In Cuba, 8M is lived between gender violence and repression


Figures from independent civil society organizations and Cuban activists tell how difficult it is to be a woman and a human rights defender on the island.

Washington, March 8, 2024 – In Cuba, March 8 (8M), International Women’s Day, is lived between gender violence and repression. During 2023, 89 women were victims of femicide in Cuba, and so far in 2024, 12 cases have already been documented, according to the platform Yo sí te creo en Cuba and the Gender Observatory of Alas Tensas magazine. Last year, more than 60% of the documented arbitrary detentions (626 out of a total of 936 people) were against Cuban women, according to the Cuban Observatory for Human Rights; and 78 women are currently deprived of liberty for political reasons on the Island, according to figures from the organization Justicia 11J.

“Cuba is a country that has violated the fundamental rights of women since the very beginning of the so-called revolution, and there are plenty of examples of courageous women who were imprisoned, expelled from their workplaces, and confined to exile. One of these was the case of ‘Las Plantadas’ (women who in 1960 were imprisoned for being dissident voices to the Cuban State), and in more recent times there are the Ladies in White and all those who were imprisoned on July 11, 2021, such as Lisandra Góngora, who is the mother of five children and remains in prison for participating in the protests,” says Katia Hernández, director of the Federación Latinoamericana de Mujeres Rurales (Flamur).

On the island, where all kinds of public demonstrations organized by independent civil society are prohibited, the women’s collective Damas de Blanco went from 243 members in 2013, to 50 members in recent years, as a result of arbitrary detentions, short-term disappearances, fines, threats, and internet cuts. “Currently five Damas de Blanco are deprived of their liberty along with dangerous common female prisoners. Their names are: Aymara Nieto, Sayli Navarro, Sissi Abascal, Tania Echevarría, and Jacqueline Heredia,” states Berta Soler, leader of this organization.

On 8M, activists and representatives of independent organizations recall that in November 2022, a campaign was launched to demand that Cuban authorities create a comprehensive law to protect women, regardless of their political position, sexual orientation and gender identity, religious beliefs, race or age. However, this petition was not included in the legislative schedule for 2024, even though that in 2023, Cuba was the Latin American country where femicide rates increased the most. “They increased by 150% with respect to 2022,” says Yanelys Núñez, coordinator of the Gender Observatory of Alas Tensas magazine, during her testimony at the thematic hearing ‘Cuba: Right to freedom of association’, which took place on February 29, 2024 before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).


“The institutional and vicarious gender violence exercised by the Cuban state, especially against mothers and caregivers involved in activism, has manifested itself in an alarming way through coercion, intimidation, defamation campaigns, banishments, cuts in communications, and threats to take away custody of their children. This type of violence, which can be considered a form of torture, constitutes a serious violation of human rights, and seeks to inhibit activism and silence the voices of civil society,” adds Núñez.

In the midst of this difficult panorama, women with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities also suffer discrimination exercised by the authorities of this country; as is the case of Brenda Díaz, a young trans woman who remains in a male penitentiary, where she is serving a sentence of 14 years and seven months for having participated in the protests of July 11, 2021. “She has been prevented from wearing women’s clothing and from wearing her hair long,” says Camila Rodriguez, director of Justicia 11J, during her participation in the thematic hearing held before the IACHR.

“As a result of my daughter’s imprisonment I have been persecuted and threatened by state security. They have told me that they are going to give her more time, that they are going to take her to another province, but I am not afraid of any of these threats because in the end she will always be my daughter, and wherever they put her I will continue to see her,” says Ana María García, Brenda’s mother. Her words show the situation experienced by hundreds of Cuban women, who have their loved ones in prison for demanding changes in Cuba and for being human rights defenders on the island.

In this country, there are plenty of testimonies of Cuban women who denounce gender violence and persecution on a daily basis, as well as resilient voices, such as that of Dunia Medina Moreno, from the Red Femenina de Cuba, who says she will continue working to “achieve the true freedom” that women in Cuba desire, even if that means being harassed by authorities.

The Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) commemorates 8M by remembering Cuban women, especially those who work for the recognition of women’s rights, those who remain deprived of their freedom for political reasons, and the mothers, daughters, sisters, and partners of those imprisoned for demanding their fundamental rights. We also demand that the Cuban authorities create a comprehensive law against gender violence, which prevents GBV, improves care, and guarantees the human rights of women on the island, regardless of their political position, sexual orientation and gender identity, religious beliefs, race, or age.

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