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Thousands of Ecuadorean women will take to the streets to demand respect for their reproductive rights and to end sexual violence and judicial impunity.
Ecuadorean women took the streets of Quito Saturday to demand safe and legal abortion, protest impunity in gender-related violence, and to shed light on their historic struggles, ‘doing justice’ by their own hands.
They left El Ejido Park at 4 p.m. and walked downtown, to the 24 de Mayo square.
“We would like to invite people to the march (and to) put up a purple flag in their homes in solidarity,” Mayra Tirira, cousin of 19-year-old Johanna Cifuentes -a victim of a femicide that remain unresolved for six years- and lawyer at SURKUNA, a legal aid organization that represents the platform Vivas nos Queremos (We want us alive), told teleSUR.
“Justice was not made, we made justice,” Tirira said reflecting on her cousin's death and the long struggle to bring the perpetrator to justice.
There is no single group that leads the platform, rather it is made up mainly of women and LGBTI people who share a common struggle around issues such as labor, education, sex, gender, abortion, and impunity within the legal system on gender-based crimes; all issues that have been historically unattended by the Ecuadorean state and overlooked by society.
One of the impacts of the movement is to allow other women to learn about a diversity of platforms for organizing and mobilizing in specific actions, such as marching to demand your rights. “You begin to see this and you become interested in learning about what is happening to us... We are being raped and disappeared, and that makes you ask ‘why is this happening?’”
That is the factor that leads to action, Vanessa Bonilla, a culture consultant, and researcher, mother, and feminist tells teleSUR. “The only way that justice can be fair if is we unite our struggles,” she contends. Vanessa participates in the campaigns of several groups within the platform.
One social issue which cuts across the movement is also class: “It is important to understand that not all women are laborers, proletarians, or in a situation of precariousness, but the great majority of women are. So to march also for women workers is to recognize profound inequality and how patriarchy has taken away the possibility of choosing, educating ourselves, or preparing ourselves for work,” Bonilla said.
Yet, she argues class may have a limited effect explaining labor-related situations of precariousness and discrimination because they "are linked to patriarchal structural mechanisms of discrimination."
"Our Bodies Are Not To Be Touched, Raped, or Killed"
The people joining the Vivas Nos Queremos March do so “to make justice for ourselves, and what this justice implies is gaining social visibility for women suffering from violence, and for a complaint against the state and society demanding that this type of violence needs to stop,” Tirira told teleSUR.
Specifically, they seek to highlight femicides and the issue of violence against women, which includes sexual violence but also state violence through abortion restrictions.
“We also look to generate a recognition of the victims, that is why the first block of the march is for relatives” who have lost loved ones to femicidal violence and are currently in legal battles, Tirira explained.
Since 2014, 376 cases of violent deaths of women have been recorded. This year alone, according to civil society groups, 68 women have been murdered. The numbers are conflicting and difficult to trace because not all women file legal complaints.
Every year, nearly 6,000 complaints of rape, harassment, and abuse registered are filed and according to the Judiciary Council. Only 25 percent of the complaints had some form of resolution. “We know that 75 percent of cases continue in impunity,” Titira denounced.
"Today in #Ecuador we are missing 75 women, 75 femicides, 75 lives. #WeWantUsAlive #NoMoreSexualViolence. 94 children orphaned."
Like every group striving for progress, Vivas Nos Queremos is facing pushback, especially from conservative groups self-defined as pro-life represented by the Don’t Mess with my Children platform (Con mis Hijos no te Metas) that fight against the legalization of abortion, sexual education, and sexually diverse, inclusive education.
"Sexual violence takes place in the more intimate family spaces, which is where –in some way– these conservative, anti-rights groups exist, which are opposed to State involvement in education, in the framework of families. We want to make that visible, that it is precisely in the family sphere where the majority of cases of sexual violence are taking place,” Tirira explains. According to official data, “1 of 4 women have been a victim of sexual violence, from there, 80 percent has taken place in their most immediate surroundings, family, school, and religious institutions,” she said.
Legal Framework, Public Policy, and the State
There are two laws that comprised the core of the matter. The first is the Criminal Code, which specifies that abortions can be carried out only in cases where women are in danger of losing their lives or when pregnancy was the result of rape to a "disabled" woman. The second is the Law for the Prevention and Eradication of Violence Against Women.
Both the criminal code and the Law bring about some changes in the historically lacking legal framework.
“The criminal code typifies femicide. In February, with the approval of a law certain guidelines were laid out, in contrast to the past, when if the woman did not denounce rights violations. There was no action because no one was telling us to act,” Paola Zambrano, Secretary of the Council for National Gender Equality of Ecuador, who identifies herself as a lesbian political feminist, told to teleSUR.
“The law (on violence against women) is a step forward. With the creation of policies on prevention of violence, there is an attempt to strengthen the issue of attention and protection, and it includes reparation which had not been taken into account before. The interesting aspect of this is that under the procedure for protection and reparation what the law is laying out is a process of state accompaniment for the victim to reconstruct their life project,” Zambrano explained.
However, there are still loopholes and a “lack of political will” that prevents proper implementation of the law.
Reacting to this, “This has been a been a source of disappointment and a mockery to women, and a lack of capacity from the State to safeguard women’s rights,” Tirira told teleSUR.
Activists think this is happening because conservative groups are exerting pressure over the government. “Pressures from these fundamentalists groups make it so that government won’t keep a steady position on the guarantee of women’s rights and also the guarantee of women’s right to reproductive health, in the cases of abortion,” Tirira argues.
While the current conservative government of Lenin Moreno shows a lack of political willingness to act in favor of women, the past government of President Correa also left a heavy debt, particularly on the issue of decriminalizing abortion, which he personally opposed to.
"The rates of criminalization of women due to abortion rise exponentially. We are still witnessing this tendency," Tirira concluded.