Love can end up in violence. Some signs of such a transition are visible; many others go unnoticed.
This is the case of Dalia Martínez, a 40-year-old professional living in Havana. "I could never imagine I would experience grief," she said.
She has a 12-year-old daughter whose father is still her husband and became her boyfriend when she was 18.
After 20 years of an apparently strong marriage, Martínez has had to take her case to court because her husband does not want to get divorced. "He has moved from passive opposition to threat and blackmail," she added.
A Hemispheric Forum on Women’s Leadership and Democracy was held last April 4-6 to discuss the negative impact of social and gender violence, poverty and male-chauvinism on women and citizen rights.
Attended by government ministers, MPs, feminists and representatives of the United Nations, the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Inter-American Women’s Commission (CIM), the event dealt with topics such as women’s participation in political life, the need for equal representation and pay, and women’s exclusion from social benefits.
Enrique Iglesias, head of the Iberian-American Secretariat, highlighted the need to put an end to non-inclusive, authoritarian and patriarchal traditions, and to provide women with the same opportunities as men.
OAS Secretary-General José M. Insulza said that male-chauvinistic culture remains despite significant progress in legislation and politics.
On March 28, twelve Latin American and Spanish-speaking Caribbean women’s organizations submitted sexual and reproductive rights violation cases to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission.
Such a move was unprecedented in this Commission, which is under the umbrella of the Organization of American States (OAS) and is headed by U.S. Dinah Shelton.
She thanked those who testified in support of these cases. “What you have told us here is dramatic and shocking,” she indicated.
Colombian Commission member Rodrigo Escobar stressed that the cases deal with women’s physical and psychological health, dignity and human rights.
Martha was 18 when she got HIV-infected. "I simply never expected it," she told SEMlac 10 years after she was diagnosed.
"I had unsafe sex with my boyfriend and my life radically changed. I felt completely powerless," she added. "I have nothing to do with AIDS," she used to think.
The virus knows no race, sex or age. Men make up 81 percent of HIV-positive people in Cuba, and 89 percent of them are men having sex with men.
Women, however, are highly vulnerable and account for 19 percent of overall cases (around 14,000).
Cuban filmmaker Humberto Solás (1942-2008) rediscovered the city of Gibara around a decade ago, when he decided to hold his International Low-Budget Film Festival there.
Located in the eastern province of Holguín, 775 kilometers away from Havana, Gibara hosted the annual event until last year.
The Festival has strongly promoted the use of digital technology to make high-quality movies.
"Humberto truly loved this place, not only for its natural beauty, but also for its people," said Elia Solás, one of his sisters and scriptwriters.
Family law in Cuba and elsewhere needs to be adapted to structural, demographic, socio-economic and cultural developments.
Speaking at the closing ceremony of the 6th International Conference on Family Law, which was held earlier this month in Havana, Leonardo Pérez, a full professor of civil law at the University of Havana, highlighted the need to apply a new legal approach to families whose members have been married before.
"They got divorced or their spouses passed away," he added.
Conference participants reviewed conflict situations like those arising from assisted reproduction, children's adoptions, and consensual and same-sex marriages.
Sports competitions can act as a catalyst for various forms of violence, an expert indicated.
This was clearly seen at the latest children's sports games in the Cuban capital.
"Finish with him, sweep him away," a father (Juan C. Ceballos) yelled at his 11-year-old son Daniel, over a judo fight. "Have no mercy on him", shouted his trainer.
"It is a fact that violence is deeply rooted in male-chauvinistic culture. It provides an indispensable tool to show your strength and power not only to men, but also to women," wrote researcher Julio C. González in an article entitled Masculinity and violence in sports.
Adriana Roca (25) is pregnant for the first time. She has a dizzy turn once in a while, but hopes to get over it shortly after the first quarter ends. She is really worried, however, about her anemia.
She takes her medications (folic acid and ferrous sulfate) as prescribed by her doctor, and she is now eating spinach, pepper and lentil on a regular basis.
"Iron deficiency is frequently seen in the local population, and can cause a type of anemia that poses a health problem on the island," said Magalis Padrón, coordinator of the National Anemia Prevention and Control Program, at the National Institute of Nutrition and Food Hygiene.
"Risk groups include mostly small children, pregnant women and reproductive-age women," she added.
Local women outlive men and die mostly of non-transmissible chronic diseases.
With a life expectancy exceeding 80 years, Cuban women are suffering from and dying of "daily life", an expert indicated.
"Traditionally assigned gender roles have quite an impact on disease occurrence and health-related problems," a research work revealed.
Entitled Cuban women and social change in the last 50 years, the study was conducted by a multidisciplinary group in mid 2010.
Cuba's Danays Bautista made news last spring in Madrid. I immediately recognized her voice when she said: "I really needed to come."
With no dramatic overtones, she told me about her accident in a subway, chopping off her arm and leaving her injured for the rest of her life.
She had to endure all that pain without seeing what was going on at Numancia Station. She simply fell. Fortunately, a passenger quickly activated the hand brake and saved her.
She also told me that she was very thankful to Gregorio Marañón Hospital staff for all their care, especially after she was informed of the amputation that had to be performed.