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December 17, 2018
Jiquilisco, Usulután, El Salvador
Salvadoran judge Hugo Noé García, overturned an attempted murder charge, carrying a 20 year sentence, by the district attorney’s office in Usulután against Imelda Cortez, who then at 19-years-old, experienced a traumatic labor which caused her to loose consciousness and give birth to her baby in a latrine.
The baby girl survived and is in good health and Imelda spent 609 days in prison.
Her 71-year-old stepfather, Pablo Dolores Henríquez Ayala, who after 7 years of assaulting her, impregnated her, has been prosecuted for aggravated and continued rape of a minor. This after he himself gave accusatory testimony to the national police about his step-daughter on the day of the incident.
The judge recognized the mental and physical stress Imelda must have endured before, during and after giving birth to the newborn and lamented over the fact that she was denied access to not only her baby but the therapeutic care she desperately needed in order to heal from the long-term psychological damage that had been inflicted on her.
Since it was put forth, the case has been contested in the international court of public opinion and, due to the full-scale feminist movement in El Salvador and beyond, Imelda has receive top-notch legal representation, international media coverage and diplomatic support.
The morning of the 18th, Imelda and her defense team were prepared to accept a reduced sentenced of one year, time served, in exchange for pleading guilty to the prosecution’s lesser change of “abandoning a newborn.” However the judge, in an astonishing move, over-tuned the ruling four hours after the session began.
Hundreds of supporters gathered outside of the courthouse on Monday to support Imelda and chants of “si se puede!” rang out as she was led out.
Watch the Morazán Women’s Network take their first course on self-defense.
This special workshop was giving by Claudia Fuentes, a Salvadoran martial artist who has developed a self-defense program with a feminist approach especially for women and girls in El Salvador.
The Women’s Network of Morazán continue to develop their community Action Protocol to address the very real problem of gender violence in the department. This month they began working on an important section, the actual step by step guides that different actors should follow in order to ensure the safety, justice and healing for victims of domestic and sexual violence.
We lament in the assassination of Marielle Franco, an Afro-Brazilian sociologist and politician gunned down in Rio de Janeiro the night of March 14th by masked men while sitting in a car with her driver, who was also killed in the attack. Marielle was a prolific activist, a hard-hitting politician and constant voice for the impoverished.
Marielle grew up in favela in northern Rio de Janeiro, and became a rising luminary in activism and politics, a rare status for a black woman from a marginalized community. In 2016, she was elected as a member of the left-leaning Socialism and Liberty Party (PSOL) known for her social work with the poor and marginalized, and for her outspokenness against police violence disproportionately targeting black Brazilians.
Hours before her murder, during a panel discussion on women’s empowerment, she uttered the quote by Audre Lorde: “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”
Her cowardly murder has taken place two years and 10 days after the execution of Berta Cáceres, a Honduran environmental activist killed by Honduran state actors.
We stand in solidarity with the tens of thousands of protesters in Brazil and around the world and denounce this obvious state-sanctioned slaying and demand justice for Marielle Franco, justice for Berta Cáceres and for the hundreds of land, environmental and human rights activists needlessly slain by their own states over the past decade.
Marielle, rest in power.
#MariellePresente #NiUnMenos #VivasNosQueremos #JusticiaParaMarielleFranco
El Salvador’s recently held mid-term elections on March 4, saw a staggering overturn of political power as right-wing parties overtook the senate and major municipal seats in San Salvador, La Libertad and Santa Ana; and much could be said about the ‘debacle.’ At the same time, human rights defenders and survivors are celebrating the exoneration and release of two Salvadoran women unjustly incarcerated in for miscarriages many years ago.
Last year, El Salvador experienced 3,605 homicides, a 1,675 reduction from 2016. As multitudes rise up in outrage against the country’s oppressive justice system and high rate of gender-based violence, El Salvador continues to be one of the most dangerous countries to be a woman.
2017 National Statistics
More troubling is that the factual number of violent cases against Salvadoran women and girls are most certainly much higher than the statistics represented above because victims do not report becasue of fear of retribution and impunity. It is important to note that the majority of these victims suffer abuse in their own homes at the hand of men most close to them.
2018 Women’s March in San Salvador
Silvia Juárez, program coordinator for the Organization of Salvadoran Women for Peace in El Salvador (ORMUSA) stated that women “are still not equal. The profound root of violence against women is inequality. We are considered human beings of less value.” On the eve of International Women’s day, a vigil was held in San Salvador and on March 8, over 3,000 marchers took to the streets to protest the country’s widespread inequality and violence against women. Their demands were simple: dignity and respect for all women and reforms to the healthcare and judicial systems.
That same day in Morazán, 600 protestors marched through the streets of San Francisco Gotera, confronting important judicial courts and even the town hall, while chanting slogans like “We don’t want flowers, we want justice!”
In 2016, 176 cases of domestic violence and 72 acts of sexual violence were reported in Morazán. According to the Citizen Network of Morazán Women (the Network), though down from the 14 official reports in 2016, five cases of femicide were invisibilizedthis year. The Network consists of 8 municipal associations scattered throughout the department with the mutual objective of promoting and defending the human rights of women. They accomplish their goals through combining unity, education and protest.
Women’s Day in Morazán, 2018
Gender-based violence is so prevalent in Morazán that it has led to the Network and other local organizations to begin to develop a community based approach to facilitate the recovery of victims and their families by educating communities and service providers, offering victims immediate and long-term support, and holding relevant institutions accountable. Fortunately, this interrelationship of Morazán leaders exemplifies a support network of local women who can identify effective solutions to support victims of violence and their families in resource-constrained settings.