where gender violence is not classified, there is hardly any reporting on misogynistic murders in the official press, and the term “feminicide” or “macho crime” is not used to refer to these cases.

However, in recent months, the officialdom has publicly acknowledged the extent of the problem. Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel called for “zero tolerance” for macho violence this year but also claimed that any criminal act is “exaggerated” in the country, particularly those related to gender violence.

A few days ago, the government stated that misogynistic murders on the island totaled 117 “as of the end of October,” but did not specify the period. EFE requested clarification from the Attorney General’s Office (FGR), but has not received a response at the moment. It also announced that it will implement a registry to report in real-time the deaths of women and girls due to misogynistic violence.

Also read: Leonor Espinosa, The Emotional And Soulful Cuisine Of a Colombian Social Activist

In mid-December, the Attorney General, Yamila Peña, acknowledged in a meeting of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC, the only legal party) leadership that 16,116 women and girls live in a “situation of violence,” the majority of whom are black and mulatto with a low level of education. According to the FGR, in 2022, only 16 misogynistic crimes were recorded, a figure far from the 34 confirmed that same year by the platforms.

Activists like Núñez still feel “powerlessness and frustration” with each new feminicide and demand better coordination to stop this scourge.

“Criminalized” Activism Núñez criticizes that her work is “criminalized” when it “should” have the “support of state institutions.”

“In Cuba, women could be less vulnerable if there were political will,” the Cuban criticizes, who also believes that there has been “inaction” by the government to address gender violence.

She also recalls that independent observers have asked the official Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), and other organizations within the orbit of the PCC, to “fulfill their work, which includes accepting our participation in the political and public life of the country.” “The only thing we have received is silence or discrediting of our work,” she concludes.

EFE, for its part, has contacted the FMC on several occasions regarding this matter but has not received a response. Among the demands of independent feminists are a comprehensive law against macho violence, the declaration of a state of emergency due to this scourge, the establishment of shelters for victims, awareness campaigns, and, of course, the publication of updated official figures on misogynistic crimes.

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