When will Cuba pass a law against domestic violence?
ADRIANA ZAMORA | La Habana | 8 Mar 2016 – 6:00 pm.
The Chinese did it first. On Tuesday a law enters into force that
classifies domestic violence as a crime, not a private or family matter.
In response to the demands of Chinese feminists both physical and
psychological violence were included, as were common law, not just
While it is true that same-sex couples also need to be included, there
is now a starting point from which to work to expand and enhance the
legal mechanisms combating this social problem.
When will Cuba do the same thing?
Article 41 of the Cuban Constitution provides for the equality of all
citizens, while Articles 42 and 44 prohibit any kind of discrimination,
and stipulate that all citizens enjoy equal rights.
The Penal Code, however, makes no specific reference to domestic
violence and there is a general perception among the Cuban authorities
that this law is not needed in the country, that in Cuba domestic
violence is not a problem.
“The Constitution establishes one thing, but it cannot be enforced
without a specific legal mechanism,” explains Leandro, a doctor. “We
need specific laws against discrimination, covering all the types of
discrimination we have in Cuba, which are several.”
In 2013, the UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against
Women (CEDAW) pointed out to Cuban authorities multiple deficiencies in
the country: the lack of legislation governing cases of violence against
women, shelters for women who are victims of violence, protection for
victims, and punishment for perpetrators.
In response to report submitted by the Cuban group that year, the CEDAW
was concerned that Cuban laws did not include a definition of
discrimination, and urged the delegation to adopt and include it in the
Constitution and in the relevant national legislation.
A private problem
In the view of Laritza Diversent, an attorney at the Cubalex Centre for
Legal Information, Cuban laws, rather than punishing cases of violence
against women, actually promote them.
“First, Cuba has not recognized gender-based violence as something that
threatens equality and human rights,” she explains. “They continue to
consider it a private problem.”
“When a woman reports domestic violence, it is common for police to
consider it one person’s word against another’s, and to dismiss the
case. It is not uncommon for both to be fined for a public incident,
even when the woman is attacked. “
There are no restraining orders or protective orders in our country.
“Women who report violence remain endangered, since nothing prevents the
perpetrator from returning to take revenge for the complaint,” says
In many cases the offender’s revenge has even meant the victim’s murder.
“They tend to be very cruel cases,” she says. “The weapons most commonly
used are knives and keys. In rural areas, mochas or machetes. “
The statistics on these cases of retaliation for reported violence are
classified by the Supreme Court. No one knows the exact figures.
In general, there are no numbers available, as if the phenomenon was not
important, with nobody bothering to document, and far less, analyze
them. There are no figures on violence, murders of women, or crimes of
The housing shortage is a factor aggravating the growth in cases of
domestic violence. “Women put up with abuse for years because they have
nowhere to go,” says Diversent.
“The law forsakes them, because it states that children are to be
registered at their mother’s address, not where they actually live. This
relieves the father of the responsibility to give them a roof over their
heads, and makes mothers and children vulnerable to eviction in the
future,” she adds.
Some women who are abused for years end up killing their husbands, as
they see no other solution to their problem. As domestic violence is not
legally recognized, when a woman kills her husband she cannot claim
self-defense; this argument is not recognized or admitted as a
mitigating factor at trial. In most cases the act is considered
premeditated murder, punishable by long prison terms.
However, men who kill their wives in a fit of jealousy are often
considered perpetrators of unpremeditated crimes of passion, and receive
less severe sentences.
“Here men can kill if there are mere rumors of infidelity by their
partners,” says Diversent. “There is so much male chauvinism that there
comes a point when it doesn´t even matter if the infidelity is real, but
rather what people believe.”
Another law that worries the CEDAW is that allowing 14-year-old girls to
marry with parental consent. Males, on the other hand, must be at least
16. In these cases the CEDAW demands that authorization come from a
In Laritza Diversent’s view, girls ages 16 – 18 are those most harmed by
the law. “They are legally minors, but in terms of their criminal
responsibility, they’re treated like adults,” she explains.
Those responsible for enforcing women’s rights and protecting abused
women are often abusers themselves.
Niurka once heard a neighbor, a lieutenant colonel with the Interior
Ministry, say: “one of these days I’m going to shoot that broad,”
referring to a nearby resident, a single mother of two children, simply
because she did not want belong to the CDR.
Leyda, a young military doctor, agrees: “The police and the military are
those most prone to violence. On my last job I was in a military unit in
which my boss demanded sexual favors in exchange for ‘making my life
easier.’ When I refused, he harassed me and made my life miserable until
I had to leave. They had already told me that he did the same thing to
previous doctors and other subordinates.”
This view concurs with the data held by Cubalex. “In many of our cases
violence is perpetrated by husbands or ex-husbands who are members of
the military. The figure is high,” confirms Laritza Diversent. “In
addition to their willingness to commit violence, they carry guns, and
can use them at any time.”
Diversent believes that there is much violence against women by members
of the military, who are those wielding power in the country. “What can
you expect from institutions that have no qualms about savagely beating
women, in public, like the “Ladies in White?”
It is very clear that the State lacks the political will needed to enact
criminalization, not only of domestic violence, but any form of violence
In 2013 it informed the CEDAW that that the reform of the Family Code
had been postponed and that the FMC “was considering” the possibility of
such a law.
But nothing has changed since then. The FMC’s “consideration” could go
on forever, as this so-called NGO is not beholden to women, but rather
to the Cuban state. Each time they are presented with a case of domestic
violence they declare that they are not authorized to act, and refer it
to the police.
If it took Chinese women more than ten years to see their law passed, it
might take Cuba’s women three times as long.
Source: When will Cuba pass a law against domestic violence? | Diario de
Cuba – www.diariodecuba.com/cuba/1457456446_20780.html