DOMINICAN REPUBLIC:Marching Against Machismo
Elizabeth Eames Roebling
SANTO DOMINGO, Nov 25 (IPS) -
Raising their voices in agreement with the declaration over the loudspeaker that "machismo kills", hundreds of Dominican women, carrying banners and roses, ended a march through the streets of Santo Domingo Tuesday in front of the Supreme Court Building, protesting the rising level of murders of women.
On the steps of the court, four women were chained together, with the end of the chain held by a man who stood on the step above them. Drummers assembled and started a pounding beat to accentuate the voices of the women, shouting "No to the Violence!" "No to the Killings!" "No to the Silence!"
The Police Department recently released statistics showing that 154 women had been killed this year. Of these, 102 were killed by their intimate partners. This is seven more than last year. According to a report issued by Spanish authorities, this places the Dominican Republic as the sixth highest nation in the world in the rate of the murder of women.
The police have started a publicity campaign on television and radio against the rise in crime in the country. Although many have attributed the rise to organised drug crime, the statistics show that only a third of the crime is "organised". According to an interview with Franklin Almeyda, Secretario de Estado de Interior y Policia, "Over two thirds of the crimes are perpetrated by citizens are cases of inter-family violence, street fights, and other types of incidents."
Gracia de la Cruz, of the group, SER MUJER, told IPS, "I am not sure if there is really an increase in the violence or that it is that we have become more successful in showing the reality in the country. The police are keeping better records now. More women are coming forward now." "We must continue to denounce the violence. We must not be ashamed to do this," she said. "Many men hit women in parts of the body which are not seen. The women take pains not show that they have been beaten. We have had a culture which has blamed the women. Also many women are afraid to denounce their partners. They are afraid that they will be left without any resources for themselves and their children. "
Among the handouts to the crowd, a publication by CIPF (Centro de Investigation para Accion Feminina) had a definition of "machismo", a word which has defied English translation. It is "the expression of the magnification of the masculine, the exaltation of brute physical superiority, brute force and the legitimisation of a stereotype which creates unjust power relations."
In two studies on the murders of women in the Dominican Republic, done by ProFamilia in 2002 and 2003, interviews with killers showed that these violent men had the perception that a man, by the sole merit of being one, had the rights of a permanent privileged status in relation to women, treating them, consciously and unconsciously, as servants in all circumstances and over all women. Fatima Portareal of the Collectiva de Mujer y Salud explained the significance of this particular day: "We have a history in this country of standing up to violence. Today is a great day in our history. For today, the 25th of November, marks the day of the assassination of the Mirabel sisters who fought against Trujillo."
"The United Nations, in recognition of their bravery, declared this day to be in the International Day Against Violence towards Women. Therefore, we Dominican women, women from the city and the countryside, have come here to present the government with a document asking for greater protection for women."
The actual document presented showed the differing agendas of the four organising groups, Colective Mujer y Salud (SMS), Centro de Apoyos Aqeularre (CEAPA), Centro de Servicios Lesgales Para la Mujer (CENSEL), and Confederacion Nacional de Mujeres del Campo (CONAMUCA). Calling for an end to "the beatings, the wounds, the psychological aggressions, the risk of contracting AIDS," the proclamation also called for an end to the "blackouts, social abandonment, officially sanctioned gender violence, neoliberal political economics, and free trade agreements which impose the use of foods with genetically altered seeds". All "constitute the principal expression of violence under which Dominican women live."
In addition, the document called for constitutional reform on the issue of therapeutic abortion, which is not permitted under any circumstances. The women's groups are calling for the right of abortion to protect the life and health of the mother, and in the case of rape or incest. This effort has the support of the nation's Obstetricians and Gynecological Doctors' Association.
It was assumed to be close to passage last year, despite the opposition of the Catholic Church. However, anti-abortion protesters arrived here from the United States and placed explicit videos on the desk of each legislator. The measure was defeated. Both doctors and women are subject to imprisonment under the current law.
The three Mirabel sisters, whose husbands were imprisoned by Trujillo, were assassinated in 1961. Their courage has been credited with galvanising the resistance to the dictator. The story was popularised in English in the book and movie "In the Time of Butterflies" by the Dominican-American author Julia Alvarez. One of the Mirabel sisters, Minerva, was asked, "And if they kill you?" She responded: "If they kill me, I will raise my arms from the grave and be even stronger." (END/2008)