The Secret That Everyone Talks About

It is so easy for many people in Western society to dismiss gender inequality when their women aren’t being forced into marriages, circumcisions, or inhibited from getting an education or medical help. But then what do you call Domestic Abuse?

The United States has done a good job in creating safety nets for women and men that find themselves in an abusive relationship: shelters, self-defense laws, routine screenings at clinics.  But when you look outside of the country, it is a different story.

Cuba, who claims to be progressive towards women, has an interesting stance on Domestic Abuse.

The Federation of Cuban Women was established in 1960 by Vilma Espin, a prominent fighter in the Sierra Maestras and the wife of Raul Castro. It was an incredible progressive movement that opened doors for women. Some of their stated goals were:

  1. Bring women out of the home and into the economy
  2. develop communal services to alleviate domestic work and childcare
  3. mobilize women into government administration and political work
  4. provide adequate working conditions for working mothers
  5. equal opportunities for women

And they accomplished their goal for the most part.  However in 2013, the UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) pointed out to Cuban authorities multiple deficiencies in the country: the lack of legislation governing cases against women, shelters for women who are victims of violence, protection for victims, and punishment for perpetrators.

In that same year, the state informed CEDAW informed them that they would postpone reforming the Family Code — a law that covers marriage, divorce, marital property relationships, adoption, tutelage, recognition of children, obligation of children’s care and education — and consider the possibility of adding a law to address this issue. It hasn’t happened yet.

A peculiar case when Article 42 and 44  of the Cuban Constitution prohibits any kind of discrimination and stipulates that all citizens enjoy equal rights.

According to Laritza Diversent, an attorney at the Cubalex Centre for Legal Information,  Cuba doesn’t consider gender-based violence as a human rights violation. It’s considered a “private problem.”  And because it’s a private problem, there is no such thing as a restraining order or protective order for women.

Even more startling,  no one has a clear statistic of how many women are abused. It’s classified under the Supreme Court. At least, in America we know that in a year, 4,000 women die of domestic abuse. But in Cuba, no one knows the exact figures.  There are no figures on violence, murder on women, or crimes of passion.

It’s an important conversation to have because domestic abuse is not to be treated lightly. It’s not a private problem, it’s a problem that is much too common throughout the world. It’s a human rights violation and should be treated as such.  Hopefully, with Raul Castro at its helm, the tone of blatant dismissal towards Domestic Abuse will change for the better and a dialogue will open up about the best ways to deal with this issue.

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