14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 25 August 2018 — A few weeks ago, purely by chance, I attended an international event about the treatment of gender violence in the press. The official Cuban representative at the meeting, with a certain pride and a touch of superiority, emphasized that on the island there was no “crime blotter” and femicides are not a problem.
This week, two events reminded me of those words. One was the 58th anniversary of the founding of the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), a pro-government organization that has done immense harm to the feminist cause on the Island by promoting a sugarcoated version of reality, silencing aggressions against women and monopolizing their social representation.
The other memory triggered was the publication of a note in the Cienfuegos newspaper, September 5th, about the sentences handed out to the three perpetrators of the kidnapping, rape and murder of a 19-year-old girl. In an unusual gesture, the local media followed the case starting last year, when the father of the victim insisted on speaking out and making the tragedy known, and did not rest until he achieved that.
Editorial distinction goes to September 5th’s news reporting which broke the official silence, although the coverage was sparse and several times lacked the minimum requirements for information reporting. For example, the description of the context of gender violence in which the murder of Leidy Maura Pacheco Mur took place was missing, and the journalist took great care not to mention words such as “femicide.” An omission caused, in part, by the lack of statistics on the real incidence of this scourge.
In that same Cienfuegos city, in May of this year, a mother and her daughter were stabbed to death by the latter’s ex-husband. Their deaths were reported only by the independent press and are not part of the presentations from the FMC when they go on tour around the world, nor have they reached the archives of UN Women, the United Nations entity dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women.
This lack of institutional information does not prevent each Cuban woman from having her own list of friends, neighbors or relatives who have died at the hands of an abusive husband, or who have been raped or suffered harassment. This personal record includes the sexual pressures of their bosses at work, groping on public transport and even the catcalls that he believes are compliments that she sees as aggressions.
To hide this situation and to silence with lies what needs to be made visible makes the problem worse because it prevents the establishment of a clear idea of the risks. How many times have we heard advice such “don’t walk down that street in the dark,” “call when you get there,” “don’t you feel alone in that park”? If the Cuban reality presents so many dangers for us, why isn’t the national media alerting us to them?
While thousands of women in Latin America march under the slogan “Not one more,” the victims of sexist violence on the Island can not be remembered in the streets and their faces are filed away only in that long gallery of outrages and aggressions that we carry in our memories. Every day that passes without public recognition of the true dimension of what is happening emboldens aggressors and weakens women.
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