years of abuse and mistreatment came to a head all in one day. Maritza had been
married to Osvaldo, a machista and an alcoholic, for eleven years. One
afternoon in 1999, Osvaldo came home drunk, shouting at Maritza to prepare
dinner for her family of nine.
that moment, I didn’t know what to do. I felt lost amidst all the shouting and
insults. Even though it wasn’t the first time that he had shouted at me and
called me a b****, I was at a loss. Suddenly in that moment, I was finished
putting up with all the bad things that I had withstood for eleven years. I
didn’t hesitate to talk back to him; I told him that he had been unfaithful and
had never valued me for all those years,” remembers Maritza.
responded violently, punching her and pushing her to ground, then kicking her
was so broken in that moment that I got up from the floor, grabbed a knife and
stabbed him four times. I was in shock. I didn’t know whether to help him or
leave him there. Nobody in our house had come to help me when he mistreated me,
but in that moment everyone came to help him,” she says.
was taken to the hospital for surgery, where he stayed for several weeks.
Osvaldo’s family reported Maritza to the police, who arrested her shortly
after. She was tried, found guilty of assaulting Osvaldo and sentenced to six
years in prison. The violence that Osvaldo inflicted upon her during their
marriage was never discussed in her trial.
was as if all the evidence pointed to my being guilty of stabbing him, and I
know that I am responsible for doing that and that things didn’t have to get to
that point, but when you suffer so much abuse for so many years, there comes a
point when you’re sick and tired and you do whatever comes into your mind,”
remembers Maritza. “I wasn’t going to continue putting up wth any more abuse.”
she was imprisoned, her children lived with Maritza’s mother. Osvaldo never
sought custody of the children. After four years in prison, Maritza was
released for good behavior.
prison, Maritza got to know many women with similar stories of suffering abuse.
She met with them secretly to talk about their lives and listen to their
happened to me was a real injustice. The court never considered the fact that I
had been abused, beaten and raped because I had never made a formal report,”
time that she had thought about filing a report against Osvaldo, Maritza
remembered what she had always heard about Cuban authorities’ lack of concern
for such cases: “In Cuba, it almost always happens: if you go to the police
about domestic abuse, they will say, ‘we don’t get involved between a husband
experiences have given her clarity: “we live in a country governed by men, and
everything is run by men. The important positions are held by men and they are
keeping us women down.”
call for a law
does not have a law addressing gender-based violence or violence against women,
but a group of women activists has recently drafted and proposed such a measure.
They submitted their draft to the National Assembly last November.
January 10th of this year, the activists met with members of the National
Assembly to inform them about gender inequalities in Cuba and the need for a
law. The draft bill specifies new criminal offenses in order to guarantee
access to justice for victims of gender-based violence, but mainly proposes a
comprehensive plan to prevent such violence, assist victims and educate Cubans
about the isssue.
activists also proposed a timeline to approve this law, but no such law has
been placed on the legislative calendar for the current session of the National
attention to violence against women in Cuba
its final observations from its most recent review of Cuba, the UN Committee on
the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) called upon the Cuban State
to prioritize the fight to eliminate violence against women. The Committee also
urged Cuba to prepare a national strategy for preventing violence against
women, addressing victims’ needs and bringing perpetrators to justice. Cuba has
not yet drawn up such a plan.
Committee called attention to the particular vulnerability of Afro-Cuban women,
rural women, elderly women and disabled women. The final observations urgedg
the government to take the necessary measures to improve these groups’ access
to basic needs such as sanitation, ensure that they are covered by social protection
programs and promote their participation in public life.
Federation of Cuban Women, a state-linked organization, has plans in place to
defend women’s rights on the island. However, the Federation is responsive to
the interests of the government above all, and without the involvement of
independent civil society, its actions are misinformed and disconnected from
the reality of Cuban women’s lives.