Escalating Sexual Aggression Against Feminist And Women Protesters Against Military Coup In Honduras Ignored By Global & National Media
By Margaret Thompson
FIRE – Feminist International Radio Endeavour/Radio Internacional Feminista
August 17, 2009 – Tegucigalpa, Honduras — Global & national media are ignoring the growing intensity of sexual aggression and torture of women demonstrators in Honduras after the military coup d’etat & and violent repression, according to Honduran feminists and activists.
“The media (in Honduras) are manipulating our minds, because we see (in the streets) what is really happening” and they are not reporting the reality of the violent repression by the military and police, declared Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, the first lady of Honduras and wife of Pres. Zelaya, who spoke to a Forum by Feminists in Resistance of Honduras today. Most of the mainstream media are owned by supporters of the military coup, so their reports reflect efforts by the defacto regime to create an image of “normality,” that all is well, that there was in fact no military coup, they merely ousted an ex-president who violated the constitution, according to Castro de Zelaya.
The first lady spoke to an audience of about 120 mainly women, including an international delegation from Central America, Mexico, Canada, Spain and the United States participating in a Feminist Transgressional Watch . The group is visiting Honduras for Women’s Human Rights Week, and conducting a feminist observatory of violations of women’s human rights, and feminist strategies of resistance to the military coup.
As popular resistance to the military coup continues with massive daily street marches, military and police officials are becoming more aggressive with both female and male demonstrators, beating them with clubs, shooting into crowds with (rubber or real) bullets, conducting large scale arrests or detentions, torture, and assassinations, little of which is covered in many media reports, said Indira Mendoza of Catrachas. Mendoza has videotaped some of these incidents directly or has testimony of witnesses. Hospitals and clinics are filled with young people in particular, with broken arm or leg bones, head injuries, and (rubber) bullet wounds.
Women’s and human rights groups are receiving reports of escalating sexual aggression against women both in the demonstrations and in detentions, ranging from verbal obscenities and threats, to women being grabbed or beaten with batons on their buttocks, to torture and rape in detentions, noted Adela Coria of the Center for Women’s Studies (CEM). In today’s Forum in Tegucigalpa, Yadida Minero reported that she had just taken a young woman to a radio station to denounce her torture and rape with a rifle while in detention at a police station.
Likewise, in the United States, the diminishing number of media reports on Honduras reflect how Pres. Obama led by Secretary State Hillary Clinton is backing away from his originally strong condemnation of the coup which ousted the legally elected President Zelaya, according to Breny Mendoza, a Honduran living in the US, and professor at California State University in Northridge. The intensive US news coverage and outrage in the US mainstream media about the controversial presidential elections in Iran is a stark contrast to the minimal coverage of the military coup in Honduras which ousted a democratically elected president. And the front and center role of women including feminists in the massive demonstrations, and the increasingly aggressive reaction of military and police to the women are also absent in media reports.
Despite the growing sexual aggression against women in Honduras, they are not filing complaints with the police for a number of reasons. Sara Rosales, a human rights lawyer with CEM, noted that women are afraid to report any violence since it is the police and military who are in part responsible for the violent repression, and the women also figure that such efforts are futile, because nothing will come of it.
After years of national and global campaigns about domestic violence, complaints filed by women had been increasing in recent years, says Rosales, also a member of Feminists in Resistance in Honduras.
There were 12,000 complaints filed with police in Honduras denouncing violence against women in 2007, and 20,000 reports last year, noted Rosales. But since the coup there have been very few complaints filed, which clearly demonstrates the connection between domestic violence and violence against women in armed conflict, both of which have increased in recent weeks.
Also, feminists and women’s activists are very disheartened that the de facto coup government kicked out the Minister of Women under Pres. Zelaya, Selma Estrada de Uclés in late June with the coup, and installed María Martha Díaz, a member of the ultra conservative Catholic group Opus Dei. Díaz has refused to process any complaints filed regarding violations of women’s human rights since the coup.
When feminists rallied outside the Institute of Women (INAM) to protest the policies of Díaz as de facto minister, she called in the military, who beat the protesters with batons.
Women are well aware of the irony of this assault. Years of struggle by feminists and other women is now lost, said Rosales. “It all changed in one day,” noted Breny Mendoza, a professor at California State University in Northridge and originally from Honduras.
Honduran feminists and investigators have received a vast number of complaints about violations of women’s human rights by the current coup regime in the past six weeks, and have conducted interviews for testimonies of 18 women. As part of the feminist observatory, human rights lawyers and activists are working with Honduran feminists to prepare a report on these 18 cases, which were presented to the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights, which is also visiting Honduras during the week of August 17th.
In the meantime, women including Feminists in Resistance are continuing to be front and center in the marches. “No more coups (golpes), and no more golpes (beatings) of women!” shout the women as they take to the streets. “Quien somos? Somos Feministas en Resistencia!”
US Secretary of States Hillary Clinton has refused to declare the siege a coup d’etat. Some say that this is because it would mean cutting all military and economic aid, beyond the small amount frozen in early July. And Clinton, along with US Sen. John McCain recently met with de facto coup Pres. Michelleti in Washington, who had come to meet with members of Congress as well to convince them that all is well in Honduras. Clinton is also on the board of the Millennium Development Corporation, which has continued to distribute millions of dollars to Honduras since the coup, according to Bill Conroy, as published in The Narcosphere on August 9, 2009.
Margie Thompson is a member of an international delegation that is in Honduras this week (August 17-21) conducting a local and virtual Observatorio de la Transgresión Feminista (Feminist Transformation Watch) to shed light on women’s rights violations that are occurring under the de facto regime that overthrew the democratically elected president in a coup d’etat on June 28th. For more information visit http://www.justassociates.org/actions/honduras_action_coup.html.