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NICARAGUA
Women mobilize in defense of their lives
Carmen Herrera
9/13/2017
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Reversals in public policies for the protection of women victims of violence promote femicides.

August was the month in which the most horrendous cases of femicides of the last few years occurred in Nicaragua: a pregnant woman was murdered, while a second one was beheaded and her head not found until 17 days after her headless body was discovered. These separate events took place at a time when Nicaragua is considered to be the safest country in Central America, with a low homicide rate of 7 per 100,000 inhabitants, according to the National Police, and also has been mentioned by the World Economic Forum (WEF) as being in the top place of the gender parity index in Latin America.

From January to August, 37 women have been murdered just for the fact of being women. Feminist activists, human rights defenders, social communicators, analysts, opposition party members and some of the media have made their voices heard on how to put a stop to this scourge and the need to identify the reasons for the increase in murders and the cruelty with which these crimes are taking place.

Among the main reasons mentioned by feminist groups are the precarious application of the Comprehensive Law against Violence towards Women, Law 779 passed in June 2012, whose regulations were revised in July 2014 to include a mediation processes between victims and perpetrators of domestic violence, as well as the closing of the Women’s Police Stations in January 2016, which had provided protection to those women that reported living in violence, and issued restraining orders.

Given the lack of public policies that provide answers to this pandemic, the highest levels of government remain silent and the National Police refer to “common murders or passion killings” so as not to classify the cases of femicide as such, while the leadership in government claim as inclusive policy the fact that half of state workers are women, and the creation of neighborhood organizations that promote the understanding of couples that live this violence, in order to foster and maintain the “family unity.”

However, according to feminists, this “family unity” promoted by the government, along with the reform to the regulation of Law 779 that includes mediation as part of the process of pressing charges by the affected parties, has resulted in more cases of violence and an increase in cases of femicide.

“There are setbacks in criminal matters; the reforms and the regulations of Law 779 have butchered the law itself, and this has had a direct impact. On one side is the cruelty with which these women are being murdered, and on the other is the fact that they cannot find the institutional response which is the one that is failing, and we find ourselves facing such horrendous crimes. Many of these women pressed charges and were not provided the proper protection, and the answer coming from the aggressors, instead of stopping the violence, is to act with more cruelty and go to the extreme that is femicide,” said to Latinamerica Press, Juanita Jiménez, executive director of the Autonomous Women’s Movement (MAN).

Unprotected women
The Women’s Police Stations, where different public institutions and women organizations of civil society participated, was a model “that involved an entire process of setting priorities and the specialization of the situations of violence and included obligations from public officers at different levels. A woman who reported a situation of violence first had to be protected, and that protection entailed a series of paperwork at the institutional level; for example, the protective measures to prevent that the man kill her or to prevent that the situation escalates to a more violent event,” tells Jiménez.

“In this comprehensive model of attention, the Police, which included the Women’s Police Stations, and the Public Ministry, as the representative of the victims, did a slew of paperwork with the intention of quickening the process for pressing charges, evaluate the risks faced by the women, like the protection mechanisms such as shelters that were or are still present in women organizations, and there was a prioritization, whether to stop the aggressor or to establish protection measures, precautionary measures, and this implied some specific prohibitions for the men that included leaving the house or even an arrest, depending on the facts of the situation,” explains Jiménez.

Therefore, one of the lines demanded by women’s movements is to reestablish the Women’s Police Stations and the repeal of the reforms to Law 779, in terms of the mediation process.

“The goal of the government, to make disappear these police units and the intermediation reforms, shows its lack of commitment towards women’s rights, and this originates from the criminalization of abortion when, with a majority of the vote from the Sandinista Party members, in the National Assembly, abortion was criminalized in 2016. This is just part of the same practice of dismantling all that has been built by civil organizations and women’s organizations in matters of human rights for women,” Jiménez explains.

“There are urgent institutional measures needed to put a stop to this wave of violence against women. We need preventive policies against violence; we need that the Inter-institutional Commission functions so that Law 779 is applied correctly. We need that the Women’s Police Stations reopen and a budget to apply Law 779 to save the lives of so many women,” said in social media Sandra Ramos, from the María Elena Cuadra Movement.

Strengthening of the macho culture
For the women’s movement, in practice, the government policy of President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice-President Rosario Murillo, is of misogyny, since it has a focus on religion and a family-based approach that strengthens the macho culture that organized women have attacked for over three decades.

The current regime, they consider, saw the programs promoted by the Women’s Police Stations and Law 779 as instruments that go against their governmental policy, “because what they want is not only to establish a line of argument, but a practice where us women are not keepers of our own rights, but the institution of family, and not the democratic family, but the traditional conservative and machista family that has to prevail, where us women have a submissive role and not subject to rights. The institutional dismantling of the protection of women is not accidental; it has everything to do with that model of the government of strengthening the family from a traditional misogynistic perspective,” some of the women interviewed agree on.

The escalation of violence against women finds strength also from the sensationalist approach of the media in regards to how they deal with the subject of femicides, as expressed to Latinamerica Press by Gema Manzanares, from the EnRedadas, Tecnología para la Igualdad, a feminist initiative group.

“I feel that society if becoming desensitized and this has to do with the overexposure of the cases of murders committed against women, and the use of the most macabre details to attract viewership attention. How many times in this past couple of weeks [Aug. 10 to 27] we have been told that the head of Karla Rostrán [the woman decapitated by her ex-husband this past Aug. 10] has not been found, how many social images have been built around her beheading, everyone is on edge to find out when her head will be found. This is a gory detail that has prevailed in the agenda of the media regarding femicide.”

As a response to this wave of femicides, the women’s movement called for simultaneous demonstrations all across the country on Aug. 24, called “Silence March,” and participants were invited to wear red as a “stop” symbol to the machista violence.

“The march in itself was a symbolic march where many young women participated” said Jiménez. “More women are taking part in defending their own lives. There were also men in the march but they were just a small minority. It is important that more men come out and demand that women’s rights be respected. We believe that this dynamic that more people come out to voice their opinions, not only from the feminist side, but also from other men and women sectors who are not organized to come out and say stop to femicide, is important to reverse this culture of murder of women.” —Latinamerica Press.


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Silence March, in Managua, in repudiation of femicides. / Courtesy of Onda Local
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