Today we celebrate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Here is an exerpt from Eduardo Galeano’s book Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History [2013, translated from the 2012 original Los hijos de los días]. In this passage, the writer honors the Dominican Republic’s Mirabal sisters. Below this excerpt, I have added a short history of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and on the Mirabal sisters published in Notas: Periodismo popular (on 25 November 2014).
In the jungle of the Upper Paraná, the prettiest butterflies survive by exhibiting themselves. They display their black wings enlivened by red or yellow spots, and they flit from flower to flower without the least worry. After thousands upon thousands of years, their enemies have learned that these butterflies are poisonous. Spiders, wasps, lizards, flies, and bats admire them from a prudent distance.
On this day in 1960 three activists against the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic were beaten and thrown off a cliff. They were the Mirabal sisters. They were the prettiest, and they were called Las Mariposas, “The Butterflies.”
In memory of them, in memory of their inedible beauty, today is International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. In other words, for the elimination of violence by the little Trujillos that rule in so many homes.
[Eduardo Galeano, Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History]
Why is November 25th the day against all forms of violence against women?
In 1981, the First Latin American and Caribbean Feminist Meeting was held in Bogota, Colombia. Among many other things, it was decided that November 25 would be the International Day of Nonviolence against Women. The date was chosen to remember the 1960 assassination of the Mirabal sisters at the hands of the dictatorship of Leonidas Trujillo in the Dominican Republic.
More than a decade later, in 1993, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women. Violence towards women was defined as “any act of gender-based violence that results in physical, sexual, or psychological harm, including threats, coercion or arbitrary prohibition of freedom, occurring either in public or private life.”
It also affirmed the need for “a clear declaration of rights to be applied to ensure the elimination of all forms of violence against women, and a commitment by States and the international community at large to eliminate violence against women.”
Finally, in resolution 54/134, on December 17, 1999, the General Assembly of the United Nations decided that from the following year, the 25th of November would be the date stipulated as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
The struggle of the Mirabal sisters
Minerva, María Teresa and Patria Mirabal were three sisters who, during the fifties, were important opponents of the dictatorship of Leónidas Trujillo in the Dominican Republic. For this reason, they were imprisoned several times, raped and tortured. In spite of this they continued their struggle.
On May 18, 1960, sisters Minerva and Maria Teresa were tried in Santo Domingo with their husbands, “for attempting against the security of the Dominican State” and sentenced to prison. However, on August 9, the dictator decided to release the women, leaving their male partners in jail.
On November 25, when they were returning from visiting their husbands in the prison, Minerva, Maria Teresa, and their sister Patria, who had accompanied them, were intercepted on the route. A Military Intelligence Death Squadron forced them to board a vehicle in which they were transferred to a house in the town of La Cumbre. There, they were killed and then their bodies struck to simulate an automobile accident.
Two years later, a trial was conducted against the perpetrators and they were all sentenced to several years in prison. However, with the help of pro-Trujillo groups, they managed to escape the country.
For original text in Spanish, see http://notas.org.ar/2014/11/25/25-noviembre-dia-contra-violencia-hacia-mujeres/