Honduran Women at Forefront of Resistance to Coup
New America Media, Interview, Roberto Lovato, Posted: Jul 22, 2009
Editor’s Note: For more than a week, Honduran women’s groups backed by more than 5,000 other activists led a takeover of the National Institute of Women (INMU) to protesting the appointment of a coup supporter as director of the organization. NAM contributing editor Roberto Lovato spoke by phone to Gilda Rivera, one of the leaders of the uprising, about the role of women and women’s organizations in the Honduran crisis. Rivera is the director of the Honduran Center for Women’s Rights (CDM).
Q: What motivated you and other women to take over the INMU?
At the center of the coup crisis here in Honduras is fundamentalism – fundamentalist religion, fundamentalist military and fundamentalist business. These are the powers behind the coup, and they also represent the greatest threat to women and women’s rights. They want to cut any and all advances made by women.
This threat is being made concrete by the appointment of coup supporter Maria Martha Díaz Velásquez to head the INMU. We’ve taken this building because we cannot allow the illegitimate government to start pushing its program on women. And we have solidarity of many other sectors that have joined us.
Q: What role are women playing in the opposition to the coup and why don’t we hear more about this participation?
From the very beginning, women have been protagonists in the opposition (to the coup). The main sources of information in the country are owned and run by the backers of the coup.
Of course, you don’t see this in the media reports because the media will only show right wing women in a positive way. If they are depicted at all, before and after the coup women acting on behalf of women in Honduras are depicted in the most negative way as communists, as haters of family.
Q: What is the current situation facing women in opposition to the coup?
Repression increases. Our organization and others have documented more than 1,000 human rights violations in the weeks since the coup started. The [Roberto] Micheletti government and the military are chasing people and going into their homes, including many women’s – they’re restricting movement [of people].
Q: Is your organization being affected and if so, how?
Our offices are being surveilled. Members of our organization have been threatened. The radio show of our organization was taken off the air because it’s considered a threat. Other women’s organizations have also been attacked.
Q: And how is this impacting women in general?
These represent attacks not just on us, but on women in general. Fundamentalist Christian and Catholic church leaders are frontal enemies of women. For years, evangelicals like Vice Chancellor Marta Lorena Alvarado have pushed to oppress women. They have stopped birth control and AIDS prevention programs, closed sex education programs and generally promote a very traditional role for women at home and at work. And in a country run by the military and the oligarchs, who benefits from keeping women in a subservient role?
Q: What should women in the United States know about the situation you and other women in Honduras face?
Women and men in the United States should know that we women in Honduras are standing strong. They should know that we do not think your government or any other government should recognize or deal with illegitimate governments like this one. Nobody should be negotiating with coup leaders. Your government plays a key role and must do more to isolate the coup government. And conservative religious and business groups from here are trying to build support for the coup among their peers in your country.
Q: How are you planning to follow up on the INMU action?
We took over the INMU in order to show that women are angry and active about what is taking place in our country, and we’re still angry. We’re going to continue taking to the streets and will continue resisting until President Zelaya, the democratically elected of the country, is reinstated.
We do not dialogue with sectors supporting the coup. We will continue mobilizations. We are launching national forums to discuss and debate about the coup. Our organization and others are monitoring human rights violations. Many groups are considering a general strike.
Thousands of women have taken to the streets and participated in acts of denunciation. Women have contributed and will continue to contribute to the democratic process of Honduras.