The Missing Statistics On Women In Cuba
Posted: 08/26/2015 3:50 am EDT
Yoani Sanchez - Award-winning Cuban blogger
Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, 25 August 2015 -- In the neighborhood of
Cayo Hueso everyone knew her as "the woman with the machete slashes."
You didn't have to get too close to see the scars on her arms. These
marks for life were made one night when her husband returned home with
more alcohol than patience and, machete in hand, went after her. He was
in prison for a couple of years and afterwards returned to the same
tenement room where the fight had been. "He didn't have any place else
to live and the police didn't get him out of here," she said,
apologetically. Gender violence creates an unknown number of victims
every day in Cuba, but the statistics on these acts are not made public.
For weeks now, marking the 55th anniversary of the Federation of Cuban
Women (FMC), we've had to hear on television and in the official press
the numbers of women who have achieved administrative positions, who are
at the helm of a company, a part of Parliament or who have managed to
graduate from college. They stuff us full of only some of the numbers,
to show that the women's emancipation has reached this country, while
remaining silent on the data about the dark side of reality, where the
man commands and the woman obeys.
For a couple of years now I have been talking in a climate of trust with
at least eight women friends, all of them graduates of higher education,
with professions in the humanities and a certain economic autonomy. Most
of them confess to having been beaten by their husband at least once, a
couple of them have suffered rape within marriage, and three have had to
flee "with just the clothes on their backs" to avoid domestic violence.
Most alarming is that they tell these stories with the equanimity of
"this is what we get for being women."
If we move away from Havana, the problem worsens and takes on
connotations of tragedy. It burns you up to hear about the humiliations
women experience, the wife battering that is a much more common practice
than is admitted in the statistics. Odieti, a peasant from a little
village lost in the Cienfuegos countryside, drank a bottle of India ink
to put an end to the ordeal her husband subjected her to. After hours of
suffering, her life was saved and she earned the next beating for "being
loose." This is what he repeated while whipping his belt against her back.
Living in a country where there is no female circumcision or forced
marriages, where women are not forbidden to drive a car, is not
sufficient reason to breathe easily and believe that the serious problem
of gender inequality is resolved. To display the numbers regarding
professional development, integration into the workforce, and the
responsibilities of millions of women throughout the island, doesn't
silence the drama so many of them are mired in.
They need to display other statistics. Those that reveal the number of
kicks that fall on women's breasts, backs and faces each week. They
should clearly publicize the number of victims who have gone to a police
station begging them to keep the abuser away from home and who find only
a yawning duty officer who says, "you have to take care of that between
the two of you."
They also need the numbers of those who are "slaves" to the stove after
a full work day outside the home and it would probably match the four
million number of members that the FMC boasts about. The numbers of
single and divorced women with ridiculous pensions that aren't enough to
feed a child for even a week. Who includes these in the numbers reported
to official journalists? And what about those whose partners have
threatened, "If you leave me I will kill you"? Where do they show up in
the statistics? How many have had their faces cut with a knife like one
"brands" a cow, so that everyone will know they belong to the male, the
man, the masculine, who cheats on them with so many others?
Where do they keep the inventory of the suicides, or of the suicide
attempts, because of the indignities suffered at the hands of an abusive
man? What is the number of those who have been harassed by a jealous
boyfriend who follows them everywhere and beats them and causes public
scandals? How many have to give in to pressures for sex from their
bosses at work, because they know there is no other way to get ahead
professionally? And what about the number who are harassed on the
streets by those who think it is a virile obligation to accost a woman,
touch her, to insinuate himself all the time?
We can only be proud of what has been achieved with regards to the
dignity of women when we can begin to solve all these evils, evils that
right now cannot even be publicly debated. Having autonomous women's
organizations is essential to achieve these demands. Shelters for abused
women, a legal framework that forcefully penalizes the abuser, and a
press that reflects the suffering of so many, are essential if we are to
leave such atrocities in the past.
Source: The Missing Statistics On Women In Cuba | Yoani Sanchez -