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Nicaragua’s peasant women reach another milestone

March 2012

After a successful campaign to protect womens land rights, Nicaraguas peasant women achieved another policy milestone. Along with urban-based womens organizations, they lobbied the National Congress to pass a new womens rights legislation. And they won. The legislation, yet to be signed into law, received broad congressional approval 84 votes in favor out, just seven votes shy of unanimous. Grassroots International joins our Nicaraguan partners and allies in celebrating another step forward toward womens rights and dignity.   Once signed, the new law will provide stronger legal support in cases of violence against women within both domestic and public spheres, as well as the violence generated by economic injustices. In particular, the new law establishes femicide as a felony. Femicide is a hate crime against women that results in the victims death. Sadly, femicide is a widespread problem in Central America. In Guatemala alone, 5,287 women have been killed by physical violence since 2001.   According to local human rights defenders, many cases of violence against women, especially domestic violence cases, are not reported or do not receive the proper attention by local authorities in Nicaragua. In this climate of impunity, victims of violence are less inclined to report to the police. Many victims also fear retaliation from relatives and the community in general, and do not trust the authorities to prosecute their cases.   The new legislation creates a (necessary) tension with other laws and past executive orders in Nicaragua. The new law defines the womens rights to self-determination and freedom of violence which clashes with Nicaraguas draconian abortion law of 2008, which prohibits abortion even in the case of rape and disregards womens self-determination.   To take advantage of such policy tensions, women in Nicaragua are organizing in different national networks which are part of broader, international alliances. Peasant women in Nicaragua, for instance, participate in the Rural Workers Association (ATC), a Grassroots International partner which is part of Via Campesina International. The Via, also a Grassroots partner, is a network of indigenous people and peasants dedicated to womens rights and food sovereignty.   In 2008, the Via Campesina put into motion a global campaign to end all forms violence against women. Through this campaign, women of the Via Campesina are partnering with the World Womens March, another Grassroots Internationals ally. In Maputo, Mozambique at their second Womens Assembly, the Via Campesina issued a declaration on women which said in part:   As women, we reclaim the respect of all of our rights and reject the patriarchal system and all its discriminatory expressions.  We reaffirm the full exercise of citizen engagement.  We claim our right to a dignified life, respect for our sexual and reproductive rights, the immediate application of means to eradicate all forms of physical, sexual, verbal and psychological violence, as well as the elimination of the practice of female murder (feminicide) that still persists.   In Nicaragua and throughout Central America, the Via Campesina is creating national and local committees to implement the Global Campaigns goals. Through the committees, member-organizations define strategies to create safer spaces at the community level for womens leadership to blossom while advocating for broader legislative changes to protect womens rights. The Via Campesina and the local womens groups, such as the ATC, helped draft and campaign for the new law in Nicaragua as part of their efforts to end violence against women everywhere.   Onwards to the next victory.   Photo courtesy: Mabel Marquez, Via Campesina-Central America

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