Creating cultures of non-violence in Latin America
The notion of masculine domination and the concept of women as men’s property is widespread and deeply rooted in our societies, and violence against women is commonly accepted. The idea that women can be punished when they fail to meet expectations regarding their gender identity persists in many sectors, and men feel justified in exercising control through the use of force and explicit violence. As a result and because women are seen as dependent upon some male superior – be he partner, spouse or boss – it seems only “natural” that they be punished for not fulfilling their expected female roles such as ironing a shirt poorly or refusing to have sex.This social attitude, which is a form of aid and abetting the crime of violence against women, is so widespread that the recent ECLAC report ¡Ni una más! El derecho a vivir una vida libre de violencia en América Latina y el Caribe (Not One More! The Right to Live Free from Violence in Latin America and the Caribbean) explicitly recommended “the creation of a non-violent culture that questions norms and customs, language and diverse expressions of patriarchal culture based on the use of power, repression, terrorism, armed conflict and the extermination of people for reasons of gender, ethnicity or religion.”
To reflect on this reality and design a regional campaign to prevent and eradicate violence against women, the Latin American and Caribbean Women’s Health Network held a regional meeting of networks and organizations that work on VAW in Latin America and the Caribbean. The event took place February 6-8, 2008, in Bogotá, Colombia, and was part of a project sponsored by Oxfam-Novib.
The meeting was linked to the We Can Stop Violence against Women campaign that has been developed in several Asian nations including India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh with the support of Oxfam-Novib. The main focus of the effort in Southeast Asia is to train community leaders, both women and men, to promote individual and social changes that encourage active rejection of VAW and weaken the general acceptance of violence based on the understanding of the structural inequities between the genders that are seriously harmful to women.
The Focus section of this first virtual issue of the Women’s Health Journal is dedicated to a brief review of some of the experiences shared at this regional meeting on the National Watchdog Group on Femicide in Mexico, FEIM’s project “Two Faces of the Same Reality” on women, HIV/AIDS and Violence in Argentina, the campaign against forced sterilization in Peru, and the Chilean campaign “Machismo Kills.”
The Sharing our Experiences section of this issue looks at actions to promote the right to access safe and legal abortion in Uruguay, by Alejandra López and Lilián Abracinskas, and this issue’s Panorama examines issues related to sex tourism in the Caribbean in “Gendered Performances on an Exotic Stage: Dimensions of Difference and Sex Tourism in the Caribbean,” by Laurel Bernstein. Finally, the Documents section explores a gender and rights approach to breastfeeding promotion by collaborators from WABA.