Monday, November 19, 2012

Finding each other through the struggle - Feminism and the resistance

Sara Avilés Tomé and Liana Funes from Feminists in Resistance speak out

The 2009 U.S.-backed coup d'etat and resistance movement it has sparked has dramatically impacted the feminist struggle in Honduras. Sara Avilés Tomé and Liana Funes of the Center for Women's studies in Honduras are both members of Feminists in Resistance who outlined for the Honduras Solidarity Network human rights observation delegation the history and current challenges of the feminist struggle in Honduras.

Though women have been present in all struggles throughout Honduran history, a movement of self-identified feminists emerged from the struggle in the 50's for women’s right to vote. The movement has grown throughout the latter part of the 20th century, taking on an important role in educating people on women’s rights and fighting for protection from violence against women, for sexual and reproductive rights and for representation within state institutions and political offices.

“This earlier liberal conception of what it meant to be feminist was interrupted when we found the government institutions we had achieved for protecting women to be completely useless in the face of the 2009 coup d’etat and the wave of repression that was unleashed, repression which took a particularly harsh toll on the many women who were killed, assaulted, raped and beaten as a result of the coup d’etat,” explains Tomé.

Feminists in the urban areas who had been focusing on battles for representation within the state found themselves in the streets battling an illegitimate state and their conception of feminism began to expand.

“We found ourselves encountering other feminists and other more diverse realities in the streets during the resistance. We began to come together with indigenous feminists, afro-descendant feminists, feminists from the rural areas, to articulate our struggles together. Being together days on end in the streets allowed us to re-think what it means to be a feminist and re-define ourselves, making connections between the struggle against patriarchy and the struggle against capitalism and racism,” says Tomé.

Feminists in Resistance played a key part in getting the National Front of Popular Resistance to take up an explicit anti-patriarchy position, which they have so far been disappointed to see lacking in the LIBRE political party, the resistance’s political arm. While Feminists in Resistance continue to struggle alongside other sectors of the resistance for the re-founding of Honduras, they also continue to struggle internally to defeat patriarchy within the movement and ensure that the gains made within the National Front of Popular Resistance are not sacrificed for the purposes of politics as the resistance enters the electoral arena. They want to see LIBRE and the FNRP active in the struggle against the recent outlawing of emergency contraception and the battle against the dramatic levels of violence and abuse faced by Honduran women.

Feminists in Resistance is part of a sector of the resistance called the “Re-foundational Space,” which believes the resistance’s priority should be to build the social movements and has an understanding of the struggle for power that goes beyond anything achievable just through electoral politics.

These debates in and of themselves show how alive the political imagination is within Honduras right now. The debate is not whether or not to fundamentally change Honduras but how to do so. The dreams that were awoken in the process of resisting the coup, dreams of a country and world based on human rights and satisfaction of social needs rather than privatization, greed and militarization, will be difficult for the Honduran oligarchy, the Latin American right wing and the U.S. government to stamp out, try as they will.

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