“Political Messianism and church rhetoric about obligatory motherhood, that is what the red-black heaven offers the poor.” That is how a Nicaraguan women’s organization judges the Sandinista government.
In an advertisement placed in the major Nicaraguan newspapers on March 8, 2008, the Nicaraguan Autonomous Women’s Movement lashes out at Daniel Ortega and his government.
They describe Nicaragua as a country where women’s right to participation in politics is a “grim joke”, and where the government pursues an “anti-women” policy which reduces women to “day laborers” and “breeding machines” without any rights, and with a “death sentence for complications during pregnancy”.
The movement describes the president personally as the symbol of “masculine impunity” for crimes of violence against women, and compares his gender politics to German Fascism, which viewed women with an optics of “Kinder, Kirche, Küche” (children, church, kitchen).
A divided women’s movement
The declaration of war (see translation below) from the Autonomous Women is in part a sign of the deep fissure created between the Sandinista government and progressive women´s groups. And partly a sign of rapprochement between one wing of the progressive, ex-Sandinista women’s movement and the right wing opposition to the Ortega-government .
The Nicaraguan Autonomous Women’s movement and the Feminist Women’s Movement are presently the most active networks of women in Nicaragua . They have both roots in the strong network of Women Against Violence, but have parted ways over the stand on the Sandinista Front, FSLN, not on the Sandinista gender politics, on how to fight them.
The Autonomous Women demonstrate together with right wing parties in a joint fight against the pact between FSLN and the Constititionalist Liberal party, and its leader, Arnoldo Aleman, a convicted felon serving time for corruption while he was in power. The Feminists, on the other hand, feel that a progressive fight for women is undermined by an alliance with the right wing, who often are just as reactionary in their view on sex.
Same fight – Different friends
Both groups have led similar, but separate, campaigns against the law against medical abortion, which was voted into law in August 2006 by all the major parties of the Nicaraguan parliament. The law threatens pregnant women, as well as doctors, nurses, and even the cleaning lady with prison, if a medical procedure to save the pregnant woman’s life or health hurts the unborn baby. The law has already claimed several women’s lives.
The Autonomous Women’s high priority to the wider issue of who should be in government, is seen in their March 8 declaration, which ends in an appeal to vote against the pact – i.e. FSLN and PLC – in the upcoming municipal elections in November. They share language and message with the right wing opposition when they claim that the Sandinista government threatens democracy it self and call on the revival of Nicaragua “as a republic”.
Translation of the declaration:
Orteganism and women: hate politics
On March 8, 2008 we, the Nicaraguan women, are gathered to deny President Daniel Ortega in his ambition to install an authoritarian regime, which has, already, deprived the women of their basic right to control of their own body, and which threatens to deprive us of the right to free and open elections with competing candidates, in order to renew the pact that has brought the country stagnation, poverty, and corruption.
Ortega’s new regime is marked by power lust, demagogy, and hate of women. It made its debut by removing the medical abortion exception in the old criminal code, and later ratified its death-sentence for complications during pregnancy in the new criminal code.
FSNL’s “gender policy” denies that women are citizens with civil rights. It gives priority to the traditional family, sells out on the women’s human rights, and reduces them to mere breeding machines, even when they may die from it.
“Equality” of political participation is reduced to the grim joke that women were given 50% of the power when Ortega without legal authority, and without her proving any competence, announced that he shares a “joint presidency” with his wife Rosario Murillo, a “joint presidency” which does not exist, and which nobody ever has given a single vote.
Through the “No Hunger Program” the government has positioned women, not as agents of economic development as peons whose only task is to breed chicken and pigs.
The latest demagogical manipulation has been the passing of the Equal Rights Law. This law is is merely a rhetorical gesture since, apart from any good will it might show, it has no influence on a regime which shows no respect for either institutions or laws.
The best proof of the contempt shown womens’ lives are the closed doors that women meet when they turn to the courts as victims of male violence. In more than half of the cases, courts decide in favour of the violent man. The symbol for this male impunity is the President of the Republic himself. He was never tried for the sexual abuse of his stepdaughter. First he claimed immunity as member of the parliament, then he permitted a tardy application to the court, and, finally, the court refused to hear the case because of an alleged statue of limitations.
The motives for the unfounded accusations that the government, through the state prosecutor, has brought against nine prominent women leaders, is revenge, persecution of the Women’s Movement, and to scare the rest of the civil society.
Altogether the gender policy that the government of “reconciliation and national unity” supports is quite similar to that of the German fascism that glorified the traditional female qualities Kinder, Kirche, Küche (children, church, kitchen): Political messianism and church rhetoric about obligatory motherhood, that is what the red-black heaven offers to to the poor.
The government patriarchal and undemocratic gender politics threaten to succeed because of a policy of pacts, tricks and manipulation. They threaten women’s rights, and the rights of all Nicaraguans. Therefore, on the International Women’s Day we call on all women and all citizens to defend democracy, and to mobilize ourselves to fight the pact and the corruption during the coming election, keeping in sight the hope that Nicaragua will be revived as a Republic.
Managua, March 7, 2008
For Democracy, for Autonomy, and for Freedom
Bring down the Pact!
The Autonomous Women’s Movement of Nicaragua
Originally posted in Danish on March 10, 2008.