Venezuela: The Vannesa Rosales case and the debate on legalizing abortion

The year began with an event that shook the foundations of the feminist movement in Venezuela. In the first days of January, it was revealed that Vannesa Rosales, an activist and teacher, has been imprisoned since October for accompanying and providing abortion medications to a 13-year-old teenager who had become pregnant after being rape.

By Zuleika Matamoros. Organized of Juntas y a la Izquierda. Member of Marea Socialista. Journalist of alternative media Teacher.

The development of the events unmasks the sexist and patriarchal character of the Venezuelan State: The mother of the victim was imprisoned and released 22 days after the arrest since she was breastfeeding. The activist, after three long months of rights violations, procedural delays and a ban on visits, was granted house arrest due to the pressure exerted by the feminist movement as a whole. The rapist is persecuted by Interpol, a fact that was reported only after the actions taken by the different feminist organizations and activists demanding an end to the rapist’s impunity. Although the house arrest measure allows the judicial process to be carried out in an environment that is less infringing of Human Rights, Vannesa Rosales remains in jail and is going through a legal process full of irregularities. She is charged with the crimes of conspiracy, and third party induced abortion. Such is the current situation of a case that divides waters in relation to the debate on the legalization of abortion in Venezuela. In this sense, the demand is clear #Full FreedomForVannesa

Abortion: A Subject Brushed Under the Rug

This case of patriarchal (in) justice occurs in a context in which there are increasing feminist advances in the region, as a result of the struggle and the persistance of the women’s movement. This case focuses on the archaic abortion legislation in Venezuela, one of the most restrictive in Latin America, which does not even allow the termination of pregnancy in the event of rape.

But basically what is revealed is that although the Venezuelan Penal Code has not undergone changes in the matter of termination of pregnancy since 1873, the debate on the legalization of abortion has not been brought to light. Not even at the times when the revolutionary process was at its peak and a constituent process was carried out.

The obstacles to opening the debate on the legalization of abortion the power of religions or sexism and the patriarchal character of those who have led the government, has also been the institutional feminist movement that has yielded, which has settled with a de facto flexibility, which today closes in the face of the victory of women in Argentina and the mobilizations of women in the rest of the region. They allowed the government to condition them and silence the issue. Today, despite having raised their voices demanding the freedom of Vannesa, they continue in their line of mutilated rights when they insist on decriminalization under three causes: rape, unfeasibility of the fetus and risk for the mother.

Sex education to decide, free contraceptives to avoid abortion, legal abortion to avoid dying

From Juntas y a la Izquierda, we consider that this is wrong, that the demand regarding abortion must be its legalization because decriminalization only protects us from going to jail under certain conditions. That is not even an advance in our right to decide.

That is why we raised the demand for legal, safe and free abortion. Decriminalizing abortion will not end the practice of clandestine abortions because precisely the causes are for that, they are not to advance but to minimally “expand” the conditions under which the patriarchal State will “grant us permission and authorization” to interrupt a pregnancy. In other words, our right to decide will be criminalized, penalized, outlawed, as much as it has been for centuries.

Thus, in the face of the inevitable and visible force of the fourth feminist wave and in nearby territories in our own continent, the response of this State and the Maduro government has been more than reactionary. They not only imprisoned Vanessa Rosales, but the anti-rights character of each one of those who make up the State with their opposition included, have recently created in the National Assembly a commission on family, freedom of worship and religions favoring even the evangelical sector within the Power, such is the “Pluralism” of the reaction. Meanwhile, a woman is imprisoned for helping a girl who was raped. Meanwhile, the rapist is free and women without wages do not have the possibility of accessing free contraceptives

Our Call

From Juntas y a la Izquierda, an organization linked to other international feminist organizations that organize within the ISL, we call on all women, sexual dissidents, men willing to move through the new masculinities and leave the sexist and patriarchal dimension to join our organization. It is a call to be part of a class feminism. To be part of those who intend to put these debates in the streets, in schools, in the workplace, and in society as a whole.

Our fight is for the rights of workers as a whole, but with a feminist character. Our campaign for the legalization of abortion also has three key elements: Comprehensive Sex Education to have tools to decide and above all to know when and how we are being abused; free, regular and systematic access to contraceptives to avoid unwanted pregnancies and; In the event that this happens, we demand access to legal abortion to prevent women from dying in clandestine abortions or simply suffering the condemnation of being mothers by obligation or by “divine mandate” of those who exercise the Power of this capitalist and patriarchal State.