Posts Tagged ‘women’s rights in Honduras’

‘They put a gun to my head,’ says Honduran mother

Elquin Castillo is seen near Casa Betania Santa Martha June 29, 2019, in Salto de Agua, Mexico. (CNS photo/David Agren)

TENOSIQUE, Mexico (CNS) — Maribel — a Garifuna woman from Honduras and mother of six children, ages 6 months to 16 years — only wanted to work.

She baked coconut bread and sold it the streets of San Pedro Sula, Honduras, until a gang started demanding a cut — roughly 20 percent of her earnings. After threats and violence and futile attempts at negotiating with the gang, she fell behind in her payments. Gangsters eventually showed up at her daughter’s school to send a message of intimidation, forcing Maribel and her family to flee the country.

“I was being pursued,” she said from a shelter run by the Franciscans in southern Mexico. “I’m scared they’re going to come looking for me here,” she added, noting that gang members were now threatening her sister in Honduras and asking about her whereabouts.

Maribel’s plight highlights the despair and desperation of many migrants, who flee violence, poverty and, increasingly, drought and the early effects of climate change in Central America.

Mexico has sent members of its National Guard to stop migrants at its southern border, and stories of overcrowding and unsanitary conditions in U.S. and Mexican migration detention centers have surfaced.

U.S. President Donald Trump — who threated Mexico with tariffs on its exports if migration was not stopped — has praised Mexico for its increased enforcement, telling reporters July 1: “Mexico is doing a lot right now. They have almost 20,000 soldiers between the two borders. … And the numbers are way down for the last week.”

But the migrants streaming out of Central America seem undeterred due to deteriorating conditions at home.

Few migrants grasp the geopolitics at play, focusing instead on seeking safety or escaping hunger at home. Staff at shelters in southern Mexico say the flow of migrants has remained high.

At La 72, the shelter in Tenosique, director Ramon Marquez reported receiving more than 10,000 guests so far in 2019, putting them on pace to break the record of 14,300 migrants welcomed in 2013.

Militarization, however, forces migrants to take paths less traveled to avoid police and soldiers, and this puts them more at risk, say shelter directors.

“Migrants don’t come here because they want to. Migrants leave their country because they don’t have any other alternative,” said Franciscan Sister Diana Munoz Alba, a human rights lawyer and a member of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary who works at a migrant shelter in Chiapas. “(There’s) a paradox of risking their lives to save their lives, and this militarization (of Mexico) is not going to stop migration.”

Maribel, whose name was changed for security reasons, fell victim to criminals shortly after crossing into Mexico from Guatemala in late May. Three hooded assailants spotted her and her family walking along a rural road and robbed them of their meager possessions.

“They threw us face down … the kids face down. They were scared, crying,” she recalled.

Maribel said she had never thought much about migrating, despite the difficulties of life in the Atlantida department on the Honduras’ Atlantic Coast — an area populated by Afro-Hondurans, who have been abandoning the country in droves.

“I can’t go back to Honduras. These gangs have people everywhere.”

After her husband suffered a disability in his construction job, Maribel started her own informal business, harvesting coconuts and baking coconut bread in Honduras.

She sold $60 of bread daily, but had to hand over 20 percent daily to the Calle 18 gang. There were other expenses, too, she said, such as the cost of sending her children to school, even though education is supposed to be free for children in Honduras.

In December, the gangs made greater demands, which she refused. As she worked one day, “They put a gun to my head and took all I had,” Maribel said.

She eventually stopped paying. Then the gang came looking for her 16-year-old daughter. Maribel saved her money and left Honduras with her family.

Violence has sent thousands fleeing from Honduras. But observers say other factors are driving migration, including poverty and political factors. Migrants speak of the sorry state of services such as health and education.

“That’s why we’re looking to migrate, because the economy is so bad,” said Elquin Castillo, 26, who left a fishing village with his pregnant wife, infant daughter and 20 relatives in June.

Javier Avila, 30, gave up after drought in southern Honduras wiped out his melon crop for the second consecutive season. He borrowed $82 to rent a small plot for his crop — which was lost — but could not find the funds to sow again in 2019.

“It used to be normal that it rained in the winter, but not any longer,” he said from a migrant shelter.

Maribel expressed similar pessimism over Honduras. She was hoping to receive a document to travel freely through Mexico, though she was uncertain how much longer she would have to wait.

How ‘femicide’ drove the caravan
An Honduran migrant woman and their children, who are taking part in a caravan towards the United States, are pictured at the "Casa del Migrante" (Migrant's House) in Guatemala City, on October 17, 2018. - A migrant caravan set out on October 13 from the impoverished, violence-plagued country and was headed north on the long journey through Guatemala and Mexico to the US border. President Donald Trump warned Honduras he will cut millions of dollars in aid if the group of about 2,000 migrants is allowed to reach the United States. (Photo by ORLANDO SIERRA / AFP)

An Honduran migrant woman and her children, who are taking part in the caravan towards the United States, stop at the “Casa del Migrante” (Migrant’s House) in Guatemala City in October.

Violent clashes at the US-Mexican border, with refugees throwing rocks and police firing tear gas, are the latest sign of intensifying trouble in Central America. Why are its people fleeing? Some of the reasons are easy to identify. Decades of exploitation by US-owned corporations left a legacy of political oppression and weak coffee-and-banana economies. Militarization in the 1980s suffocated democratic movements. Gang violence has spread. Climate change is eating away at natural resources.

One of the most important factors fueling this crisis, however, is also among the most overlooked: gender-based violence. In recent years, this plague has reached dramatic proportions. “It is taking on a magnitude and a level of cruelty that is devastating Central America,” a United Nations official asserted in 2016. He spoke as the UN released a report showing that among all countries in the world that are not at war, the three with the highest rates of violence against women are Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.

Many of the Central American refugees now making their way toward the United States are female. They have special reasons to flee. In Honduras, which is the size of Ohio, a woman is murdered every 16 hours. El Salvador has reached an even grimmer position on the horror list: world’s highest rate of “femicide.” A survey concludes that one in every four women in rural Nicaragua, and one in five who live in cities, has been physically attacked. The attorney general of Guatemala, where the murder of women is a daily occurrence, estimates that half of the female victims have been lured or forced into the sex trade, and then killed for some reason — or for no reason at all.

Many female victims in Central America are assaulted or killed by gangs that roam where law has lost its grip. Societies that have long been harshly patriarchal revert to their worst instincts when people can be killed with impunity. That is the effective reality in large parts of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.

Women in Central America who escape the clutches of criminal gangs often face violence at home. Rates of adolescent pregnancies are among the highest in the world. Public health workers say this reflects a culture in which some fathers, stepfathers, and neighbors feel free to molest girls. A UN representative in El Salvador recently called the sexual abuse of children there a “very profound, difficult, and serious” problem. That applies to much of Central America. “It’s huge,” a judge from the Nicaraguan town of Leon told a recent interviewer. “Every day we process sex crimes.”

Two prominent Central Americans represent the forces arrayed against women there. The most obvious is President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, whose stepdaughter has accused him of sexually abusing her for more than a decade beginning when she was eleven. Ortega’s permanence in power is a potent symbol of the immunity that protects sexual predators in Central America.

