La Paz, December 3, 2012 (SEMlac). - Yola Mamani is a family worker who manages, along with another seven colleagues, a radio show that is broadcast over Deseo station. The idea behind the program is to make women’s labor exploitation modalities known to the general public.
They support other workers enduring violence in a sector that is being seriously discriminated against in the country. Most of them emigrate from rural areas, have no alternatives other than working as domestics, and live at their employers’, so they have no fixed working hours.
Mamani began working when she was only nine. Today, at 28, she realizes that they have all experienced the same hardships, including laid-off.
What forms of violence do family workers face?
The most visible forms include physical and psychological violence by employers and the Ministry of Labor itself. When we want to report a case, they ask us to submit evidence. This is not possible when women are harassed and/or insulted. We are also laid-off overnight, without any notice, as is required by law.
We girls are often pushed and/or beaten up when we work as maids. I never reported a case; I thought all that was normal.
We are not paid as we should. Although the minimum wage is 1,000 Bolivian pesos (around 140 dollars), we usually make from 500 up to 800 only. We get nothing at Christmas, no social benefits, no vacation, and no day off.
Do you think that not letting you study is a form of violence?
Yes, I do. You have to fight if you want to study. Employers usually tell us that there is no point in studying because we will always be working in the kitchen.
Can you describe any case of violence against your partners?
There are many cases similar to mine. In fact, this gives me strength to support them all the way. They are separated from their families, want to be heard, and get some guidance as to the social benefits they are entitled to.
What should family workers do?
First of all, they should be aware of their rights. That is the type of information we provide in our show.
The Ministry of Labor is not really helping us. We have to defend ourselves against labor exploitation, which is another form of violence.
Guadalajara, Mexico, November 26, 2012 (SEMlac). - Carla was a withdrawn 15-year old girl going to secondary school and helping out her mother with household chores.
One day, she did not come back from school. Her mother reported her missing, but local authorities in Querétaro, where they live, told her that the girl might have left with a boyfriend. After having unsuccessfully asked the Prosecutor’s Office to find her, she decided to investigate on her own.
She went to several neighboring cities and finally located her at a grocery store in Tlaxcala, around five hours away by bus from home. The entrance door to the place was practically closed on a permanent basis. Cargo truck drivers usually got in for soft-drinks or beers and got out accompanied by young girls.
Carla was one of them. Her mother tried to talk to her, but the girl simply told her not to worry. “I am fine; I have a baby,” she said.
The mother contacted authorities in Tlaxcala, but by the time they went to the store there was nobody there.
This was three years ago and she has had no further news about Carla ever since. She is still hopeful, looking for her daughter in other states.
In Querétaro, a city close to the Federal District , feminist groups estimate the number of young, poor girls aged 13 to 17 who have gone missing in the last six years at over 330.
A report of the Prosecutor’s Office in Querétaro sets the overall number at 43, however.
"These girls may have left their families because they were being abused or simply because they wanted to be with their boyfriends,” it added.
Gisela Sánchez, coordinator of the Health and Gender Civil Association, a civil- society organization, has repeatedly asked local authorities to conduct serious investigations.
This group has found out that young girls are often contacted over the Internet and asked to meet dealers at cafés.
As soon as they are given gifts, including perfumes, chocolates and clothes, are driven on luxury cars and are asked in marriage, they start having sex with these men.
“In some cases, they take them to other states, where their families cannot easily find them. In some others, the victims are forced into vehicles
on their way back home from school,” Sánchez told SEMlac.
“When a 13-year-old girl says she left home with her boyfriend, there is a need to investigate,” she added.
Sánchez is closely working with Feminist Millennium, Health and Gender, Equity and Diversity Network, Revolutionary Women, and other organizations.
They sent a communiqué to the Prosecutor in Querétaro indicating that local authorities have not been very active in carrying out investigations and supporting victims and their families.
”This is a serious violation of human rights under the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” it stressed.
On the occasion of the International Day on Violence against Women, they distributed leaflets containing family tips to avoid enforced disappearance, including filing reports, making emergency phone calls, and sending alerts to bus stations, airports, etc.
