Network Leaders Address Cuba’s Failure to Acknowledge Gender-Based Violence at the United Nations
What is the Universal Periodic Review (UPR)?
The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) regularly convenes to review each member State’s human rights record and issues an outcome report on the status of human rights in the country in addition to listing recommendations for the improvement of human rights. This peer review is known as the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The report is based on information provided by the member state, independent experts, and other stakeholders, including civil society organizations. Ultimately, this is a mechanism the international community employs to hold countries accountable for protecting and improving the human rights of their citizens.
Is Cuba failing to protect the human rights of women and girls?
Civil society organizations frequently highlight the Cuban government’s failure to codify a comprehensive law on gender-based violence (GBV) to prevent and respond to an increasing rate of violence against women and girls. Instead, the Cuban government treats GBV as any other form of violence, failing to recognize and address specific forms of violence based on gender inequalities such as domestic violence, sexual violence, street harassment, and many others — even failing to recognize femicide as a form of GBV — an outlier in Latin America. The government’s avoidance contributes to society’s acceptance of GBV as a social norm and to the impunity that prevents survivors from accessing justice.
Is gender-based violence increasing in Cuba?
It’s hard to say. GBV data is based on survivors reporting, and in Cuba, there is a general distrust in institutions addressing GBV when they don’t have comprehensive laws or mechanisms to protect survivors. However, since 2019, Ileana Álvarez, founder of the online magazine Alas Tensas, has been partnering with activists to document and report on femicides through the gender observatory: Observatorio de Género de Alas Tensas (OGAT). Since she started keeping records, the number of reported femicides has been increasing. Whether it’s because of better reporting or a general increase in GBV that we’ve seen since the beginning of the pandemic, or a culture of machismo and impunity in Cuba, it’s difficult to tell. It’s most likely all three.
What is Observatorio de Género de Alas Tensas (OGAT) doing to raise awareness?
Vital Voices network leaders from OGAT are working to change how GBV is discussed in Cuba. Earlier this year, Yanelys Núnez from OGAT contributed to the pre-sessions on Cuba’s UPR, calling for the Cuban government to work with civil society and women leaders to implement and enforce a law that protects women and girls from violence. As she correctly points out, having a law won’t do anyone any good if it’s not implemented. A great way to do this is for the government, through its institutions and law enforcement, to collaborate with civil society and community leaders in a holistic and long-term manner so that GBV is addressed in a sustainable way, involving all stakeholders who come in contact with survivors through their work.
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Written by the Communications Team at Vital Voices