At the other end of the spectrum — on the receiving end of violence — was Berta Caceres, the environmental activist who was murdered in 2016 as she waged a campaign against the construction of a dam in Honduras. Her case attracted worldwide attention and resulted in rare arrests and convictions, but those who ordered her killing remain at large. They join a growing number of men in Central America who take advantage of the fact that they can kill women with little fear of punishment. That has a political impact, since in much of Central America, women are emerging as leaders of social movements. Many are young, among them Valeska Valle, a 22-year-old accounting student who is helping to direct anti-government protesters in Nicaragua, and Lenina Garcia, who last year became the first female president of the student body at Guatemala’s most important university and is using her position to organize marches against corruption and impunity. They have given a distinctly feminine face to political protest, turning political repression into another form of gender-based violence.

These threats to Central American women — assault at home, abuse at the hands of criminal gangs, and violent punishment for those who protest — propel many to flee. “Sexual violence is the major push factor,” concluded a study conducted at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. When researchers asked female refugees why they fled, most cited rape, gender-based violence, and fear of sex trafficking.

As these women take to the unarmed road of flight, they risk other forms of abuse. They are easy prey for predators on both sides of the law. Experience has prepared them for it. A plague of violence against women is spreading through Central America. As long as it rages, mothers and daughters will keep fleeing.

Stephen Kinzer is a senior fellow at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University.

Family of slain activist asks U.S. to cut off aid to Honduras

The 25-year-old daughter of Berta Cáceres says family struggling for answers

Wants U.S. to pressure Honduras to accept independent international investigation

11 U.S. senators support withholding aid from police tied to rights abuses

A Martyr of ‘Laudato Si’?

The indigenous spirituality of assassinated activist Berta Cáceres

– See more at:

By Betsy Shirley 03-18-2016

Less than two weeks after the March 3 murder of acclaimed indigenous Honduran activist Berta Cáceres, Nelson García, another Honduran activist, was murdered outside his home. Both García and Cáceres were members of the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), the indigenous rights organization Cáceres co-founded.

Though Honduran police have claimed Cáceres’ murder was the result of an attempted robbery, many believe it was a political assassination, intended to silence her. Cáceres’ family, along with more than 200 human rights organizations and now the Holy See, are calling for an independent international investigation into the crime.

“I want to express my desire that there be an independent and impartial investigation into what happened in order to resolve this horrendous crime as soon as possible,” wrote Cardinal Peter K.A. Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, in a letter addressed to Cáceres’ family and friends.

For those closest to Cáceres, it’s a small but encouraging sign.

“It’s justifying what we’ve all been saying: that Bertita’s had a profound effect around the world,” Cáceres’ nephew, Silvio Carrillo, told Sojourners.

And, by some measures, that legacy can be found everywhere from remote villages in Honduras to papal encyclicals.

“I am vulnerable”

Berta Cáceres knew persistence was dangerous.

“Giving our lives in various ways for the protection of the rivers is giving our lives for the well-being of humanity and of this planet,” she said on April 20, 2015, after accepting the Goldman Prize for her leadership in a nonviolent campaign that pressured the world’s largest hydroelectric company to withdraw from the Agua Zarca dam on the Gualcarque River.

That same day, an international organization that monitors environmental abuse reported that Honduras is “the deadliest country in the world to defend the natural world.” According to the Global Witness report, at least 109 environmental activists were killed there between 2010 and 2015. Cáceres herself had received death threats for more than a decade, and her colleague, Tomás García, was shot by a military officer in 2013. Later that year, Cáceres told Al-Jazeera, “I take lots of care but in the end, in this country where there is total impunity I am vulnerable…when they want to kill me, they will do it.”

The deadly environment for activists is closely tied to recent Honduran history. Following the 2009 coup, in which democratically elected Honduran president Manuel Zelaya was deposed, the new government declared Honduras “open for business” and granted profitable contracts to transnational companies looking to capitalize on Honduran natural resources — including resources on indigenous land. When leaders like Cáceres demanded the rights guaranteed to indigenous people by the U.N and the International Labor Convention — including the right to determine how indigenous land is used — it wasn’t great for business. The death threats followed.

Cáceres’ words about “giving our lives” not only underscore her persistence and courage but also her deeply rooted indigenous spirituality — an understanding that the well-being of humanity depends on the well-being of the earth.

“When we started the fight for Rio Blanco, I would go into the river and I could feel what the river was telling me,” Cáceres said in 2015.

“I knew it was going to be difficult, but I also knew we were going to triumph, because the river told me so.”

Image via Goldman Environmental Prize.

The spirituality of resistance

According to the Lenca creation story, when the first man began to clear land to grow maize, the trees bled and cried out against him. God then instructed the man to perform a compostura, “during which the man should sacrifice domestic animals to God and the earth to ask forgiveness for the violence he was about to do.”

Today, the Lenca people live in eastern El Salvador and western Honduras. But according to David Escobar, a Salvadoran Lenca and indigenous activist based in California, the concept of compostura remains an essential part of Lenca culture.

“‘Permission-giving’ is a common value that is still practiced today among the Lencas of Honduras and El Salvador,” he explained.

Consequently, when heavy machinery arrived on the Gualcarque River in 2011 to begin constructing a dam, without the permission of the Lenca people, the Lenca viewed it not only as the destruction of their livelihood and water supply, but also as the destruction of a sacred site and complete disregard for their indigenous rights.

So with the help of Cáceres and COPINH, the Lenca people fought back: On April 1, 2013, members of the Lenca community created a human road block to the construction site. They held out for 21 months.

As part of their defense, the Lenca people made traditional composturas, offering food and drink to the earth and asking the spirits of the earth, water, and sun for protection as they worked for justice. They also engaged the indigenous tradition of caminata, walking as a community to the dam headquarters while offering prayers or incense.

Cáceres identified these actions as a major turning point in halting construction on the Agua Zarca dam.

“In our fight to protect the Gualcarque River, the most powerful element has been the Lenca people’s spirituality and an impressive tenacity in the struggle that continues to this day,” she said.

Photo of Berta Caceres as a young child. Image via Betsy Shirley/Sojourners.

“Forgive me!”

Shortly after Berta Cáceres was murdered, Fr. Moreno Coto, a Jesuit priest known in Honduras as “Padre Melo,” wrote a note expressing “pain and rage” at the death of someone he called a “friend” and “sister.”

“We had a particular history of close friendship and common struggle,” he said.

A few days later, with the help of Fr. Fausto Milla, a diocesan priest who was another of Cáceres’ closest allies, Padre Melo conducted Cáceres’ funeral.

Cáceres, like many Lenca people, was raised Catholic, but she herself identified most closely with the practices and beliefs of her indigenous heritage. Though Cáceres had the support of local leaders like Frs. Coto and Milla, Carrillo said his aunt had a complicated relationship with the Catholic Church.

“Certain parts of the Catholic Church have not done well by the indigenous population there,” explained Carrillo.

For Cáceres, this complicated relationship included ongoing legacy of colonization by Spanish Catholics — which, by conservative estimates, cut the indigenous population in half — as well as Cáceres’ ongoing struggle with the Honduran hierarchy. According to Cáceres, Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez instructed churchgoers not to work with COPINH or listen to radio stations that were too critical of the Honduran state. Throughout his tenure as archbishop, Cardinal Rodríguez has also been accused of endorsing the 2009 military coup by reading “a statement on national television that seemed to bless the action.” The cardinal has denied these claims.

Cardinal Rodríguez’s feelings about Cáceres seem unchanged by her murder. Carrillo told Sojourners that although someone from the apostolic nunciature in Buenos Aires — the Holy See’s embassy in Argentina — had called Cáceres’ mother, offering condolences on behalf of the pope, no one in his family had heard from the highest-ranking Catholic in Honduras.

