Venezuela: March 8 and the challenge of advancing the feminist agenda in the streets

By Zuleika Matamoros

Despite the restrictions imposed by the increase in Covid-19 cases due to the arrival of the Brazilian strain, the organizations and activists that had articulated to hold a rally on 8M took to the streets.

Banners, slogans, songs and chants decorated a manifestation that was minuscule compared to the tens of thousands of women who came out in Argentina, Spain, Chile, Brazil or Mexico, even facing harsh repression. However, it is necessary to say that in the face of the atomization of the mobilization in Venezuela, it is an important achievement that people increasingly join, albeit in a trickle, the demands for our Rights in the streets.

In Juntas y la Izquierda we are convinced and determined to continue with the challenge of resisting, not abandoning the streets and continuing to convince women to act in an organized way, together, independently of the government and the bosses’ parties to confront the attack on the rights of working women and popular sectors.

The Defense of women´s rights without concessions to the state

The government´s deepening anti-rights offensive imposes strength and determination on us to not give in to the government, religious sectors and conservatism not one bit. That is why we were present at the 8M gathering with three fundamental demands: Salary equal to the Basic Basket, for our sexual and reproductive rights and for the cessation of violence and femicides.

The disappearance of the salary that has left millions of workers without a livelihood for themselves and their families, means that an immense number of women who made up the majority of the working-class mass have seen their income reduced to almost zero. A massive and indirect dismissal that has subjected women to live not only without a formal salary, but without services. It is common for a woman in Venezuela to carry out two, three and up to four economic activities and is also subjected to living without guarantee of gas, water, electricity or telephone and internet service. Services that have suffered exponential increases. Multiple exploitation is enough to survive with precariousness.

On the other hand, female private sector workers, under the blackmail of “earning more than what the state imposes as the minimum wage”, have been subjected to work above the 8 hours established by the LOTTT labor laws, to the salary bonus and an average income that does not even cover the Food Basket. That is why Juntas y la Izquierda as a movement of working-class women did not lower this demand. We have even been part of the struggles of the workers for the right to the salary eliminated in fact by the government of Nicolás Maduro as part of the negotiations with the traditional and emerging bourgeoisie.

We strongly denounce the elimination of wages as an anti-worker policy of the Maduro government supported by the union bureaucracy agglutinated in the Central Socialist Bolivariana de Trabajadores (CSBT), which is the transmission belt of the policies that are perpetrated against the working class, with the PSUV party and its allies as accomplices of the painful situation we are living. We also loudly denounce the consequences of the blockade and the sanctions imposed by the United States; promoted and supported by the private employers’ parties (Voluntad Popular, Primero Justicia, Alianza Bravo Pueblo, Vente Venezuela, among others) that have further exacerbated the ordeal suffered by women and that also have an important accomplice in the unions and federations of the old Central de Trabajadores de Venezuela (CTV) and in other spaces like the Trade Union Coalition, where they dispute the appropriation of our struggles and take advantage of our needs. Many of those bureaucrats who now tear their clothes before the media and shout: decent wages now! They are the same ones that have sat down year after year and allowed us to reach these dire conditions.

Abortion: an uncomfortable issue even within the women’s movement

An issue around which the greatest coincidences are expressed between the government and sectors of the traditional right is abortion. The incarceration and viciousness with which the government acted in the case of an activist who supported a 13-year-old pregnant woman as a result of a rape set off alarms in January this year when the case came to light.

Faced with the spontaneous response of the women’s movement as a whole and in which the debate on abortion was revealed, the government held a meeting with sectors of the evangelical church. Deputies from right-wing parties such as Bertucci from the Esperanza por el Cambio party, the deputy Moisés García, the pastor and parliamentarian Alfonso Campos, were able to express themselves at ease at the Teresa Carreño Theater, where they were emphatic in their anti-rights petition against the reproductive sexual rights of women and sexual diversity.

The government has not been able to hide the intention of fleeing forward and at all costs prevent the debate from gaining strength in the street. And that is where the Gordian knot is presented with sectors of the feminist movement that under arguments such as “society is not prepared” or “the character of this government does not allow us to advance our rights.” They lower the demand to decriminalization for three reasons.

From Juntas y a la Izquierda we were able to break the limit that supposes that pro-government sectors and sectors that oppose it within the feminist movement made invisible those sectors that oppose the demand to be decriminalized for the three reasons and demand legalization of abortion, that it be safe and free, without restrictions. We know very well that having the power to decide to be a mother or not is a fundamental human right and we are not taking one step back. Neither the churches, nor the state, nor those who are functional to it will be able to with the determination that we have in the face of this disgrace to women in the XXI century. So we gave a lot to advance the slogan “sex education to decide, free contraceptives to not abort and free and safe legal abortion to not die.”

They are femicides. The state is responsible

In Venezuela, there have never been official figures of femicides, if we treat the term as it appears in the law. This concealment of figures is not accidental. Making the murder of women invisible, beyond showing the sexist and patriarchal character of the government and its anti-rights allies, contributes to the false ideas in society that in Venezuela femicides are neither common nor frequent.

While the world showed us women in large mobilizations denouncing abuses and violence, femicides, in Venezuela the figures are not shown and the propaganda of the law against violence against women and its reform has built the matrix of opinion of her feminist character.

This falsehood has been exposed when various organizations and activists dedicated themselves to systematizing information collected through various media, and despite understanding that this may represent an underreporting, the issue of femicides began to be given visibility. Last year 256 women were victims of femicides and this year to date 49 women have been murdered as a result of sexist violence.

Before the mobilization that was carried out for the cessation of femicides for the painful and terrible cases of rape, mutilation and murders of two young people in Portuguesa state in less than 48 hours, in addition to the murder of a woman at the hands of her sentimental partner in a week in which two women were also killed in the city of Caracas, the response, in addition to arresting the aggressor, was the reform of the organic law against violence against women.

From Juntas y a la Izquierda, we join our voices with those who have denounced the state for its ineffectiveness, non-observance and indolence in the face of femicides and we say: the state is responsible!

Resist with organization and fight for our rights

Women are in resistance. We have not only been hit historically. Patriarchy and capitalism are a symbiosis that has imposed a system that has led us to death, compulsory motherhood, and the violation of our labor and wage rights.

We strengthen in the struggle and that is the challenge that we have taken up in Juntas y a la Izquierda. We want to invite every woman in a workplace, in a high school or in a school, in the neighborhoods and popular and rural areas to take part of this organization to fight together against these scourges that attack us. No right for women has been conquered without struggle. The right to vote, to divorce, to choose who to marry, to wear pants…

We invite you to be part of the founding team of these organizations of working women and as part of the International Socialist League. We have a lot to do, the challenge is great and we are determined to fight for our rights and make history. To change everything that must be changed in this system that exploits and oppresses us.

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