Bogota, November 2 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) - Venezuelan feminist and women’s movement launched a campaign demanding authorities take decisive action against gender-based violence and femicide last week, in response to the alleged murder of Caracas activist Sheila Silva. Silva was allegedly brutally killed by her partner on October 22 when she was thrown from her home on the eleventh floor of the Hugo Chavez apartment block, El Valle, Caracas.
As a member of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, Sheila was the coordinator of the state social program Homes of Our Homeland, worked on the team of Caracas Libertador Mayor Jorge Rodriguez, and was a member of the Cuban-Venezuelan social organization The Francisco Miranda Front.
She was described as “tireless, well-known, the woman who orientated poor women in Caracas to increase their self-esteem, to protect them, and educate them about their rights”.
Her former partner, Ángel José Mosqueda, has since been arrested by security forces will stand trial for first degree femicide. It is the first time that anyone has been charged with this crime in Venezuela.
Speaking to the news agency ALBA TV, Vice-Minister for the Protection of Women’s Rights Rebeca Madriz, promised #justice for Sheila — which became a trending hashtag on Twitter.
“We call on the Venezuelan people, and especially on the women’s movement, to accompany us in this process to win justice for Sheila’s case, which is barely starting,” she said.
“We will need the strength of an empowered popular movement to categorically reject this femicide,” she added.
The vice-minister also confirmed that the government will launch an anti-domestic violence campaign called “Peace Begins at Home: No More Violence against Women,” which will run through to the beginning of December. She also explained how gender-based and domestic violence continues to be a serious issue in Venezuelan society despite laws passed by the government to protect women.
The “Peace Begins at Home” campaign will see various public landmarks lit up in violet light by night, and is aimed at opening up a debate surrounding the decriminalization of abortion, family planning, and domestic violence - all longterm demands of Venezuela’s feminist movement.
Jorge Rodriguez has also confirmed that he will petition National Constituent Assembly delegates, who are currently in session to redraft the country’s 1999 Constitution, to write the protection of women’s rights into the new constitutional draft.
For their part, Venezuelan women’s and feminist movements held a march and a final farewell for Sheila in Caracas last week. They say that the case is proof that much more needs to be done by the government to combat the country’s high rates of femicide, as well as to educate national media on the importance of not dismissing femicides as "crimes of passion".
In recent years, Venezuelan women's movements have organised several mobilisations in rejection of gender-based violence, and in particular against femicide and transicide, or the murder of trans women and men. Representatives from the United Nations' Population Fund in Venezuela estimate that up to 50% of Venezuelan women have experienced some form of domestic violence at home.
Venezuela's 2007 Law for the Rights of Women to a Life Free of Violence was updated in 2014 to include a chapter on femicide following a long campaign by women's organisations. They have pledged to keep fighting against gender-based violence in honor of Sheila’s memory.
Below is an official petition circulated by feminist and women’s movements. It was also submitted to Venezuela’s National Constituent Assembly.
“We Will Keep Struggling in Honor of Sheila”
By Nathalia Maria
The pain of today is stronger than ever; in less than a week we have been witness to cruel acts of violence against women, amongst them that of our sister Sheila Silva, the coordinator of Homes of Our Homeland in the Capital District, who was assassinated in the nighttime on Sunday October 22 by her romantic partner, who threw her from the eleventh floor of a building.
It is a reality that women are not safe in our country, despite the Law for Women’s Rights to a Life Free from Violence — legislation that was the result of the struggle and perseverance of thousands of Venezuelan women, who alongside our political giant, commander [Hugo] Chavez, gave life to the most advanced law in the world on violence of this kind.
But, we must take into account that we continue to see how the entire judicial system is undaunted by our legislative tool against machista violence and that it turns a blind eye to the cries of the women of our motherland-homeland. How many of our sisters have had to pass by el Calvario to make a report with the attorney general’s office or the police? How many of them have returned home with a piece of paper, and without the system lifting a finger to help them? How many of these femicides which we grieve for today have been reported on multiple occasions with no subsequent investigation? Thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of times.