Jenny Atlee, who has worked on human rights issues in Central America for more than three decades, confirmed that Cardinal Rodríguez had made “disparaging remarks” about Cáceres and COPINH. But Atlee also noted that the discrepancy between the hierarchy and grassroots of the church wasn’t unusual.

“There’s a real gap between those two positions … with the top levels of the Catholic church being very allied with the powers that be … and another layer of church which is more rooted in the lives and struggles of the poor and accompany those struggles and interpret and reflect on scripture from that reality,” she said.

Image via Goldman Environmental Prize.

A martyr of Laudato Si?

But when it comes to the powers that be vs. the poor, at least one person on top level of the church seem to be squarely on the side of the latter: Pope Francis.

In 2014, Cáceres met Pope Francis at the first World Meeting of Popular Movements at the Vatican. During that meeting, the pontiff assured delegates that their concerns — a desire to have “land, housing, and work” — would have a place in his then-forthcoming encyclical on the environment.

And the Holy Father delivered,

“It is essential to show special care for indigenous communities and their cultural traditions,” he wrote in the fourth chapter of Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home, his 2015 encyclical. He also acknowledged that “agricultural or mining projects” posed a serious threat to the survival of indigenous people.

Even the broader themes of Laudato Si sound like the interconnected worldview of indigenous spirituality that was so central to Cáceres’ work.

“A true ecological approach always becomes a social approach,” wrote Pope Francis.

“It must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”

Following Cáceres’ death, one Italian newspaper hailed her as “a martyr of Laudato Si.” Jenny Atlee, who knew Cáceres for more than 20 years, pointed out that while that descriptor might be accurate, the Lenca woman should also be viewed as part of the “long, ongoing history of violence and genocide against indigenous people.”

Perhaps the best suggestion for how we memorialize Cáceres comes from Naomi Klein, a secular activist who was invited to discuss Laudato Si at the Vatican.

“Particularly in Latin America, with its large indigenous populations, Catholicism wasn’t able to fully displace cosmologies that centered on a living and sacred Earth, and the result was often a Church that fused Christian and indigenous world views,” she wrote in the New Yorker.

“With Laudato Si’, that fusion has finally reached the highest echelons of the Church.”

As Klein points out, the lines of influence flow from indigenous spirituality to the encyclical, not the other way around.

Or more to the point: Berta Cáceres is not a martyr in the tradition of Laudato Si. Laudato Si is an encyclical echoing what indigenous leaders like Cáceres have been saying for centuries.

Betsy Shirley

Betsy Shirley (@betsyshirley) is Assistant Editor at Sojourners.

Honduras no garantiza plenamente los derechos humanos de su población

Afiche sobre visita in loco CIDH Honduras

Tegucigalpa, M.D.C., 1 de diciembre de 2014. La Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH) inicia hoy su visita a Honduras. La presencia de la CIDH –máximo órgano de protección y promoción de derechos humanos del continente americano–, demuestra su particular interés e inquietud por la situación en el país.

En este marco, las organizaciones firmantes manifestamos:

Primero: A partir del golpe de Estado ocurrido en el año 2009, la institucionalidad democrática continúa fragilizándose. Las autoridades siguen sin reconocer la ruptura del orden constitucional; la mayoría de las violaciones de derechos humanos cometidas en dicho contexto se mantienen impunes; y las estructuras de poder (como la Corte Suprema de Justicia y el Ejército), que facilitaron el golpe de Estado, no han sido sancionadas. La independencia judicial todavía es un anhelo cada vez más lejano debido al alineamiento del poder legislativo y judicial con lo que dicta el poder ejecutivo.

Segundo: Paulatinamente se ha venido fortaleciendo el poder militar en detrimento del poder civil. En la actualidad, diversas instituciones públicas son dirigidas por militares como por ejemplo: la Dirección de Migración, Aeronáutica Civil, HONDUTEL, Registro Nacional de las Personas, entre otras. Adicionalmente, el gobierno creó la policía militar de orden público y ahora pretende darle rango constitucional, aun cuando se ha denunciado su participación en violaciones de derechos humanos.

Tercero: Las cifras de violencia no han disminuido, pese a nuevas disposiciones que modifican el método para establecer la cantidad de muertes violentas y que impiden el acceso a la información pública, según datos del Observatorio Nacional de la Violencia del año 2013, ocurren 79 muertes violentas por cien mil habitantes. La impunidad sobre este tipo de hechos es casi total (92%).

Cuarto: Si bien se han aprobado planes de acción en materia de derechos humanos, estos no se están implementando. Por ello Honduras está en deuda con la garantía plena de los derechos de todos y todas sus habitantes. En particular, preocupa la discriminación y exclusión de los pueblos indígenas, de los afrodescendientes –reflejado en el despojo de sus territorios y con el riesgo, entre otras cosas, de que estos pueblos desaparezcan; la violencia contra las mujeres, las niñas, las personas jóvenes, así como la discriminación y violencia en contra de las personas de las comunidades lésbicas, gays, trans, e intersex. También es preocupante la criminalización y persecución de defensores y defensoras de derechos humanos; las condiciones inhumanas que enfrentan las personas privadas de libertad; las amenazas y asesinatos contra quienes ejercen la libertad de expresión, así como contra operadores de justicia que han demostrado honradez y transparencia en sus trabajos.

Quinto: La visita de todos los integrantes de la Comisión Interamericana constituye una oportunidad valiosa para que el Estado hondureño rinda cuentas sobre sus actuaciones pasadas y presentes, pero principalmente para que informe sobre sus planes de cómo va a abordar las diversas problemáticas que aquejan al país.

La sociedad civil organizada da la bienvenida a la CIDH y espera que se continúe brindando un seguimiento cercano a Honduras, así como que se establezcan recomendaciones encaminadas a cambios estructurales que permitan mejorar la situación de los derechos humanos de todos y todas las hondureñas.

Consideramos que las nuevas autoridades del Estado de Honduras deben aprovechar la visita de la CIDH como una oportunidad para que, en estricto apego de sus obligaciones internacionales en materia de derechos humanos, se construya la institucionalidad democrática que tanto necesita el país.

Organizaciones firmantes:

Asociación de Jueces por la Democracia (AJD)

Asociación LGBT Arcoiris

Asociadas por lo Justo (JASS)

Asociación Para una Vida Mejor de Personas Infectadas/Afectadas por el VIH-SIDA en Honduras (APUVIMEH)

Casa Alianza Honduras

Centro de Derechos de Mujeres (CDM)

Centro de Estudios de la Mujer-Honduras (CEMH)

Centro de Investigación y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos (CIPRODEH)

Centro por la Justicia y el Derecho Internacional (CEJIL)

Colectiva de Mujeres Hondureñas (CODEMUH)

Comité de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos en Honduras (COFADEH)

Comité por la Libre Expresión (C-Libre)

Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras (COPINH)

El Centro de Prevención Tratamiento y Rehabilitación de Victimas de la Tortura y sus Familiares (CPTRT)

El Frente Amplio del Colegio de Profesionales de Educación Media de Honduras (COPEMH)

Equipo de Reflexión, Investigación y Comunicación de la Compañía de Jesús (ERIC-SJ)

Foro de mujeres por la Vida

La Red de Mujeres de Ojojona

Movimiento Diversidad en Resistencia

Movimiento Ambientalista de Santa Bárbara (MAS)

Movimiento de Mujeres por la Paz Visitación Padilla


Bruce Livesey

Special to The Globe and Mail

Published Thursday, Nov. 27 2014
Charlotin Odinel lives in the Village de Dieu, Bicentenaire shantytown in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where his home is a cinder-block shack consisting of two tiny windowless rooms—no running water—that he shares with his wife and three children. To get there, you navigate a warren of makeshift homes, stepping over garbage and mud puddles. Nearby, a canal filled with brackish black water is rimmed by heaps of rotting waste where dogs and pigs run wild and mosquitoes, carrying the threat of malaria and dengue fever, are omnipresent. Says Odinel: “As a human, this is not a good place to live.”

