“Sexists off the lists”

Bolivian activists successfully push for resignation of candidates accused of domestic violence

Cochabamba -
A demonstration against sexism in La Paz.
A demonstration against sexism in La Paz.GASTON BRITO (REUTERS)

Bolivians are showing that sexism no longer has a place in the country’s political life. This week, various demonstrations successfully pressed for the resignation of a Legislative Assembly candidate accused of assaulting his partner. Groups of women shouting “Sexist off the list!” took to the streets of La Paz to demand that presidential and congressional candidates who will run on October 12 offer concrete plans to protect the rights of Bolivian women.

According to the United Nations, Bolivia (population 10.5 million) is the Latin American country with the highest number of cases of physical assault on women and the nation with the second highest number of sexual assault cases in the region. In Cochabamba alone, 21 women died at the hands of their partners or ex-partners during the first six months of 2014. During that same period, a total of 60 women died due to gender violence throughout the country.

The UN says that Bolivia is the Latin American country with the highest number of cases of assaults on women

In light of the severity of the problem, Public Defender Rolando Villena and the Permanent Assembly of Human rights – an umbrella organization for various activist groups – have asked the Evo Morales government to declare a state of red alert in order to deploy more police security forces and create campaigns that raise awareness of the violence. “We demand that the Ministry of Justice, governors and mayors’ offices immediately declare a state of red alert on violence against women as an emergency measure to confront the causes of this pandemic that is affecting more than half the Bolivian population,” Villena said.

Meanwhile, demonstrators across the country are calling for new policies to prevent violence against women and to promote gender equality. They are also denouncing sexist comments by the country’s politicians. Two weeks ago, Senate candidate for Cochabamba, Ciro Zabala, a member of the president’s Movimiento Al Socialismo (MAS) party, received a wave of criticism after saying that women’s provocative attire and alcohol consumption encouraged these kinds of crimes against them.

Adolfo Mendoza, a MAS senator for Cochabamba, resigned in late July due to pressure from activists and demonstrators after his wife’s police reports against him surfaced. Ironically, Mendoza was one of the lawmakers who pressed for a 2013 law to punish perpetrators of gender-based violence.

Demonstrators across the country are calling for new policies to prevent violence against women

On Tuesday, Jaime Navarro, a deputy candidate for Democratic Union (UD) in La Paz, had his turn. The publication of an audio recording in which his wife tells UD presidential candidate Samuel Doria Medina that her husband had beaten her on two separate occasions sparked widespread indignation. After pleading innocent, Navarro offered his resignation, saying that he had to do so to protect his family and Doria from what he considered “a dirty war” waged by his rivals to thwart his electoral victory.

Rebeca Delgado, former president of the Chamber of Deputies, says presidential hopefuls like Doria Medina and Evo Morales should resign. “They are high ranking authorities who promote the mockery of these women and who display a sexist attitude that contributes to the violence against them,” she says.

President Morales has in fact shared a great number of sexist jokes in public.

Translation: Dyane Jean François

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