SEMlac reports

SEMlac reports (334)


Wearing the blue uniform of pre-university students, Dayron approaches a condom-dispensing machine, places a coin in slot and gets a three-unit pack all on his own.

There are 12 machines like this one in Havana, including the local university and the national bus station. They are part of a pilot project that seeks to measure how effective they can really be.

They complement condom sale at 83 pharmacies and over 400 non-traditional outlets (catering facilities and stores) in Havana. Over 50 percent of Cuban HIV-positive patients live in this 2.2-million-inhabitant city.


X is a great friend of mine. She tasted the honey of freedom and burned her boats (as we say in Cuba when we stay in land and let go). I spoke of her last November in an article entitled Disabled women and family love. She is totally blind and moved to Madrid with her guitar, her good voice, and her music training.

She ran away from her devoted mother. She wanted to be independent, do what she likes, and deal with scorn or gibe using her intelligence and even temper. She had been living in a cage.

She plays her guitar at a subway station during the day and at a jazz club in the evening.


Three million women resort to abortion every year in 12 Latin American and Caribbean countries. This does not include a similar number in Brazil. Most of them use illegal procedures because abortion is punishable by law.

Cuba and the Federal District in Mexico are the exceptions to the rule in a region where mother mortality rates are high and women are persecuted and incarcerated for “such a crime”.

As a result of growing pressure by conservative groups and the Catholic Church, criminal sanctions are really tough in countries like Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Abortion in Chile started to be punished in 1989, when the military dictatorship was in its death throes.


The Bible mentions the word abortion only on two occasions and does not condemn it explicitly. Nevertheless, the sacred book is often used to criticize decriminalization of a procedure that is demanded by women all over the world.

Based on the Bible and canon law, Catholics for the Right to Choose (CDD), an international organization of women believers, has asked States to provide access to effective medical and legal services in unwanted pregnancy cases.

According to Chilean theologian Izani Bruch, the first reference to abortion appears in the Old Testament, specifically in Exodus, chapter 21: 22-23 (Judgments): “If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman’s husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life.”


The Honduran people are putting up with repression and struggling for democracy and constitutional order. They are defying the curfew and evading de facto government measures.

Resistance sources said that the military had used chemical and hyper sonic sound (HSS) weapons against participants in a march on September 26. The latter were first utilized by the U.S. army in Iraq in 2004 and by the Israeli army in Gaza a year later.

A report of the Honduran Black Fraternal Organization (OFRANEH) indicated that HSS and VMAD (vehicle-mounted active denial system) are considered “non-lethal weapons”. In fact, HSS weapons induce vomit and faint, and VMAD causes skin burns.


The last few days have been crucial in Honduran history, not only because President Manuel Zelaya is back, but also because local men and women are heroically resisting the June 28 military coup.

The de facto government imposed a new curfew on September 21, and many people have been beaten, tortured and arrested ever since.

Both the national police and the military have systematically tried to suppress rebellion. Last September 22, those who were keeping vigil at the Brazilian embassy, where President Zelaya is staying, were moved away using tear gas bombs and armored personnel carriers.

Most of them found protection at human rights and women’s organizations the military sought to break into.

Those under arrest were taken to Chochi Sosa Stadium in Tegucigalpa and the Olympic Stadium in San Pedro Sula. This action reminded people of Augusto Pinochet’s bloody dictatorship in Chile.

The police have been arresting men and women. On September 26, they attacked participants in a peaceful march, killing two of them and leaving several wounded.

Some feminists were not arrested because they showed their identifications as members of the International Women’s Rights Observatory in Honduras. They were threatened and beaten, however.

The government has ordered the police to crush resistance at any cost, but the people are fighting back.

The Foreign Minister under the de facto regime was quoted as saying that calm has been restored, urged the population to observe the curfew, and denied civil-society violations by the army.


A member of the Democratic Unity Party who asked not to be identified told SEMlac that two patrol cars had arrived in a gas station where she had parked last September 24. “There were five of us, four women and one man. We were all dragged out of the vehicle and brutally beaten,” she added.

A day before, several youngsters in the capital city had been hit and threatened to death by the same squads.

A young woman who was participating in a march was also arrested, beaten and intimidated.

A five-month-pregnant schoolteacher in San Pedro Sula was arrested, dragged by her hair and hit. She was later accused of being a member of the resistance.

A 48-year-old seller in La Trinidad (Tegucigalpa) had his arms broken and his personal belongings (cell phone, clothes, money and documents) taken by the police.

Dr. Mauricio Castellanos indicated that the hydrogen cyanide bombs that were thrown at the Brazilian embassy on September 24 make breathing difficult, especially when the toxic gets to the blood (see This substance causes vertigo, nasal bleeding and respiratory problems.

Residents in the capital city told local media representatives that they felt dizzy shortly after the bombs exploded. Government officials said over the radio that no chemical had been used. “It was only cleaning detergent,” they added.

Red Cross ambulances were stopped by the military to prevent paramedics from providing emergency care to victims. A report of the National Resistance Front indicated that sonic weapons had been used.


Women have been playing a key role in the resistance movement in Honduras. They turned out at the Brazilian embassy on September 21 to support President Manuel Zelaya, who had been ousted from office last June.

They have continued working and participating in demonstrations and meetings. “This makes us shudder,” said Yarman Jiménez, who has been posted to the International Feminist Radio office in Costa Rica.

Resistance Feminists and Women’s Observatory have been receiving and sending e-mails since September 22 to let people know of army and police persecutions, raids and killings.


When homosexuals, transsexuals and transvestites are involved in health promotion work, they get better equipped to face abuse and social discrimination against them.

Members of an MSM project, in the central province of Ciego de Ávila, have corroborated that artistic expressions provide a powerful educational tool. MSM stands for Men having Sex with Men.

"People are now treating us with respect because of the work we have been doing for some time," said Wilber Ortega, a show man who is a project promoter.


Proteus, a Canadian/South-African film made in 2003, was shown earlier this month at the National Prevention Center (CNP) for STIs, HIV and AIDS.

Based on a true story that occurred in Cape Town back in 1735, the movie shows the trial against Claas Blank, a young black man, and Rijkhaart Khoi, a Dutch sailor. They were involved in homosexual relations and incarcerated at a Robben Island penitentiary.

The film was exhibited under a project for Men having Sex with Men (MSM) that has been implemented for nine years and includes screenings that give food for thought and spark discussion about sexual diversity and the need to take responsible attitudes toward STIs, including HIV/AIDS.


Entitled Escape, a first photo shows a woman placing empty, newly washed casseroles on a table. A second one reveals two men dressing as women, and a pregnant woman with some washing on the line, wearing a Coca-Cola-advertising dress. A third picture portrays a person whose sexual identity is not clearly established. In all of them, symbols are mixed, standards are broken, and sexes and meanings are confusing.

These and many other images were taken while the First International Workshop on Professional Photography and Gender Perspective was held on September 14-19, in Havana.

Sponsored by the Mirta Aguirre’s Gender and Communication Chair at the José Martí International Institute of Journalism, the event was aimed at promoting an unbiased, bold and fresh approach to professional photography.

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