Odinel, a slight 34-year-old with a touch of facial hair, has been unemployed since he lost his job last summer at the nearby Premium apparel factory, which makes clothing for Gildan Activewear Inc., the Montreal-based multinational. He’d spent four years there inspecting T-shirts for defects. Never given a reason for his dismissal, Odinel believes it was due to his union activism.

Odinel found his job stressful. Employing more than 1,100 workers, the sweltering Premium plant maintained an intense pace of production. For his efforts, Odinel was paid 500 gourdes a day, about $12—considered high in Haiti’s apparel industry, where many workers earn less than half that sum. Today, he’s broke and in debt, one of Haiti’s millions of unemployed (as much as 40% of the working-age population is jobless). “I can’t afford the needs of my family right now,” he says simply.

Odinel was a cog in Gildan’s vast production network, which stretches from Central America and the Caribbean Basin to Bangladesh, employing about 41,000 people and producing apparel that is sold in more than 30 countries. While the lives of workers like Odinel are grim, Gildan is a success story. It had fiscal 2013 revenues of almost $2.2 billion (U.S.), net earnings of $320 million (U.S.), and a stock that’s soared from less than $17 in 2011 to more than $67 as of early November. The company is gaining market share, having more than doubled sales since 2009.

Once merely a manufacturer of “blank” T-shirts and sweatshirts that others put their logos on, Gildan later added fleece, sports shirts, underwear and socks. Lately, it has been stepping up the marketing of its own label, even airing an ad during the 2013 Super Bowl. Analysts are enthusiastic. “I view [Gildan] as one of Canada’s best consumer growth stories,” says Stephen MacLeod, vice-president of equity research at BMO Capital Markets.

When it’s doing so well, does Gildan need to play hardball with workers in impoverished countries?

If Odinel was truly fired for associating with a union—and it’s a claim echoed by many others who worked at plants making Gildan clothes—it flies in the face of Gildan’s robust corporate social responsibility program and internal code of conduct. Gildan also belongs to the Fair Labor Association (FLA), a Washington, D.C.-based body dedicated to protecting the rights of workers globally, and ascribes to the Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP) system of workplace standards. “[CSR] is a staple of the overall business strategy of the company,” says Peter Iliopoulos, Gildan’s senior vice-president of public and corporate affairs. Iliopoulos says he’s surprised to hear there are reports of workers being fired for union activity. Such information should be brought to the company’s attention, he adds, “and we will deal with it proactively.…I can assure you this is something we take very seriously.”


Gildan was founded in 1984 in a small shop in Montreal by brothers Glenn and Greg Chamandy, whose family has deep roots in the city’s garment trade. They bought a knitting mill to supply fabric for their childwear business, Harley Inc.

Gildan later changed its focus to selling cotton T-shirts to wholesalers, which resold them to distributors and Canadian and American screen-printers. The brothers ran the company together until Greg left in 2004. (CEO Glenn Chamandy declined to be interviewed; the company would not permit a visit to any of its factories.)

As a young company, Gildan benefited from being in Canada, receiving government subsidies, and, when it hit a rough patch during the ’90s, even borrowing from Quebec’s labour-sponsored fund, the Fonds de solidarité FTQ, which invested $3.5 million in Gildan shares starting in 1996 and lent the company up to $30 million in debentures.

As it turned out, making inexpensive clothes in Canada was a dicey proposition. Once heavily unionized and protected by tariffs, the country’s apparel manufacturing sector was levelled by trade liberalization and globalization—all quotas on apparel were lifted by 2005. The number of Canadians making clothes fell from 108,400 in 2001 to 36,700 in 2013, while GDP in the sector dropped from $4.3 billion in 2001 to $1.4 billion by 2011. The reason was simple: the cost of labour. Jobs were moving abroad.

The Chamandys soon realized staying in business meant following their competitors overseas. “Competition began to intensify and what you saw was that the average price of a T-shirt dropped by 24% from 1995 to 1998,” says Iliopoulos.

Finding cheaper labour was not, however, the only method Gildan used to cut costs—it also chopped its tax bill. In 1999, the company opened a subsidiary in Barbados to manage marketing and sales. Barbados has a treaty with Canada that permits multinationals to repatriate profits they earn abroad without being taxed here. The result: Gildan no longer pays much corporate income tax in Canada.

Indeed, between fiscal 2009 and fiscal 2013, despite earning $1 billion (U.S.) in net profits, the company has paid only $10.5 million (U.S.) in income taxes (or about 1%). If one includes recoveries Gildan received stemming from acquisitions and restructurings, it paid no corporate income tax at all from 2009 to 2013. “To us, it’s totally immoral,” says Robert Bouvier, president of Teamsters Canada, which once represented Gildan workers. “Immoral in the sense that you start your company in Canada…you benefit from the health system…you benefit from the banks that loan you money. You benefit from everything. And after you’ve established all of this, then you move out.”

Nevertheless, as McGill tax law professor Allison Christians observes, Gildan is simply taking advantage of what the Canadian government has wrought. “That’s exactly the system we designed,” she says. “We designed the system not to have manufacturing here in Canada, to not have low-wage jobs here. The tax system is built to send manufacturing offshore.” Gildan, then, is the ultimate fruit of globalization—the “virtual” company that has no nationality. Just 230 of its employees work in Canada, at the company’s Montreal head office.


The search for cheap, pliable labour sent major North American and European clothing manufacturers and retailers to Asia—first to low-wage countries like Korea and China, and then, as costs rose, to nations like Cambodia and Bangladesh, where the infamous collapse of Rana Plaza in Dhaka took the lives of more than 1,100 workers in 2013.

Gildan has demonstrated the same restlessness, but has focused instead on the Caribbean Basin. By 2007, Gildan had shuttered all of its plants in North America and relocated production to Honduras, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic and Haiti (it also produces clothing in Bangladesh).

The company settled on Honduras as its main base of production, opening its first plant there in 1997. Today Gildan employs 26,000 people at half a dozen facilities in the country, making textiles, socks, underwear and activewear.

Complaints about labour conditions have followed the company since the late 1990s. To critics, there’s a consistent pattern of foot-dragging and half-measures in Gildan’s responses.

Currently the third-largest exporter of apparel and textiles to the U.S., Honduras has been bedevilled by military coups, narco-trafficking and drought. It has the highest murder rate in the world, and is the second-poorest country in Central America. And while unions are legal, trade unionists are regularly murdered: 31 have been assassinated and 200 injured in attacks since 2009, according to the AFL-CIO.

The minimum wage in the country’s free-trade zones—set up with special rules to attract investment—is about $283 per month, or about $1.18 an hour, according to the Honduran government. Gildan’s Iliopoulos says that “we pay wages that are significantly above the industry minimum wage.” But Iliopoulos won’t disclose what those wages are, saying it is competitive information.

Honduran trade unions estimate that a Gildan worker earns an average of $351 a month. But the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), a Washington D.C.-based NGO that monitors the industry on behalf of North American and British colleges and universities (the destination of much screen-printed clothing), estimates that a living wage—that is, sufficient to support a family—in Honduras is $683 a month, far higher than the minimum wage in the free-trade zones. (Iliopoulos won’t address whether Gildan pays a living wage, saying it is a “complex issue,” with the level varying from country to country, and from NGO to NGO.)

