Venezuela’s Hidden Gender-Violence Problem

In Venezuela, activists work to address violence against women, without support from the state.
In Venezuela, activists work to address violence against women, without support from the state. (The Star)

By Marcela Albahari Nielsen

In 1999, the UN General Assembly declared November 25 as International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, in remembrance of Dominican sisters Patria, Minerva, and Maria Teresa Mirabal.

On November 25, 1960, hired henchmen murdered the civil-rights activists on orders from dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo.

Violence against women is a serious public health problem and a violation of women’s human rights.

According to a recent World Health Organization study that analyzes data from more than 80 countries, 35 percent of the world’s women have suffered violence at the hands of an intimate partner or sexual violence by others at some point in their lives.

The United Nations defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results, or is likely to result in physical, sexual or psychological harm to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or deprivation arbitrarily of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”

In Venezuela, the Public Ministry received about 48,100 complaints of domestic violence in 2014. But the state’s response is to make it invisible. Organizations and individuals who combat such violence without official support do remarkable work.

Combating Violence through Art

Art has become a means of expression, painful, but necessary. Within it, the literature has made its way through initiatives such as Stop! A Hundred Women against Gender Violence. The book, published by Editions Fundavag, is the Venezuelan response to an initiative born in Chile in 2011, which found aftershocks in Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru.

The Venezuelan version is a compilation of works from Kira Kariakin, Virginia Riquelme, and Violeta Rojo, writers with extensive experience in the literary, teaching, and publishing fields. They gathered the voices of 100 Venezuelan women of various professions: victims, witnesses, and activists.

Each writer touches on her impressions of the project, and the human and social scourge that inspired the book.

Kira Kariakin:

We live in a country where figures are not released by the institutions obligated to do so. Figures on violence against women in Venezuela are not an exception. However, organizations that are actively working to combat the issue have been collecting these figures, and many of them are available on their websites or documents drawn up for this purpose.

The problem of violence is global, and possibly to the same extent in more developed countries that seem to be more tolerant.

Violence is a reality against different groups on the grounds of gender, race, religion, class, and nationality.

Virginia Riquelme:

The response to the call was a boundless generosity. Gradually women with a proven track record in the world of literature were collaborating, but also others who had something to contribute to the topic. It was hard, because we expected fiction, and the authors told us that they were self-referential. By doing this book, we realized how widespread this problem is that affects women of all social, economic, educational, social, and age levels.

We live in a time in which it seems that the state’s response to violence is keep it under wraps. But with this book, we realized the there were many organizations engaged in combating gender violence in Venezuela. Seeing all those fighters, working without any official support, is remarkable.

Violeta Rojo:

It is important to condemn all forms of violence. Therefore, this book includes not only violence against women but also contributions on child violence or on that which emerges from a phobia of the LGBTI community.

Not all women are victims, and not all men are perpetrators. But it cannot be denied that lots of women around the world are victims of abuse by men. At the same time, there is violence against homosexuals and transsexuals.

As for domestic violence, there are men indeed abused by their male or female partners; lesbians abused by their partners, and violence against children.

Public Policies Are Key

The elimination of violence against women depends on banishing inequality and discrimination. Public policy has role to play here, since society is educated with rules and laws emanating from the state.

On November 25, we speak of 100 individuals raising their voices, because they want violence against women to end. Hopefully, these voices will multiply and increasingly demand: stop the violence!

Marcela Albahari Nielsen is a Venezuelan journalist. She holds a degree in creative writing and works as a human-rights activist. Follow @marcelalbahari.

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