Santiago de Chile, November 26, 2012 (SEMlac Special). – A growing number of sexual abuse cases at schools and day-care centers have been reported by the media this year. There is now information on a network of sexual exploitation of minors that involves both show and business people.
Mention is not made, however, of an important fact: four every five sexually abused children are girls. This is a clear indication of gender violence since early childhood.
Pía Bastidas, a member of the Chilean Network to Fight Violence against Women, highlighted the importance of raising awareness and strengthening political action by feminist and women’s organizations to eradicate gender violence.
Media reports also fail to mention that most sexual assaults are committed by family members at home.
The Criminal Code categorizes crimes against family, public morality, and sexual integrity.
Sexual abuse involves any body contact with a victim and is sentenced to up to five years in prison if the victim is an adult and up to 10 years if he/she is under 14 years of age.
Most of these acts (96 percent) are committed by men, and sentences are tougher on next of kin, according to a report of the National Service for Minors (SENAME).
The Attorney’s Office announced that there had been 51 sexual abuse cases in 2011, and that thirty-eight had involved boys and girls, aged seven to 13 in most cases. Out of 29,470 abused children under 18, girls accounted for over 76 percent.
The Network campaign
The Network has for six years implemented a nationwide campaign against male-chauvinism.
It is this year focusing on sexual abuse as a result of male-chauvinistic traditions that have not been made visible by the media.
The Network has developed a poster that reads: "81 percent of sexually abused children are girls and 96 percent of abusers are men.”
Bastidas concluded that women are harassed, threatened, beaten up, raped, poorly paid and empowered, dominated and made invisible under patriarchal culture.
Mexico, March 18, 2013 (SEMlac Special). – Local authorities are not properly handling cases of harassment and persecution of both men and women reporters. Protection mechanisms are not working as they should because they lack economic and political support.
By contrast, any report against journalists is immediately considered, and even their personal assets are threatened.
Ana L. Pérez, a 34-year-old reporter, had to leave the country for Germany in June 2012. She is still being persecuted, harassed and tried for having documented a case of corruption at PEMEX, the most important state-owned oil company in Mexico .
“Pérez is one of the local news professionals who have courageously condemned violence and mismanagement in the country,” writer Elvira García indicated.
She told SEMlac that she had been asked to appear at the Mexican embassy in Germany for interrogation.
“Such an action is unacceptable,” said Rogelio Hernández, coordinator of the Journalist Protection Center .
Contralínea, the magazine Pérez works for, has 90 percent of its staff made up of women and has since 2007 under PEMEX attack.
Local journalist-defense organizations recalled that 89 news professionals had been killed last year.
“A reporter recently got killed in Chihuahua ; it is evident that protection mechanisms are both inadequate and limited,” Hernández stressed.
“Six years after its establishment, the Special Attorney’s Office on Freedom of Expression Related Crimes continues to be affected by lack of human and material resources,” he added.
Hirám Moreno, correspondent of La Jornada in Salina Cruz ( Oaxaca ), told SEMlac that he is being threatened by the local political boss and has sought protection from his union.
Gloria Careaga, an advisor to the National Women’s Institute, indicated that journalists have the ethical mission of informing the population.
“And that is what Pérez has done in a country where public servants are getting richer and over 80 percent of the population lives in poverty,” she emphasized.
“Against all odds, young reporters are documenting state corruption and misappropriation cases,” García said.
“Women journalists are being abused and discriminated against,” she added.
In her book Ellas tecleando su historia (They are writing about their stories), García reveals the experiences of 14 women reporters, including Pérez.
“She has for years been living under terror, away from her family,” García wrote.
Gabriela Delgado, a psychologist who is managing a human-rights program at the National Autonomous University , indicated that persecution causes emotional disorders like fear and stigma.
Pérez’ interrogation in Germany is part of a civil action filed by MP Juan Bueno in August 2011.
After her book Camisas azules, manos negras (Blue shirts, black hands) describing Bueno’s work as director of PEMEX Refining was published, García has been threatened to death.