It is time for women, and high-time for the attorney general’s office to open its eyes and ears, and to act with the full weight of the law, not only against abusers, rapists and those who commit femicide, but against all of those public-sector officials that commit institutional violence against women everyday through the power of public office by not investigating, sanctioning, and not doing the work that the Republic has contracted them to do.
It is because of this that today, with tears in our eyes but continuing with the permanent struggle for life as always, that the social movements which we subscribe to below demand the following:
1. The femicide of Sheila Silva is punished with the full weight of the law, as well as those accused of the crimes of abuse, rape and femicide.
2. The creation of a commission in which feminist movements across the country are participants, alongside INAMUJER [The Institute of Women] and the Ombudsman’s office, to determine which cases [of violence against women] have been stalled due to a lack of evidence because district attorneys have not carried out the necessary investigations, and that these are re-activated.
3. The quarterly publication of the number of reports that have been made in relation to violence against women, how many of these have reached trial, how many of them have been sentenced, and how many have been dismissed.
4. That the National Constituent Assembly includes in its new Constitutional text the rights of women to a life free of violence, and that it legislates accordingly. In this regard we propose the following:
The right to a life free of violence is a human right, consequently, those who through their acts or omissions facilitate, allow or do not guarantee this will be incurring in a crime against humanity, and of a more serious nature when this is expressed as violence against citizens from historically excluded groups; people with disabilities, the elderly, children, Afro-descendents, indigenous peoples, the sex and gender diverse community [LGBTQ] and women.
Every person has the right to a life free of physical, sexual and psychological violence in society, communities and families. In these cases, women will be given special attention by the state.
The System for the Protection of the Rights of Women to a Life Free of Violence must be linked to the System for the Protection of the Rights of Children and Adolescents in all of its ambits, given that it has been demonstrated that whomever abuses women is a potential abuser of his children, consequently it will be legislated as such in both laws.
The state will guarantee the inclusion of a training and prevention program on gender violence in the formal education system and this will act as an early warning system to detect violence in all Venezuelan homes.
The state will guarantee the existence and quality functioning of a network of services for the administration of justice across the country to guarantee the necessary prevention and protection of historically excluded groups from any form of gender-based violence violence in both the public and private spheres.
The state will control, regulate and sanction the broadcast of messages that contribute to the construction and consolidation of gender stereotypes that directly impact on different forms of discrimination and violence against women.
The state will guarantee the right to housing, food and basic services, with priority given to those families being reinserted into society after having experienced gender-based and domestic violence over other vulnerable groups.
We exhort all social movements committed to life, socialism and hope, that they join us in our permanent protest against machista violence.
Sheila lives on in each one of us! #NotOneMore, #NotOneLess
Plataforma Popular Constituyente “Chavismo Bravío”
Red de colectivos y movimientos “La Araña Feminista”
Red de información por el aborto seguro RIAS
Movimiento de Pobladoras y Pobladores
Corriente Revolucionaria Bolívar y Zamora
Movimiento de Inquilinas e Inquilinos
Tetas en Revolución
Plataforma Socialista Golpe de Timón
Colectiva Tinta Violeta
Colectiva La Chispa
Movimiento de Mujeres de Mérida
Bunke, Colectivo feminista por nuestro derecho al placer
Mujeres por la Vida
Cosecha Feminista Cimarrón
Alianza Sexo Género Diversa Revolucionaria, ASGDRE
Colectivo Crea y Combate
Red Nacional de Comuneras y Comuneros
Plataforma Socialista GOLPE DE TIMÓN
Consejo Revolucionario del Poder Popular
Frente Cultural de Izquierda, FCI
Revista Sacudón http://www.revistasacudon.com.ve/
Mujeres por los Derechos, MUDERES
Colectivo Por Más Postnatal
Religiosas del Sagrado Corazón de Venezuela
Mala Junta - Patria Grande
Movimiento de Mujeres Rosas Insurgentes de Guacara