“What we really want is to change violent attitudes and behaviors. We are trying to find the best way to introduce elements for prevention and protection against family violence.” — Fátima Millón, former director, Red de Mujeres Contra la Violencia
Leading the struggle to end violence against Nicaraguan women is a national coalition known as Red de Mujeres Contra la Violencia (Women’s Network Against Violence). Founded in 1992, the group coordinates over 150 women’s groups, unions, churches and associations committed to eliminating family and sexual violence. Their strategic focus is on political impact, institutional development and feminist training.
Nicaraguan women face an uphill battle in securing legal protection from violence, partly due to deeply entrenched societal attitudes that view women as unqualified to control their own lives. Furthermore, in 2006, Nicaragua’s Congress voted to ban all abortions, even when performed to save a pregnant woman’s life or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.
Despite such difficulties, the group has achieved success and counts among its major victories the passage of Law 230, landmark legislation that criminalizes family violence and establishes concrete protection measures, such as police stations run by women. The group’s work with the Nicaraguan government and police has led to the establishment of women’s commissions, through which over 750 women have trained to serve as victim’s advocates.
In 2000, the group took on the high-profile case of Zoilamérica Narváez, stepdaughter of President Daniel Ortega, who publicly accused her stepfather of having sexually abused her from the time she was eleven. Ortega, then a member of Parliament, claimed immunity to prosecution. The group lobbied successfully to pass Law 150, which prohibits immunity for sexual violence. Their courage is being tested as Ortega has not been brought to trial and key members of the group and other women’s rights activists have been targeted for speaking out. Their access to both resources and justice are being obstructed. Yet, undaunted, Nicaraguan women continue the struggle for a world where they can live free of fear and violence.
Read a report on the status of Nicaraguan women’s rights published by the group (in Spanish).