In this context, Pérez addressed a setter to the Mexican public opinion indicating:
”In the past 10 years, I have investigated and disclosed information on serious PEMEX corruption cases, and I have therefore been threatened, harassed, attacked and persecuted.
The situation worsened in 2008, when I revealed contracts illegally signed by Juan C. Mouriño, Felipe Calderón’s Government secretary and PEMEX contractor at the time. I was forced to seek special security services.
In June 2012, I had to leave Mexico because my life was at risk, as documented by national and international organizations.
In February 2010, Grijalbo published the book and Bueno did not react to the allegations, even when he was asked about them by media representatives.
In December 2010, Congress established a special commission to investigate the reports contained in the book, as set forth in The Parliamentary Gazette (issue 3,164; dated December 17, 2010).
In August 2011, when federal legislators asked PEMEX and other government-owned companies to submit the documents cited in the book, Senator Bueno brought a lawsuit against me for moral damage.
He is now seeking to make the Judiciary gag the press so that no investigation can be conducted into past or current situations that may be of public interest. As a public servant, he should comply with accountability and other requirements.”
Montevideo, January 28, 2013 (SEMlac Special). - The Supreme Court of Justice has decided to support gender justice at home, a long-standing demand by 104 local feminist and women’s organizations.
Before the Court ruling came in late 2012, these organizations had reviewed the national and international legislation, as well as the judgments delivered by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights along these lines.
A Commission report had addressed the serious problem of domestic violence in Uruguay and the obstacles that women were facing to accede to judicial remedies and seek protection.
The Commission had also urged the Uruguayan State to adopt further measures to guarantee women’s rights and effectively fight discrimination and violence.
A new mechanism
The Supreme Court ruling establishes a mechanism to prevent women from having to face their assailants in court. This is particularly relevant in the countryside.
"Juvenile victims will never have to confront their abusers,” said Marina Morelli, a lawyer who represented the women’s organizations.
“The Court has supported us: judges will need to resolve cases in a comprehensive manner, under single procedures,” she added.
“Domestic violence cases should be taken to criminal courts,” she stressed.
The ruling also establishes the adoption of effective precautionary measures and ways to redress any judicial practice that violates and/or fails to comply with the standards in force.
Buenos Aires, October 15, 2012 (SEMlac Special). – There has always been opposition to women’s right to abortion.
This became evident when a 32-year-old woman asked to have the procedure performed on her shortly after she was raped, and did not succeed. What is really paradoxical is that abortion is authorized under Resolution No. 1252.
This piece of legislation sets the limit on the 12th week of gestation and requires parental consent for girls aged 14 to 18.
On October 5, the Pro Familia organization tried to prevent her from resorting to abortion, but the judge ruled that she was an adult entitled to such a practice under the law.
A week later, Pro Familia made the same request to another judge (Myriam Rustán) and had a precautionary measure taken against the government of Buenos Aires , shortly after Governor Mauricio Macri had announced that the first legal abortion would soon be conducted in the city.
It is not punishable when pregnant women face serious health risks or have been raped.
There were demonstrations by conservative groups defending “the right to life” on the one hand and by civil society organizations and lawmakers favoring legal, safe, free abortion on the other.
The case was taken to the Supreme Court, where it was ruled that the abortion should be performed, despite the precautionary measure that had been adopted.
A representative of the Ministry of Health told the woman in question that she could go to any of five local hospitals for the procedure and that judge Rustán would probably be dismissed.
“We strongly believe that this incident would not have occurred if there was a law on free, legal, safe abortion,” said Manuela Castañeira, a member of Las Rojas NGO.
“This case has clearly shown that both the national and local governments are against women’s right to make free, responsible health-related decisions,” she added.
“In this particular case, neither the Governor of Buenos Aires nor the hospital director should have announced the woman’s abortion date and place,” she concluded.
Montevideo, October 22, 2012 (SEMlac Special).– “Last October 17, a bill authorizing abortion at all local healthcare facilities was passed by the Senate and is expected to be signed into law by the President soon, said Senator Constanza Moreira.
Out of the 17 votes for 16 came from Broad Front Party members and one from Senator Jorge Saravia, who has just broken away from this political organization.
