One of the insightful meetings we had was the meeting with a key representative of INAMUJER – The Women’s Institute. The brigadistas met her at the house of Jose Marti, Caracas and the discussion revolved on achievements and issues related to women.
Some of the key achievements of women in the revolution
- The fact that Chavez was feminist gave a big boost in feminist networks in the country
- All proposals from women rights group were approved in 1999 Constitution (e.g. co-responsibility of child care)
- Article 76 states the sexual and reproductive rights of women. This empowers women to determine number of children, how and obtain their children.
- Article 88 recognizes housework as a form of work. Women who work at home has full access to social security benefits such as health and pensions
- Constitution opened more access to women to work in previously restricted areas
- Formulation of Organic Law (The framework for successive laws) strengthen the laws to fight crime against women. This places crime against women on equal basis with other criminal codes.
- A standard 24 hours telephone line for women to request legal advice and if necessary, to allow affected women engage with the enforcement authorities.
- Women feel safer to report on domestic violence and INAMUJER has close association with National Ombudsman, the Police (they have a dedicated women’s section) and the Supreme Court.
- A recent reform were introduced in regards to femicide and this recognized pyschological warfare as one of the causes of suicide. Community organizing helps to protect women from this violence
- A network of refuge homes for women to be protected from extreme violence (up to 3 months) with their children (based on court order). Moreover, these centres provide training and medical assistance to the affected women to ease their community reintegration
- Social missions in Venezuela witness high participation among women
- Currently, 3 out 5 branches of goverment are heade by women (i.e. Election Commission)
- Currently, 41% of National Assembly Deputes are women as compared to 11% prior to Chavez. Majority of women deputies are from Chavista section and women actively participate in various National Assembly Commission.
- A women’s movement for pace and life is created to fight against all forms of violence such as sabotage, crime and destabilization plans
- Initiation of a program to fight breast cancer which is high in Venezuela. In future, they have plans to build a free network of breast cancer treatment.
- Before Chavez died in 2013, he prepared the revolutionary forces a 5-point plan called Plan de Patria (2013-2019). In this Plan, Mama Rosa (named after Chavez’s grandmother) plan was initiated to deepen gender equality. It was built on many discussion from various women collectives
- Rights of Lesbian, Gays, Bisexual, Transexual, Intersex and Queers (LGBTIQ) are highlighted in 1999 Constitution
- LGBTIQ also share spaces with women groups in terms of politics
The problems in Venezuela associated with women and measures to tackle them:
- Domestic Violence remains in the society
- Socio-economic problems are one of the roots of the violence. Women who tend to be silence in light of the violence allows this violence continues. It is understandable in Venezuelan society, women is dependent on men for economic reasons
- Chavistas retaining the macho culture, which is strong in Latin America
- Workplace/Institutional environments: When men see women outperforming them in workplaces, men would be agitated to commit violence towards violence
- Women themselves carry their own responsibility of not breaking the cultural barriers of role segregation
- Difficulties on enforcing the Organic Law of Prenatal and postnatal leave. This Organic Law stipulates leave for women in pre and post pregnancy and protects men and women from being sacked due to pregnancy and when they have baby for the first two years. However, this law is much difficult to be implemented in the informal economy.
- Contention of abortion. Abortion is not legal but there is a proposed law to legalize abortion. Currently, illegal abortions have resulted in many women deaths. The proposal (legalization of abortion) was built on securing women’s health. However, it has received vehement opposition from the Church and the Chavista ranks. The occurrence of abortion also stems the fact that Venezuela face teenage pregnancy issue. Use of contraception is a taboo topic (being Catholic country) and policing illegal abortion is very hard. To counter, sexual education is conveyed through schools on the dangers of teenage pregnancy
- Issues with breast implants. Venezuela is world famous for the record amount of breast surgeries and reconstruction. INAMUJER has launched a campaign to make Venezuelan women to appreciate natural beauty rather than relying on breast implants. Recently a scandal broken out in regards to dangerous breast implants in Venezuela. Venezuelan government stepped in to offer free operations to affected Venezuelan women to remove dangerous implants. Moreover, educational campaigns are done to highlight the health and psychological problems of breast implants.
- Reversing the deterioration of family values. Neglect of many segments of society in the 4th republic meant parents do abandon their children for the sake of work. This issue still persists
- Constitution has a contradictory stance on same-sex marriage
Banco de Mujer (Women’s Bank)
It was approved on 18th March 2002 to coincide the International Women’s Day. It essentially created a space for women to access credits especially on agriculture projects. Historically, women did not actively handled or manage money affairs. This created lasting impression on existing banks that they would be reluctant to finance women (as they were unsure of the returns). This bank creates access to loans with minimal bureaucratic access. Moreover, the banks provide the administration training, cooperative organizing and other associated business training for women projects. Banco de Mujer is intended not to make money, like any other standard banks and the recent reassignment of bank authority to Ministry of Banking & Finance created controversies. INAMUJER is an opinion this move is regrettable and the reassignment may create bureaucratic impedance to the bank. The reassignment, as of December, has not been formalized.
Looking forward, INAMUJER is identifying female protagonists in Venezuelan history. For example, women involved in the Independence War and standing up to Marcos Perez Jimenez dictatorship of 1950s. They are currently compiling role of the unseen heroines in Venezuela. One of the important meeting rooms of Miraflores Presidential Palace is dedicated to sculptures and artworks of Venezuelan heroines (a move initiated by Chavez)