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Ecuadorian feminists, faced with the challenge of a divided country

Tuesday, 22 October 2019
Rosa M. Tristán


"The Ecuadorian feminist movement has to rebuild again, after years of divisions that have led him to a very complicated situation, so we have big challenges ahead and they have to do with women's rights". The words of Lita Martínez, director of the Ecuadorian Centre for the Promotion and Action of Women (CEPAM), an organization dedicated to women's rights in Guayaquil, with more than 35 years of history, are illuminating from the moment she lives in the Andean country. Alianza por la Solidaridad has worked with CEPAM on numerous projects and has followed very closely what has happened in this country in recent weeks.

While negotiations are still between the Government, chaired by Lenin Moreno, and indigenous representatives a new decree on fuel subsidies and working conditions, once the previous one was annulled by the massive street protests, feminist organizations are in full analysis of the situation after living something that, as the social leader explains, "no one saw coming." "It was organized in a very short time, without the guidelines that are usually followed in indigenous communities, which left us out of place for social organizations, including those defending women's rights, which were already touched by a very complicated recent past Martinez explains.

The restructuring of Ecuador's feminism began to be larval years ago, when part of the movement was 'coptenized' by the power exercised between 2007 and 2017 by former President Rafael Correa. That, they acknowledge, divided it into two sides that have so far not been recomposed into one. "From this we learned that feminism as a movement should not be identified with any party, that we must rebuild networks because in women's rights we have much to advance and now they will be forgotten"He adds.

But the situation is very complex. In the country, many are aware that they lived for years in a "glass" economic bubble that has burst in their face. And behind that reality is a former president, Rafael Correa, who left the exploitation of oil in Chinese hands until 2027 and who maintained fuel subsidies that have been in force for 45 years and that causes advantages, but also problems, such as the 'illegal traffic' of gasoline with Colombia and Peru, where it is more expensive. But, at this stage, an abrupt suspension such as that intended by the Government caused such a price increase on all kinds of consumer products that the attack against it was general. "The reality is that the state has no funds to pay wages while at the same time debts have been forgiven to large companies since 2014," she admits.

As an advocate and woman, Lita Martinez in her analysis of what happened does not forget the role indigenous people played in mobilizations, its invisible position, almost always in the rear, taking care of the children, preparing meals, protecting... And also the brutal repression they suffered because Ecuadorian security forces did not distinguish between the indigenous and the destabilizing groups that took advantage of the situation to sow chaos. In the end, at the moment they do not know how many of the 1,300 detainees and 1,500 injured are women, although from CEPEM they had lawyers prepared to come to the defense of those affected.

And then there are the indirect consequences, because it turns out that the feminist movement had been working for some time to get the president to speak out about the abortion approval in case of rape, in a country where 20,000 underage girls gave birth between 2008 and 2018. The possibility had already been rejected recently in Parliament, but there was some remote possibility that Lenín Moreno would bet on the reform of the current law, which only allows an abortion in case of danger of death for the mother. Now, it's a theme that's back in stand by.

Other concern is the step backwards on issues of gender-based violence in terms of complaints to the Police. "Many women who have seen cops assault people, they're not going to feel enough security to feel protected by those same officers, which will also be a throwback that we have to work with."

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