The bill, however, does not de-criminalize abortion, but turns into a non-punishable practice under the healthcare system.
Social organization representatives have seen it as a step forward because it provides for safe procedures.
Opposition Senator Jorge Larrañaga indicated that his organization (National Party) will repeal the law if it wins the forthcoming elections.
He highlighted the need for a referendum, but this would require 25 percent of the signatures of all those registered with the right to vote.
If the bill is finally passed into law, Uruguay will become the second country in Latin America (after Cuba ) to legally authorize abortion within the first 12 weeks of gestation.
Sexual and reproductive health services by private and public providers have been available all over the country since 2010.
These services include advising and protection measures, with women having the obligation to inform medical doctors of conception conditions.
“The law will not be smoothly enforced,” Moreira anticipated.
Leticia Rieppi, head of the Sexual and Reproductive Health Services Department at the Ministry of Health, told SEMlac that the legislation will be gradually strengthened.
“Our teams are made up of medical professionals and social scientists to be able to apply a really comprehensive approach,” she recalled.
“The idea is not to develop new structures within the Ministry, but to put into practice the standard-setting framework already in place,” she added.
The bill urges to apply the best abortion-related practices recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), including the use of pharmaceutical drugs like Misoprostol and Mifepristona, and safe surgical procedures.
“We will need to abide by the law even if there is some opposition, especially from religious organizations,” she commented.
She finally highlighted the importance of ensuring the right to abortion and confidentiality.
Lima, September 24, 2012 (SEMlac Special). – “I usually hire women rather than men if they have similar training and experience,” said Vicente Ayulo, manager of an export company.
“Women are more dedicated and responsible,” he added. What he did not mention, however, was that women’s wages are one-third lower than men’s in managerial and other senior positions.
While women currently make up 60 percent of the local labor market, such a (wage) gap remains.
A report by the Ministry of Labor indicated that this gap is closely related to educational level, age and experience.
It also revealed that private companies tend to recruit more men than women. “They try to avoid additional costs like maternity leaves,” it added.
Unfortunately, this situation is seen not only in Peru and other Latin American countries, but also in developed nations, where women’s wages are five times lower than men’s, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
A research work by Claudia Goldwin and Lawrence Katzs ( Harvard University ) showed that men with MBAs make more money than women with the same degree.
“Women do not usually ask for wage raises because they are afraid of indecent proposals and/or sexual harassment,” said psychologist Irene Pazos. “And this is mainly due to conservative education,” she added.
”When men ask for something, they are said to be proactive; when we women do so, we are simply annoying,” stressed American psychiatrist Anna Fels.
Working women also find it difficult to get promotions. A study by the Harvard University Business School revealed that women make up only 1.5 percent of CEOs at 2,000 leading companies in the world.
“In Peru , they are estimated to account for around two percent,” said Flor Cáceres, a former bank manager.
Álvaro Aguirre, a representative of an association of pension funds, told SEMLAC that the number of local women resorting to early retirement is higher than that of men.
This trend is mostly due to the fact that 70 percent of women (4.7 million) have no fixed income and are underemployed, and five percent are unemployed.
Over 28 percent are selling products, 21.6 percent are either professionals or technicians, and the rest are office clerks, servants, machine operators, or artisans.
A report by the National Institute of Statistics and Information indicated that 30 percent of local households are being headed by women. “Out of this total, 80 percent are poor,” it added.
“There is a long way to go in labor equity,” said analyst Beatriz Tello. “Most new jobs have been created in agriculture and trade, and just a few in industry, where wages are actually higher,” she noted.
Finally, local women are moving to micro-enterprises where there are poor working conditions, low wages, and virtually no labor rights. They are mainly involved in food processing.
Mexico, September 24, 2012 (SEMlac). – President Felipe Calderón’s initiative to amend the Federal labor Law has sparked social controversy.
The idea is to change over 1,000 provisions in the next few days. If finally passed by Congress, they will negatively affect working women’s social rights and household responsibilities.
Women currently account for 42 percent of the country’s workforce and for 11 percent of those involved in the informal sector.
”Women are merely seen as breeding stock,” said a participant in a meeting at the House of Representatives last September 17.
