International Women's Day: “Together we fight, resist, and advance"
On Wednesday, March 8, 2023, for International Working Women’s Day (or #8M) two prominent Salvadoran feminist coalitions, Asamblea Feminista and Resistencia Feminista, joined forces to lead a march and release a joint statement of demands to uplift their message of “Together we fight, resist, and advance.” Though the two coalitions, which together represent a broad array of social movement sectors, including organized rural farmers, war veterans, student organizations, LGBTI coalitions, unionized textile and health workers, have led separate efforts in years prior, the unity they achieved this year is a testament to the urgency that is felt amongst Salvadoran feminists after four years of setbacks to their rights and quality of life under the Bukele administration.
Despite their constitutional right to public assembly being suspended under a nationwide State of Exception, hundreds marched in the nation’s capital with a particular focus on the impacts that the almost year-long “emergency measure” has had on the country’s women and children. The policy, imposed under a pretext of fighting a war against gangs, also suspends internationally protected rights to due process, resulting in thousands of arbitrary arrests of Salvadorans with no ties to criminal structures. Among the over 65,000 people who have been arrested under the State of Exception, the vast majority of whom are from the most impoverished and marginalized communities in El Salvador, approximately 8,000 are women. In many cases, their families now bear the added burden of having lost their main income providers. In a press conference held prior to the march, organizers demanded the “immediate release of the women, and reparations and non-repetition of the acts against innocent people who have no gang ties and have committed no crimes.”
Also central to this years’ International Women’s Day activities were the rights of women workers and concern for the increasing economic precarity of Salvadoran families. The ever-increasing costs of basic food staples and a crisis in the agricultural sector that leads to food insecurity for Salvadoran families results in disproportionate hardship for Salvadoran women. The statement also included expressions of solidarity for workers who have been “unjustly fired from the public and private sector” and demands for “decent working conditions for women in maquilas, fair wages, access to social security and paid vacations, an end to unjust firings, and the ratification of the International Labor Organization’s Convention 189 [regarding the rights of domestic workers] to improve women's working conditions.”
In addition to these demands regarding labor rights of women and the impacts of the State of Exception on their lives, the statement denounced the Bukele administration’s having deprioritized and reduced funding for the implementation of the Comprehensive Special Law for a Life Free of Violence for Women (LEIV), resulting in decreased instances of the law being applied. As background, the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) party introduced the LEIV, which was passed in 2010 and entered into force in 2012 under the Funes administration. It established public policies aimed at identifying, preventing, repairing, and prosecuting violence against women and is the only regulation in El Salvador that protects women from gender violence. Since Bukele took power in 2019, there has been a complete halt in the passage of laws and programs promoting the rights and safety of women accompanied by a defunding of many of the programs and policies achieved under the last two FMLN administrations, like the United Nations-recognized “Women’s City” comprehensive service centers, with the concerns about the LEIV being just one of many such examples.
The demand of “Ni una más” (“Not one more”), calling for an end to disappearances and femicides, was also seen in protest signs and chants in the streets of the capital on Wednesday. The groups’ joint statement described El Salvador as a clandestine grave, with over 10,000 women having been disappeared in the last 8 years, 131 femicides recorded in 2022 and 16 femicides recorded in just the six weeks of 2023. Marchers denounced the silence and politics of denial coming from the Bukele government in the face of this reality.
The statement also denounced the ongoing attacks on the sexual and reproductive rights of women and other oppressed genders, calling attention to “total criminalization of abortion, the absence of comprehensive sex education and the forced pregnancies of girls and adolescents [as being reflective of] the State's violence against the bodies of women and gender-diverse people.” Likewise, the statement calls for justice from the courts with regards to rights of trans women, denouncing the Salvadoran judiciary for transphobic rulings in cases of hate crimes against trans women and calling for the courts and legislative branch to honor the legal victory secured by trans women wherein the San Salvador courts ordered the state to create a law permitting gender and name changes for trans and non-binary people, a ruling that the Bukele administration has failed to abide by.
Lastly, the statement called for an end to the persecution, harassment and criminalization of feminist organizations, women journalists and women human rights defenders. Find out more about the persecution of one of El Salvador’s most outspoken feminist leaders and take action here. Read the full joint statement in Spanish here.