It was in Honduras that Gildan had its first major run-in with non-governmental organizations over pay, working conditions and the treatment of its workforce. In 2001, the Toronto-based Maquila Solidarity Network (MSN), an NGO focused on labour rights, began researching Gildan’s record in Central America, with the help of a small grant from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), a Crown corporation.

Before MSN could complete its report, however, things turned nasty. In 2002, according to MSN, Gildan fired close to 45 workers at its plant in the Honduran city of El Progreso after they began making noises about unionizing. NGOs complained, but Gildan refused to reinstate the workers.

The Fonds de solidarité FTQ did its own investigation and alleged that Gildan had violated the workers’ labour rights under Honduran law. Gildan refused to budge, so the Fonds divested its shares and resigned its seat on the board. “Pulling out is a last resort, where there is no indication there’ll be an improvement in the practices of our business partner,” says Patrick McQuilken, a Fonds spokesperson.

In the summer of 2003, MSN released its report about Gildan, stating that its Honduran workers were receiving less than a living wage: gross average weekly pay of $76.91 for working four 11-hour shifts. The report said intense production pressure at the El Progreso plant led to repetitive strain injuries. As well, employees reported that female workers were dismissed during their probationary periods if compulsory tests indicated they were pregnant. There were reports workers would be fired if they tried to join a union, the MSN found. Iliopoulos notes that this incident happened 10 years ago and “we have evolved tremendously with our corporate social responsibility program [since then].”

But back then, Gildan’s response was swift; it threatened to sue MSN. Then Gildan fired another 37 workers in El Progreso, according to MSN. Acting on formal complaints, the Fair Labor Association and the WRC found that the workers’ labour rights had been violated. The FLA produced a report in July, 2004, and another in December, 2006, that confirmed the violations of freedom of association, and the WRC produced a report in July, 2004, that also supported the complaints in detail. But by the time the WRC report appeared, Gildan had announced it was closing the plant.

After the FLA reacted by putting Gildan’s membership under review, the company relented and began negotiating a remedial plan with the NGOs. The FLA accepted the company back once Gildan had met some conditions. “[Gildan] apologized profusely when it came to light that everything we’d been saying actually was true, that the report was valid and that they had to eat their words,” says Kevin Thomas, a former MSN director of advocacy.

Gildan’s Iliopoulos admits “we had some issues back then” and “that was a starting point for us to create CSR programs.…Over the last 10 years, we have worked very diligently and placed a significant amount of emphasis on developing a robust corporate social program.” The company has an ongoing dialogue with MSN and other NGOs, he adds.

“They respond now, they don’t [threaten to] sue people,” agrees Lynda Yanz, executive director of MSN. “Some specific problems are resolved. But the fundamental issues of freedom of association and health and safety problems are not resolving.” When the WRC did a follow-up on Gildan’s compliance with its promised corrective action, it found mixed results.

Complaints in Honduras have continued. In 2012, the FLA was notified of worker unrest at the Star SA factory in El Progreso around the time it was being bought by Gildan; two managers used the changeover to demand concessions and foment dissension among the unionized workforce. Union leaders were threatened by other workers worried about layoffs. Reports by the WRC and the FLA chronicled the upheaval. A wildcat strike ensued. “Gildan was aware of what was happening and did nothing to stop it until it was pressured by outside groups,” says Scott Nova, executive director of the WRC, whose investigation was aired in its report. Iliopoulos says, however, “as soon as we completed the acquisition, we communicated with the workforce in respect to freedom of association and to deal with the union in good faith and in a constructive manner. We’ve respected every provision of the collective bargaining agreement that’s in place.”

Last year, workers at Gildan’s Villanueva plant sought the help of a human rights NGO to improve working conditions. Soon afterward, five workers involved were terminated (although the WRC says the number eventually rose to as high as 19). Gildan said that in fact these workers were among more than 300 who were let go owing to a drop in production. But a WRC report concluded that “Evidence demonstrates beyond any doubt that Gildan terminated the worker leaders because of their outreach [to the NGO].”

Iliopoulos says Gildan has co-operated with a Honduran Labour Ministry investigation into the case. “We’ve been in regular dialogue with the WRC to address the other employees on the list,” he says. This fall, the employees who had approached the NGO were reinstated after the WRC’s intervention.

Allegations about problems with freedom of association are not limited to Gildan’s Honduran operation. According to an FLA report, complaints arose at the company’s Dortex plant in the Dominican Republic in 2010, alleging the company had intimidated and fired workers who had been trying to unionize. When a union was formed, Gildan responded by negotiating a contract with another, less assertive union, according to the FLA. An independent assessor’s report in 2011 alleged that Gildan had undermined the first union’s efforts and signed a sweetheart collective agreement with the alternative union. Iliopoulos says Gildan has co-operated with all of the investigations, that no collective agreement was put in place owing to wrangling between the two unions, and the company has made the changes the first union wanted. “We fully implemented all of the benefits in terms of that agreement with those employees,” he says.

The Dominican Republic also figured in a different sort of controversy for Gildan. In 2010, the company agreed to pay $22.5 million (U.S.) to settle a lawsuit alleging that Glenn Chamandy had taken advantage of inside information. According to the suit, Chamandy cashed in more than $95-million (U.S.) worth of Gildan stock in 2007 after the company’s plant in Santo Domingo was hit both by a shutdown owing to managerial bungling and violent protests stemming from the plant’s pollution of local waterways. These problems, however, were not revealed to other investors; hence the lawsuit. No wrongdoing was admitted in the settlement.

(Through indirect control of two corporate entities, Chamandy has cashed in an estimated $280 million (U.S.) in stock since 2006, in addition to an estimated $12 million (U.S.) in salary and bonuses; he continues to hold stock options.)


The quest for lower costs eventually brought Gildan to Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Haiti has a GDP per capita of $1,300 (U.S.) a year, and by some estimates nearly 80% of its 10.3 million citizens live on $2 (U.S.) or less per day. The country has been devastated by colonization, environmental degradation, resource depletion, dictatorships, foreign invasions, hurricanes, coups d’état, an unscrupulous oligarchy, and finally an earthquake that killed 220,000 people in 2010.

In Port-au-Prince, the signs of a society teetering on the brink are glaring: Sidewalks are packed with people out of work, selling anything they can find. Shantytowns teem with people living in tin-roofed shacks. The high unemployment benefits employers, say activists. “It’s worse than slavery,” maintains Jean Bonald Golinsky Fatal, a union leader. “The slave owners had obligations to feed and clothe the slaves. Here you don’t have to do that.…The employer uses the extreme poverty and unemployment in Haiti because they know other workers will take the wage.”

Gildan opened three factories in Haiti starting in 2004. By 2009, it had sold them and begun contracting production to suppliers to have sewing assembly done in local factories. A key supplier is the Apaid family, led by André Apaid Jr. The Apaids’ factories also contract with Gildan’s competitor, Hanes, while the clothing of another rival, Fruit of the Loom, is also produced in Port-au-Prince. At least two Apaid factories—named Premium and Genesis—assemble clothes for Gildan. The family’s GMC factory has also done Gildan work.