“The reform has nothing to do with the gender approach, as the President has suggested,” stressed Teresa Inchaústegui, a political scientist and former member of the House.
Inés González, representative of the Network of Labor Union Women, urged to discuss the bill as widely as possible before it is passed.
Former House member Rosario Ortiz is seeking to amend the legislation in force because it is not in line with labor market developments, including the massive incorporation of women and the need to establish independent unions.
“Meeting participants decided to set up a National Coordinating Authority,” legislator Malú Micher announced.
Carlos Reynoso, representative of the Revolutionary Confederation of Workers and Peasants, said that maternity leaves will be left to the discretion of employers under the new bill.
Inchaústegui emphasized that it will also demand the presentation of certificates to practice any trade. “We should not forget that most women have no access to formal education,” she added.
“It will also establish probationary periods for up to six months before a worker is finally given a job,” she noted. “And around 25 percent of working women are poorly trained,” she recalled.
“The new initiative will legalize third-party contracts, thereby giving employers the opportunity to save money on wages, promotions and the like,” she remarked.
It will further empower union leaders hoping that they will continue supporting “the establishment.”
Labor relations have not been conducted under the Federal Law since the 1980s. The so-called tolling operations have prevailed along the northern border ever since, resulting in extremely low wages and no health rights.
Collective agreements have also been changed, and organized workers have lost their bargaining power.
Around 18 million working women are being poorly paid and are not entitled to social security benefits.
Over seven million women and young people are currently unemployed, according to a report of the National Institute of Statistics and Geography.
“Official” trade unions, however, are allowed to regulate the workforce at companies and conglomerates.
Leaders of central organizations, federations and confederations are represented in Congress and local/state governments, and sign special agreements with public and private corporations.
Employers and government officials have for 30 years sought to change the legislation in force. There are today 164 bills sitting in Congress.
“The so-called industrial tribunals (made up of government, employer and worker representatives) should be eliminated,” said Arturo Alcalde, a member of the National Association of Democratic Lawyers.
“Any labor disputes should be submitted to ordinary courts rather than to these tribunals because they are subordinated to employers and official union leaders,” he added.
“The new bill seeks to transfer State responsibilities to the private sector,” Inchaústegui indicated.
Thomas Wissing, representative of the International Labor Organization to Mexico and Cuba , told SEMlac that the bill would legalize poor working conditions and inflict a severe blow to union organizations.
Guatemala, August 13, 2012 (SEMlac). – Spiritual leaders will discuss ways to deal with violence against women at a meeting on the forthcoming Baktun (the end of an era and the beginning of a new one, according to the Mayan calendar).
“As of next December 21, we will seek new paradigms for renewal. And women will play a key role in this process,” said leader Cirilo Pérez.
A report by the Village Elders anticipated that the human race will be better equipped to solve all types of conflict in the next 20 years.
Central government representative Clarisa Castellanos highlighted the need to take this opportunity to fight violence against women.
Anthropologist Irma A. Nimatuj recalled that some Mayan women had ruled in the past.
Commissioner Trinidad Gutiérrez told SEMlac that male-chauvinistic traditions have made people forget about equality between men and women.
Mayans account for 60 percent of the country’s population. Indigenous women are particularly vulnerable to poverty and family violence. And those who decide to get out of this vicious circle are punished in public.
“Acculturation has negatively affected moral values and spiritual guide teachings,” Gutiérrez noted.
A report by a local prosecuting agency indicated that many indigenous women have been shot to death or strangled in Quiché, Huehuetenango, Quetzaltenango, Sololá, and San Marcos .
Castellanos hopes that the three-day meeting to be held next month will devise ways to help violence victims and make women visible in society.
Carolina Neshtiel, manager of a community-based program in Colombia (Women Listen), will participate in the event.
Gutiérrez highlighted the fact that the Mayan view of the world promotes respect for women.
Castellanos told SEMlac that meeting participants will also deal with traditional medicines, health and nutrition. “Current problems can be solved using knowledge of the past,” she added.
“Time has come for women to take control and rule,” Pérez concluded.