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Venezuelan Women Rally for Equality

Updated: 3 days ago

Venezuelan women commemorate the month of March with protests against male violence and the multiple violations of their rights committed by the Venezuelan State and other institutions through action and inaction. This year, Venezuelan universities and the violence suffered by their students were part of the demands of feminist movements.

A week after the International Women's Day, the testimony of a rape victim in the facilities of the Central University of Venezuela (UCV) was made public, activists, students, human rights defenders and collectives gathered at the place where the incident occurred and raised their voices.

"A protocol is needed to address and prevent cases of gender violence within university spaces, in addition to awareness campaigns and training. Universities must have a security system and policies of zero tolerance to any form of discrimination or violence against women," says Melanie Agrinzones, from the feminist organization Uquira. She also explains that in addition to the creation of protocols and the sensitization of the authorities, it is necessary that the staff is committed to the cause of women in Venezuela and people who have historically been made vulnerable.

Among the demands is the call for the self-organization of female students. According to Agrinzones, the organized student community can generate important changes, but also be a form of collective containment while these changes are being generated; that is, to have spaces for dialogue, training, care and activities in favor of the rights of the diversity of women.

Commemorated with protests

On March 8, the commemoration of Women's Day in Venezuela began with a street mobilization in Caracas. Claudia Rodriguez Gilly of the Mujeres en Lucha (MeL) collective, expressed: "we do not want women to continue paying for the crisis; they are heads of household, single mothers, they are in charge of their own families. Most of the workers receive salaries of less than 6 dollars. Many have been forced into the informal economy, without any guarantees or social security.

The demand for pay is together with teachers, professors, nurses and retirees. In their diversity of occupations, they shout the slogan "Salary Equal to the Basic Basket! However, Gilly considers that in addition to that, public budget is also required to combat gender violence.

For Mujeres en Lucha, protesting for the salary means demanding a budget and combating male violence; this includes shelters to protect women and dissidents who dare to denounce, as well as official statistics on gender violence in order to address the seriousness of hate crimes and femicides.

Suhey Ochoa of the international organization Bread and Roses, comments that several organizations, collectives and independent feminists decided to organize for March 8 because it seems fundamental to them to go out and fight for the rights that will eliminate the wage gap between men and women. She claims that they are also the most precarious and the first to be fired from their jobs. One of the reasons that were incorporated this year was the inclusion of the LBTQ community; to point out the transfemicides and the visibility of the mining arc and its consequences on women in Venezuela.

"We are protesting against male violence because we know that the institutions do not respond. It revictimizes us when we go to these institutions and precisely this [...] absence of spaces where women can go, such as shelters, contributes to the victims suffering more gender violence and not being able to leave the place where they are being violated. That is why we have a high rate of femicides that increased after the pandemic. We believe that in the country we not only have to fight to make gender violence visible as a public problem, but at the same time there must be institutions that can give us answers", explains Ochoa.

United for the Right to Decide

Among the reasons for mobilizing is the demand for education and health budgets; Claudia Rodriguez Guilly alleges that they are also fighting for legal, safe and free abortion and this implies massive distribution of free contraceptives, including emergency contraception (also known as the morning after pill) and sexuality education, secular and without prejudice. "All the demands go in the same package; salary, life, justice, statistics and legal and free abortion," she pointed out.

Suhey Ochoa explains that "In Venezuela the right to abortion does not exist, it is criminalized. Women who practice it or are involved can go to jail. It is a reality of the most precarious and poorest women in the country, who tend to do it clandestinely and suffer the consequences of doing it in places that are not suitable for this. We think it is important for abortion to be legalized in the country and that is why we want to promote a bill that proposes a policy of legalization and decriminalization".

For Rodriguez Guilly, the right over the body, over sexual and reproductive freedom, is not plebiscized. "We have the right to decide. So we have to be very careful with popular initiatives, with the collection of signatures, because they go in the direction of the population deciding whether or not we have the right over our lives. We must be warned, this is not being said. Besides, another important point in the struggle that is taking place at the legislative level with respect to abortion is that it must be free, because it is useless to decriminalize it if we do not guarantee that the poorest women, with fewer resources, who are precarious because of these salaries, cannot have access to save their lives, to decide their destinies. They cannot defend themselves against rape and the culture of rape. It is important to make it free of charge", she said.

Ochoa considers it important that women in Venezuela unite under a united agenda. In spite of the fact that in Latin America important demands have been achieved, such as those made by the comrades from Argentina, Colombia and Mexico. "Here we are much further behind, here we are not only fighting for the right to abortion, here we are fighting for the recognition that we can have contraceptives in an accessible way, which we currently do not have," she said.

From Mujeres en Lucha, the message is for women to continue organizing in a broad, autonomous way; independent of the budget and the agenda of the opposition political parties or the government. "We need to have our own agenda as women. For this it is essential to have periodic assemblies to organize ourselves according to an agenda. Not only in the emblematic dates that are important to be in the streets, but to be able to prioritize which are going to be the conquests we want to achieve, beyond the differences. What unites us? And to fight for what unites us. Once a point has been conquered, move forward", explained Rodríguez Guilly.

In the same line, the call of Pan y Rosas is for women in Venezuela to be able to organize assemblies in the work and study places, including universities. To demand legal, safe and free termination of pregnancy in all hospitals so that there is not one more death. And in addition to that, that the state offers a salary equal to the basic basket of goods so that women do not continue to die of hunger, so that they do not continue to prostitute themselves in miserable conditions, so that they can decide about their lives and achieve their emotional, economic and physical independence. Because that is what we are talking about when we speak of justice and reproductive rights, the opportunity to have a dignified life.

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