The Apaid family is controversial due to its support for dictator Jean-Claude (Baby Doc) Duvalier, its opposition to the governments of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and for lobbying against increases in the minimum wage (the Apaids backed the 2004 coup that removed Aristide from power, at a time when the minimum wage was a pivotal national issue). “They’re tough,” declares Yannik Etienne, spokesperson for the Haitian workers’ federation, ESPM-BO. “They have their own rules and are very authoritarian.”

In 2009, the Better Work program, run by the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corp. and the International Labour Organization (ILO), began producing surveys on wages and working conditions in Haiti’s apparel factories, including those supplying Gildan. In Haiti, the minimum wage has been, until this year, 200 gourdes a day (or $4.92), and 300 gourdes for piecework ($7.48). (The basic rate rose to 225 gourdes, or $5.61, this year.) In contrast, the AFL-CIO Solidarity Center estimates a living wage in Port-au-Prince is about $28 a day. Two Better Work surveys conducted in 2013 revealed that none of the Haitian apparel factories were paying their entire workforces as much as 300 gourdes, even though most employees are doing piecework. “Gildan has been aware of these violations for years,” says Scott Nova of the WRC.

Iliopoulos says the minimum wage matter is an “industry-wide issue” and that there is confusion in the language of Haiti’s laws about whether companies really have to pay the 300 gourdes. Indeed, in October, 2013, the Haitian government issued a statement that the piecework minimum rate should not be construed as a minimum wage.

Such semantic distinctions aside, the WRC investigated the minimum-wage issue in 2013, producing a report which concluded that nearly one-third of Haitian workers’ wages was being “stolen” by garment manufacturers that refused to pay the minimum wage. The report said these poor wages had “devastating effects on workers,” including miring them in debt and effectively denying them the necessities of life. The WRC and the AFL-CIO also did their own separate estimates of a living wage in Port-au-Prince, calculating that a family needed at least $850 a month—compared to the estimated $186 that a typical worker in one of the Apaid factories might earn.

The WRC report triggered a firestorm of controversy. Gildan immediately said it would investigate and urge its suppliers to pay the minimum wage. But the WRC says that while negotiations with Gildan did begin, wages haven’t changed (the company disagrees). This fall, Gildan helped its suppliers and unions to negotiate a new base piece rate, but it won’t disclose what it is. And while one of Gildan’s suppliers has signed a contract with the unions, the Apaids have not. “We’ve since conducted internal audits that the piece rate is being applied and we’ve agreed to the terms and conditions in writing,” says Iliopoulos.

That’s not much consolation to people such as 32-year-old Archil Feraire, who used to make Gildan clothes. He lives in Blanchard, Plaine du Cul de Sac, in a three-room cinder-block shack with his wife and two children. Hired at the Premium factory in 2010 as a machine operator, his shift typically went from 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Feraire said the salary in the torrid plant was 175 gourdes a day ($4.36) to start, rising gradually to 225 gourdes ($5.61). He said there was no change in his wage after the WRC’s revelations in 2013. All told, his monthly salary was $133. “The salary is so low, you can only pay for food,” he says.

In April of this year, Feraire was fired. He says it was due to union activism. Feraire fears he’s been blacklisted from the industry. “Gildan has a tight relationship with the owners,” he says, noting that the company has sent representatives to the factory to gather workers’ complaints, “but nothing would change…Gildan wants the product but is not concerned about the situation with the workers.” Iliopoulos says Gildan conducts regular audits. “If there are issues with working conditions, I am quite surprised that the unions wouldn’t speak directly to us given our rapport with them,” he says.

Natacha Saint-Cyril is a quiet 29-year-old single woman with a gap-toothed smile who lives with her brother and his family in Village de la Renaissance, a town built on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince to house people displaced by the 2010 earthquake. She worked at the Premium factory from 2010 until this past August, inspecting and packing Gildan T-shirts. It was not uncommon for her to leave home at 5 a.m. to arrive at the plant in time to start her 10-hour shift, which paid 225 gourdes ($5.61) a day. She estimated her monthly salary ranged from 5,000 gourdes ($124) to 6,000 gourdes per month ($150). “I am used to being hungry,” she says. “Gildan should know what is going on in the factory.”

Wherever one looks, the workers’ living conditions are squalid. We visited the Delmas 33 slum one night to interview a worker employed at the Genesis plant. The shantytown is almost pitch dark because no one can afford electricity; we conduct our interview by the light of an oil lantern. The heat is oppressive, as is the crowding—noise from neighbours is omnipresent.

Many workers are driven into debilitating debt, borrowing from co-workers or street lenders at high interest rates. One former worker at the Genesis plant is 32-year-old Marie-Bénie Clerjo, a mother of three sons who lives in Solino, a slum of tottering shacks and crumbling apartment blocks. Clerjo’s home is one small room where she and her children sleep on two beds. There’s no kitchen, toilet or sink, and she is two months behind in her rent. “We are not treated like humans, we are treated like animals,” she says. “I am living a miserable life.”

Before she was laid off in November, Clerjo worked at Genesis six days a week and earned the equivalent of $160 a month. Since she can only afford to eat one meal a day, Clerjo is hungry all the time. To make ends meet, she has to borrow money and is $9,500 in debt.

She saw Gildan’s personnel visit Genesis every two to three months. “Gildan is responsible because when they come, they don’t talk to workers or inspect the shop floor,” Clerjo remarks. Iliopoulos again points to the regular compliance audits that Gildan conducts on its suppliers as evidence it keeps abreast of what is happening in the plants.

Employees of the Apaid factories feel they have good reason to be cautious about what they say: In 2011, four worker leaders at the plants were dismissed, allegedly for union activity. They were eventually rehired, but only after extensive lobbying by NGOs, including a letter-writing campaign and delegations travelling to Montreal to ask Gildan to intervene.

Jean-Robert Louis is a thoughtful 40-year-old former worker who used to work in quality control in a plant that supplied Gildan. Louis says he was fired for taking part in a protest demanding a hike in garment workers’ minimum wage to 500 gourdes per day, or about $12 (he earned less than half that). “Haitians are used to fighting against hunger,” he says, sitting in the hot sun in a small village on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. “We survive with only salt and water. But we are not healthy.”


Things look different from Gildan’s headquarters in Montreal. “From our perspective, we have put a lot of investments in terms of working conditions and the health of our employees,” says Iliopoulos, noting the company has 16 employees devoted to CSR, and that it offers environmental and ergonomics programs at its plants. “We have 45 employees overseeing health and safety at all our operating locations. We have standard mandatory rest breaks that employees have to take, and specially designed ergonomic exercises. We have 22 doctors, 37 nurses on staff 24 hours, seven days a week, at our facilities, looking after our employees. Each factory has a health and safety committee and ergonomics committee.”

He points out that Gildan was named to the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index for two years in a row—the only North American apparel company to be so honoured. “When they did the whole detailed assessment,” he says, “we are ranked in the 95th percentile.” Maclean’s has had Gildan on its list of Canada’s 50 most socially responsible corporations since 2009.

Gildan also passes muster with the giant Caisse de dépôt et placement, which manages the pension fund of Quebec’s public employees. The Caisse owns about 9% of Gildan’s shares. The fund’s policy on responsible investment says that the Caisse likes companies it invests in to “respect workers’ rights, to take the necessary measures to guarantee them a safe, healthful working environment and to prohibit any form of abuse.” But a Caisse spokesperson said the fund would not comment on its investment in Gildan.

