by Amna Abdullatif. Source: International Political Forum
Though the “female consciousness” refers to the ability of women from varying backgrounds to speak personally of what life is like for women in their particular culture, I believe that an important part of this consciousness is that all women, of any background, are able to speak on behalf of others who may not be able to share their experiences directly. I believe the female consciousness is a supportive network, in which all women are able to give voice to the suffering of others, though we may not share it individually.
I was recently lucky enough to attend a women’s advocacy training session, organised by the Central America Women’s Network (CAWN). I heard of the suffering of women in Honduras from Dina Meza, a Honduran journalist and activist.
What amazed me was that I had never really read anything about the country and had no idea of what life there is like – politically, socially or economically – it’s unfamiliar to me. But not just me: in a room filled with other well-educated women, none had really ever considered the plight of women in Honduras. I imagine that, like the unheard voices of Honduran women, there are millions of women suffering worldwidewhose stories we will never hear, and that’s because we are too often limited by information. Part of the reason for writing this article is to relay what I have heard of the experiences of women in Honduras.
I do not claim any expertise; I am not from Honduras, and as I mentioned above, what I heard was new to me. My hope is that through all of us sharing our stories, whether heard, learned, or lived – not only about ourselves but other women and what they are going through – we will raise the female consciousness and support other women around the world by spreading awareness of their plight.
According to Ms Meza, the situation in Honduras for women is currently incredibly dangerous. The rate of femicide has increased drastically since the coup in 2009, and the accession to power of the current unstable government, which was supported by the US and Europe.
Staggeringly, a woman in Honduras is killed every eighteen hours, and more than 3,000 mothers, daughters and sisters have been violently killed in the last decade. Those who murder women there can do so almost with impunity: most cases are never investigated, and those who have blood on their hands are largely free to continue their violence against women.
One such story is that of Saby, a 26-year-old Honduran woman who went to the authorities when her husband threatened to kill her. Despite his prior convictions for rape and domestic abuse, nothing was done against him. Saby continued to pursue legal assistance, but was told to seek some sort of agreement between herself and her husband for the sake of the four children they had together.
On one occasion after returning her children, he forced her into his home, raped her, beat her and threatened to kill her. Saby continued her efforts to get her husband jailed, and eventually got him to appear in court. However, on November 6th 2007, only four days after the court appearance, Saby was murdered at her workplace by her husband, who had been released from prison.
Saby is one of many women who are killed on a daily basis in Honduras, often by men within their own families, and there are absolutely no consequences for the actions they take. She was courageous enough to attempt to seek legal help, police protection, and even managed to get her husband to court, yet those people who should have protected her did almost nothing to prevent, redress or punish the abuse she received from her husband, and ultimately failed to inform her when he was released from prison. This negligence resulted in her death.
This story of domestic violence, although tragic, is not at the centre of the issue in Honduras. Only 5% of female deaths in the country are due to domestic violence. According to Oxfam:
“Women are usually shot, often in public spaces, or discovered on waste land. Although exacerbated by gun law (over 21s can possess a firearm) human rights activists and academics blame the institutionalised and extreme gender discrimination in Honduran society, government ministries, the judiciary and law enforcement authorities.”
Only 1 in 5 cases of femicide in the country are investigated. It is this lack of investigation and prosecution that breeds the very culture of violence that needs to be stopped. The institutionalised culture of impunity is proving to be a breeding ground for further violence against women.
What is happening in Honduras isn’t unique to that country; it is a sad state of affairs worldwide, where violence against women is an issue which needs attention and needs to be a priority for everyone. Knowledge is wasted if we do not share what we learn with others, in order that they too can develop their understanding and pass it on still further.
This is also an invitation to you to do your research and learn about a country which, for the most part, is not talked about.
Let’s not feel that we need to be experts in order to be a voice for others; if we are able to give a truthful account of something we know about, without generalisations or accusations, we should feel free and indeed compelled to do so.
Let us not forget those women like Saby, silenced by violence. Their stories should be heard and shared, in order to protect future generations from the same fate.