Statistics from the Home Office reveal that a total of 28 women were murdered in 2018, in a country of fewer than 4 million inhabitants. Of these cases, 24 were at the hands of a partner or ex-partner, whilst 4 were committed by another family member. The situation is so awful that a state of national emergency has been declared.
In 2019 so far, 17 murders have been recorded, whose victims include a 72-year-old woman, two teenagers aged 14 and 17, and a 4-year-old girl.
Amid a public outcry, Constanza Moreira, a senator from political group Casa Grande of the Frente Amplio coalition, presented this governing coalition’s presidential candidate, Daniel Martínez, with a ‘National Emergency Plan 2020-2025’.
The proposal is concerned with comprehensively addressing the current law against gender-based violence and particularly with strengthening the inter-institutional system to guarantee dialogue with social organisations and feminist movements at a community level in order to prevent and combat violence against women.
However, the worrying issues described and recognised as needing urgent correction are just one side of the coin of Uruguayan women’s legal standing. On the other, women’s legitimate rights have been given concrete form and guaranteed through the adoption of progressive policies and legislation by consecutive governments, particularly those belonging to the left-wing Frente Amplio coalition.
For example, the National Statistics Institute recorded that of 1.6 million people in work, 730 thousand are women, and remarked that women’s employment “has risen in recent years at triple the rate of men’s, and average pay has increased from 72% to 75% with no category breakdown”.
Two women currently preside over the two legislative bodies of the Uruguayan Parliament: Cecilia Bottino in the House of Representatives who is an MP from the MPP party which belongs to the Frente Amplio coalition, and Lucía Topolansky, who has followed a similar political apprenticeship, and is head of the Senate and de facto vice president of the country.
On sensitive issues such as reproductive rights, women can benefit from free or low-cost contraceptive prescriptions, a law legalising abortion on request, access to IVF treatment, and preventative screenings for uterine cancer and other serious gynaecological illnesses.
For as expert a voice as the director of the National Women’s Institute, Mariella Mazzotti, “Uruguayan society is experiencing a level of gender-based violence that is alarming and concerning, bringing us to the need to continue working towards cultural change”.
In a seminar in Montevideo, she affirmed that “women are independent subjects with rights who share with men the tasks of caretaking, of production and economic responsibility”.
She also highlighted the fact that in 77% of this year’s cases, there had been no previous record of violence and that among the families phrases echoed like, “We can’t believe it, he was the father of her children”, which she considers a sign of the fact that we are not always aware of how victims can be immersed in situations of grave danger.
The fear and alarm about gender-based violence is such in Uruguay today that the Intersocial Feminista collective, at its latest annual demonstration, called for the government to make a declaration of national emergency
In a letter addressed to the highest authorities, they justify this request on the basis that more than 52% of the Uruguayan population should be able to live out their right to a healthy and free life. (PL)
(Translated by Elizabeth Dann – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org) – Photos: Pixabay