Those critical of CSR programs say they function merely as window-dressing to hide the reality of how companies conduct business. Ronen Shamir, a sociologist and law professor at Tel Aviv University in Israel, says CSR programs are designed to meet certain “indicators” that often have little to do with substantive change on the ground. “I’m not saying it’s a sham, but I am saying there is an increasing gap between the indicators corporations use to report on their CSR and the actual efficacy of these systems when it comes to protecting communities, workers and indigenous people,” explains Shamir. “The indicators are about corporate risk and not about employee or community risk.… It becomes two different universes.”

This rings true with Gildan’s most vocal critics, like Scott Nova of the WRC, who characterizes Gildan’s record on labour rights as “ruthless.” He believes Gildan has “gotten very adept at making promises at moments of real pressure to fend off the prospect of harsher public criticism. But then we’ve had challenges to get them to fulfill commitments.”

Sisters of the Siria Valley, We Support Your Struggle for Justice and Health

Friday, March 08, 2013

Development and Peace – MiningWatch Canada

(Ottawa/Montreal) On this International Women’s Day, as sixty women from the Siria Valley of Honduras gather in Tegucigalpa, we the women of Development and Peace and MiningWatch Canada are present in spirit, sisters in solidarity, accompanying them in their struggle for justice.

Since 2000, they have lived in close proximity of the San Martin open pit gold mine owned by the Vancouver-based company, Goldcorp. Today, thirteen years later, and only two years since the closure of the mine, they have learned that levels of heavy metals in their bodies, or those of their children, are unacceptably high and found a proliferation of skin and respiratory ailments in their communities.

As women, effectively responsible for most domestic work in the household, they and their children have been most in contact with and are most vulnerable to contaminants through the water supply or other means. High levels of heavy metals such as lead and arsenic can lead to a broad range of diseases, including certain cancers and nervous system disorders.

We deplore the fact that the Honduran government has had detailed knowledge of this situation since 2007, having carried out blood and urine tests that revealed lead in the blood of those tested. Yet, the government did not disclose the results of the blood tests that the Honduran Office for Forensic Medicine through its Criminal and Forensic Science Laboratory carried out with those involved until 2011 – not only failing to provide medical care, but effectively denying the women the right to seek treatment by their own means. Now, some six years later, the women are no closer to receiving the further information and medical care that they and their families and neighbours need.

We fully support the legitimate demand of the women of the Siria Valley and urge the Honduran government to assume its responsibility to carry out comprehensive epidemiological studies and new blood and urine exams. Once new testing has been done and the results determined, which should take place as quickly as possible, the Honduran government must immediately make the results available and ensure the appropriate medical treatment to the women and all those affected. This is an obligation of the Honduran government to ensure the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, set out by international treaties ratified by Honduras, and by the Honduran Constitution in which the state guarantees the right to a healthy environment.

We also urge a a full and impartial investigation into the source of the contamination in order to determine what responsibility Goldcorp’s San Martín operation might have and to then ensure adequate compensation for the families based on the results, as well as mitigation for damages in the communities, to their land and resources.

Such action is all the more urgent today in view of the new Mining Law, approved in the Honduran Congress in January 2013, with technical assistance paid for by the Canadian International Development Agency.  With the imminent implementation of this legislation, hundreds of other new mining concessions, many granted to Canadian companies, will be open to mining activities, creating a state of insecurity for affected communities throughout Honduras based on environmental contamination and public health issues that have arisen in the Siria Valley and elsewhere in the country.

We support the urgent demand of the women of Siria Valley to overturn the mining law that has been adopted without consideration for the proposals from Honduran civil society that sought to guarantee communities a say over mining activities taking place in their communities before they begin, to guarantee them safe water supplies before prioritizing industrial use of water, and to prohibit open-pit mining, which they have seen seriously jeopardize the health of affected communities.

Dear sisters, women of the Siria Valley, today we salute your struggle and your bravery and determination to demand what is just. And we state our commitment to continue to stand by you, as you continue in this struggle.


31 de Marzo del 2014

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El gobierno de Honduras es el único de América Latina que se ha pronunciado en contra de la Píldora Anticonceptiva de Emergencia (PAE) («pastillas de emergencia o del día siguiente») en términos de prohibición y penalización. Un discurso que para muchos posiblemente cambiaría si al hablar de ella se hiciera en términos científicos y socio-demográficos.

Además de Honduras, los únicos países en los que la PAE no se encuentra disponible son Costa Rica y Haití. Para empezar, en Haití no existe un marco legal que contemple las PAE; sin embargo, puede ser llevada al país por medio de licitaciones para las clínicas del sistema de salud pública o por centros afiliados a la Federación Internacional de Paternidad Planificada (IPPF, por sus siglas en inglés). En Costa Rica la PAE no se encuentra legalizada, pero hay promoción, gubernamental y privada, de métodos de anticoncepción de emergencia utilizando dosis más altas de las píldoras de planificación regular.

En cambio, el Estado de Honduras se pronunció en noviembre del 2011 en contra de la «píldora del día después» argumentando que «para fines prácticos y ante la imposibilidad de determinar el momento preciso en que la píldora actuará, somos de la opinión que la misma debe ser considerada como abortiva, para de esta manera evitar la controversia generada por el mecanismo de acción de la misma». Ese dictamen, publicado en La Gaceta a inicios del 2012, sirvió de respuesta la solicitud de declarar inconstitucional el Decreto 54-2009, que prohibió la venta, distribución y uso de la PAE.

A partir de ese dictamen, Luisa Cabal, Directora de los Programas Jurídicos Internacionales del Centro de Derechos Reproductivos (CRR, por sus siglas en inglés) declaró que «al prohibir y criminalizar la contracepción de emergencia, Honduras le está diciendo al mundo que es preferible encarcelar a las mujeres de su país que proveerles métodos de control natal seguros y efectivos».

Afirmar que la PAE es abortiva implica no tener en cuenta que la Organización Mundial de la Salud (OMS) explica que las PAE con levonorgestrel como principio activo interfieren con el proceso de ovulación, podrían impedir que los espermatozoides y el óvulo se encuentren, y no puede impedir la implantación de un óvulo fecundado, ni terminar ni dañar un embarazo ya en curso.

La libertad de la fertilidad: un asunto de Estado y sociedad

En Sudamérica, países que antes habían estado en contra de la PAE modificaron sus leyes para promover el uso de los anticonceptivos de emergencia.

Chile en el 2010 aprobó una ley en la que los organismos que integran el Sistema Nacional de Servicios de Salud deben contar con los métodos anticonceptivos que la población requiera, incluidos los anticonceptivos de emergencia.

Por su parte, Ecuador oficializó en el 2013 un reglamento que regula el acceso y la disponibilidad de métodos anticonceptivos en el Sistema Nacional de Salud; que abarca la obligación de informar y brindar acceso gratuito a métodos anticonceptivos.

Con los cambios en las leyes de estos dos países, son diez los de la región latinoamericana que incluyen las PAE en sus listas de medicamentos esenciales; es decir, que son obligatorias como métodos anticonceptivos promovidos desde el Estado. Estos países son Belice, Bolivia, Brasil, Chile, República Dominicana, Ecuador, Jamaica, México, Paraguay y Perú.

Para el año 2005 las estadísticas de los Objetivos del Milenio indicaban que de las mujeres hondureñas entre 15 y 49 años un 16.8% no puede acceder a métodos de planificación familiar; mientras que un 65.2% ya está utilizando métodos anticonceptivos.

La Encuesta Nacional de Demografía y Salud en Honduras 2011-2012 del Instituto Nacional de Estadística (INE) indicó también que un 73.2% de las mujeres encuestadas utilizan un método planificación familiar. Entre los resultados se encontraba que el 52% de las mujeres que recurren al control natal se dirigen al sector público para obtener métodos modernos de anticoncepción, entre los que se incluyen la esterilización femenina, la píldora anticonceptiva regular, el dispositivo intrauterino (DIU), la inyección y el condón; mientras que el 41% de ellas acuden al sector médico privado.

