Dominican Republic: A call to unitary mobilization and international solidarity to answer attacks on the womens’ movement!

Socialist Workers Movement (MST)

Translated by Socialist Core, original in spanish can be read here

Hours after the women’s assembly of April 18, some twelve people suffered poisoning after eating brownies sent under false identity to the encampment that for more than a month has been installed in front of the National Palace demanding the partial decriminalization of abortion. Activists and journalists had to be hospitalized with symptoms such as tachycardia, vomiting and intense stomach pain. Then, in the early morning of April 20, the National Police attacked with knives and toxic gases a second women’s encampment, installed in front of the Congress, destroying their tents.

On April 19, President Luis Abinader declared from Madrid in an interview that he would promote a referendum on the partial decriminalization of abortion because it was a decision “which involves many issues, not only health but also a religious issue” (!). This combination of attacks intensifies as the discussion of the Penal Code enters its last stage.

No to the misogynist Penal Code, separation of the State and the Churches now

This week the articles of the Penal Code project referring to the criminalization of abortion will be discussed in Congress. The text presented to the plenary of the Chamber of Deputies only contemplates the decriminalization of abortion when the woman’s life is in danger if all possible scientific and technical means to avoid it are previously exhausted. A dissenting text is also presented which proposes decriminalization on the “three grounds”: in case of danger to the mother’s health, if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, and if the fetus suffers from a pathology which prevents it from surviving outside the uterus.

For decades, Dominican women have been fighting against the criminalization of abortion. The Dominican State, which has had a medieval-inspired Concordat with the Catholic Church since the Trujillo dictatorship, applies one of the most brutal legislations in the world, criminalizing abortion in any circumstance. The majority of the population agrees with decriminalizing abortion in the “three grounds”. Although from the MST we are for unconditional decriminalization and free, safe abortion before the 14th week of gestation, we accompany and support the struggle of the women’s movement, valuing that partial decriminalization would be a step forward, as part of the struggle for equal rights for women and the separation of the State and the churches.

Abinader, a businessman who bears similarities with Macri, Piñera and Lasso, presents the referendum option as a maneuver to try to pass a misogynist Penal Code. The law that would regulate the hypothetical referendum does not even exist. But, in addition, it would set a harmful precedent by submitting to referendum the right to life and health of women, due to the contestation of religious sectors. It is unacceptable that a circumstantial electoral majority can decide in a referendum what every woman should decide freely. Will we submit to a referendum the right to divorce, access to sexual and reproductive education and contraceptive methods?

Investigation and punishment for those who attacked the camp

We demand the participation of independent experts, designated by the victims, in the investigation. We do not trust the same police institution that attacked the activists with knives in front of the Congress to investigate. The National Police is so discredited by its brutality and scandalous extrajudicial executions that the government has had to announce a police reform. In addition, the institution’s links with extreme right-wing groups that frequently threaten the lives of journalists, human rights defenders, feminists and immigrants are well known. That police sources leaked to the press that the poisoned brownies contained “marijuana” was a deliberate attempt to discredit the complaint, while waiting for the results of the analysis of samples sent to the US.

It should be noted that the self-styled “pro-life” movement has been publicly stating that abortion is a form of “genocide” and trying to stigmatize women who defend their rights as “murderers”. It is a discourse that emboldens fascists and fundamentalists to commit violent acts. Moreover, anti-abortion terrorism has a long tradition. In the U.S., fundamentalists and ultra-right-wingers have carried out numerous shootings and bombings against clinics and against doctors who perform abortions. That is why it is very important that there is no impunity in this case.

Unity and international solidarity

The women’s assembly of April 18 demonstrates that there is an eagerness in the women’s movement to have instances of discussion and democratic decision-making. Having assembly mechanisms, far from hindering, allows to generate greater confidence and commitment in more and more activists and organizations, strengthening the movement. It is also crucial to continue promoting the unity of all sectors in struggle and the confluence against our common enemies. The women’s movement, because of the struggle it has been waging, currently has the authority to call for a great national mobilization of all struggles, centered on the demand for the decriminalization of abortion, but also including environmental demands, those of the peasant movement, workers, those demanding pensions, of all the sectors currently mobilizing in the country. It would be a demonstration of force that would generate an enormous impact.

It is also necessary to make an international call for solidarity with the struggle of Dominican women and in repudiation of the attacks suffered. Inviting the women’s movements of Latin America and the world to speak out, send communiqués to the Dominican embassies and consulates, and where possible protest in front of these diplomatic representations, supporting the demands for justice in the face of the attacks and an end to the absolute criminalization of abortion.

We are not intimidated by the attacks, ahead until victory!