Activistas exigen el fin de los feminicidios y la impunidad en Honduras

El 98 % de los 2.192 asesinatos de mujeres registrados entre 2010 y 2013 en Honduras están en la impunidad debido a la falta de investigación, según cifras de la Tribuna de Mujeres contra los Femicidios, que aglutina a siete organizaciones de féminas no gubernamentales. EFE/Archivo
El 98 % de los 2.192 asesinatos de mujeres registrados entre 2010 y 2013 en Honduras en impunidad.

25 de Marzo de 2014  Redacción: /

El director de Oxfam Internacional, George Redman, declaró este martes a Efe que a esa organización “le preocupa mucho” el nivel de impunidad en las muertes de mujeres en Honduras.
Organizaciones feministas de Honduras, con el respaldo de Oxfam Internacional, exigieron hoy el fin la violencia que afecta a las mujeres en el país, donde han muerto 71 féminas en lo que va de año, así como de la impunidad que rodea esos casos.

El director de Oxfam Internacional, George Redman, declaró este martes a Efe que a esa organización “le preocupa mucho” el nivel de impunidad en las muertes de mujeres en Honduras.
El 98 % de los 2.192 asesinatos de mujeres registrados entre 2010 y 2013 en Honduras están en la impunidad debido a la falta de investigación, según cifras de la Tribuna de Mujeres contra los Femicidios, que aglutina a siete organizaciones de féminas no gubernamentales.

“La mujer en general sigue siendo víctima de una cultura muy patriarcal, además no cuenta con las mismas oportunidades y beneficios que se le otorgan a los hombres”, subrayó Redman.

Instó a los operadores de justicia a “cumplir con el debido proceso judicial” para reducir los niveles de impunidad en los casos de muerte de mujeres, que representan el 52 % de los 8,5 millones de habitantes del país centroamericano.

La petición fue hecha durante la presentación del “Premio Nacional por la comunicación para la Igualdad y contra la violencia de género”, auspiciada por la Tribuna de Mujeres contra los Femicidios y Oxfam Internacional.

En declaraciones a Efe, la coordinadora de la Tribuna de Mujeres, María Luisa Regalado, valoró el papel de los medios de comunicación y su importancia para concienciar a los ciudadanos para erradicar la violencia de género en Honduras.

“Con el premio buscamos reconocer el trabajo de los periodistas hondureños que dan visibilidad a la violencia que sufren las mujeres y educan a la población sobre los derechos de la mujer”, explicó Regalado.

Precisó que la convocatoria del premio está abierta hasta el 25 de octubre próximo y cuenta con tres categorías en las que podrán participar profesionales del periodismo vinculados a medios impresos, electrónicos, radio y televisión.

Las categorías del premio son: Reportaje, Imagen Periodística y Columna.

La presidenta del Comité de Mujeres por la Paz Visitación Padilla, Gladys Lanza, dijo por su parte a Efe que “es alarmante” el número de féminas asesinadas en los últimos cuatro años en Honduras.

“Nos duele ver que las autoridades hondureñas no hacen nada por investigar y castigar a los responsables de las muertes de mujeres”, subrayó.

Lanza señaló a la educación como “un factor clave” para erradicar la violencia de género en Honduras, y abogó “al papel fundamental” de los medios de comunicación para lograr “cambiar esa cultura patriarcal” que impera en el país.

En un comunicado, las activistas expresaron su “preocupación” por los altos niveles de violencia contra las mujeres en el país y “la indiferencia” de las autoridades hondureñas.

“Vemos con preocupación que aún cuando se ha tipificado la figura del femicidio no existe una aplicación de las leyes y se castiga a los responsables” señalaron.

En Honduras, el Código Penal tipifica el femicidio como delito grave y lo sanciona con penas de hasta 40 años de cárcel. 

Honduras election: could a woman lead country with high rate of femicides?

The most dangerous country for women to live in could be about to elect its first female president, but extreme gender discrimination remains retrenched, Friday 22 November 2013 12.46 GMT
Xiomara Castro

Commentators have suggested Xiomara Castro is a surrogate for her ex-president husband, Manuel Zelaya Photograph: Gustavo Amador/EPA

The prospect of a woman winning the Honduras presidency in elections would be remarkable in any circumstances, given traditional male domination of the political scene. But the fact that Xiomara Castro, wife of deposed leftist president Manuel Zelaya, is running neck-and-neck with the ruling-party candidate is little short of extraordinary, given that Honduras is the most dangerous country in the world for women.

A Honduran woman is murdered every 15 hours and countless others are subject to violence and assault each day, making the country the most hostile place on earth for women, with the exception of actual war zones such as Syria or Congo. The phenomenon has many causes, some specific to Honduras, others less so. It also has a name – femicide. And the latest figures, collated by campaigners, suggest the problem is getting worse.

“With the highest homicide rate in the world, the UN calls Honduras ‘the most dangerous [peace time] country’ on the planet,” said Jacky Repila of Raising Her Voice, an Oxfam-backed project that has attempted to extend the rights and capacity of women in developing countries to influence and participate in governance.

“Of the 22,000 cases [involving women] reported in 2012, less than 2% were investigated … Between 2003 and 2007 the number of men murdered in Honduras rose by 50% [but] this increased to 160% for women, rising to 258% for the 2002-2012 period,” Repila said.

Gender-based violence and discrimination is endemic in Honduras, campaigners say. The upsurge in femicide is linked to the illegal drugs trade – Honduras has become a favoured entrepot for Mexican drug cartels servicing the US market. It also partly reflects the rise of other forms of organised crime, including prostitution and trafficking, the country’s gun culture and the militarisation of society that followed the 2009 coup against Zelaya.

But other country-specific factors are at work, too, including a machismo-fuelled habit of subordinating women and blaming them for their own problems – itself the product of what Oxfam described as a “growing and tangible hatred towards women”. Human rights activists and academics point to extreme gender discrimination in the home and in society, government ministries, the judiciary and law enforcement authorities.

“The victims of femicide are predominantly young women, between the ages of 20 and 24. This has given rise to authorities avoiding their responsibility and stating that the victims were at least partially responsible for the crimes committed against them,” said a report by the country’s National Campaign Against Femicide.

“These young women are predominantly murdered on public roads, in their houses or in private residences. Such places are supposedly places of security and protection. Their bodies are dumped on open ground.”

The report went on: “The measures implemented by Honduran state to counteract the problem of violence are primarily repressive in nature. The combination of remilitarisation of society as well as the increase in use and carrying of weapons has had particularly violent consequences for women …

“Impunity is a persistent part of the problem. Police authorities have been implicated and directly involved in extra-judicial killings and specific cases of femicide. As a result citizens, especially women, have a very high level of mistrust of police.”

While some measures have been enacted to counteract femicide, it said, “the country’s judicial bodies continue to dismiss international norms on violence against women. Criminal proceedings are long, difficult and reflect the little value given to loss of life in Honduras.”

Castro has promised to “refound” Honduras and achieve greater security, in part by reducing the internal role of the military and creating a more responsive community police force. .

But it is unclear how Castro might bring about the profound cultural shift that is required. Exhibiting typical male chauvinism, political commentators suggest she is a mere surrogate for her ex-president husband and that if she is elected, it is he who will really be in charge.