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Cablegate: Nicaragua: Raising Awareness of Violence Against Women, Human Trafficking

VZCZCXRO2569
PP RUEHLMC
DE RUEHMU #2656/01 3652000
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 312000Z DEC 07 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1882
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEHLMC/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORP WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 MANAGUA 002656

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

WHA/CEN PASS TO ABOTTNER G/IWI, KBRESNAHAN G/TIP

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PHUM KWMN KCRM NU
SUBJECT: NICARAGUA: RAISING AWARENESS OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN, HUMAN TRAFFICKING

REF: A. SECSTATE 142614

B. MANAGUA 2295

1. (U) Summary: Post marked the International Day for the
Elimination of Violence Against Women and the 16 days of
activism against gender-based violence from November 25 to
December 10, by engaging with women's rights organizations,
universities, civil society, the media, and the Nicaraguan
police commissariats for women and children. In cooperation
with the University of Central America (UCA), on December 6
we organized a forum entitled "The Diverse Faces of Violence
against Women" and screened the film "Human Trafficking" to
raise awareness of the connection between gender-based
violence and trafficking in persons. Leading national daily
La Prensa ran an op-ed by the Ambassador highlighting the
U.S. commitment to combatting violence against women. The
passionate response to the human trafficking film reveals
there is a demand for information on this topic. End Summary

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VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN IS VIOLENCE AGAINST HUMANITY
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2. (U) As part of our efforts to engage with local media to
call attention to gender-based violence during the 16 days of
activism, the Ambassador drafted an op-ed entitled "Violence
against Women is Violence against Humanity" which ran in
leading center-right national daily "La Prensa" on December
6. The Ambassador reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to
defending women's human rights, advancing women's economic
and political empowerment, and combating trafficking in
persons. He also underscored the need to address underlying
causes of violence such as poverty, lack of economic
opportunities, and weakness in the judicial system--key
factors that enable violence against women to continue
unabated.

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DIVERSE FACES OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
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3. (U) In partnership with the Program for Interdisciplinary
Gender Studies at UCA, the Embassy organized a forum on
December 6 entitled "The Diverse Faces of Violence against
Women," with the participation of Commissioner Mercedes
Ampie, Chief of the Police Commissariats for Women and
Children; Sylvia Torres, former Fulbright scholar and gender
specialist with the Millennium Challenge Corporation; and
Grethel Lopez, National Director of Casa Alianza, a G/TIP
grantee and one of the leading NGOs involved in protection
and reintegration of trafficking victims. Although Aminta
Granera, Director General of the National Police and post's
nominee for the 2007 Women of Courage Award, had previously
agreed to be the keynote speaker, she was unable to
participate due to a scheduling conflict. PolCounselor
delivered opening remarks to kick off the program.

4. (U) After the panelists' remarks, in keeping with the
theme that violence against women comes in many forms we
capped off the program with a screening of the film "Human
Trafficking" followed by an informal reception. The audience
was riveted by the film, and clamored for it to be shown to a
broader audience. Several UCA professors expressed their
interest in including the film as part of the gender studies
curriculum. Another participant suggested we show the film
on one of the public television stations. One participant
remarked that the U.S. Embassy's backing of the event gave
the topic greater weight and legitimacy.

5. (U) Commissioner Ampie discussed the role of the women and children's police commissariats in dealing with violence against women, explaining that the commissariats began in 1993 as a pilot project aimed at reducing intrafamiliar and sexual violence, at a time when the National Police began to incorporate a gender focus into all of its projects. There are now a total of 32 commissariats nation-wide, including seven new centers that opened this past year which have been extended to the Atlantic Coast where violence against women is especially problematic. Ampie proudly noted that the Nicaraguan approach toward victims' assistance is being used as a model in neighboring countries such as Honduras and Guatemala. The commissariats have 625 volunteers assigned to work with victims prior to the initiation of the legal process, and often accompany the victims in case of death threats. Although the program works closely with the relevant District Attorney's office, the lack of legal assistance prevents many women from seeking justice.

6. (SBU) As there is no law against intrafamily violence in
Nicaragua, many acts of violence against women are treated as
offenses or misdemeanors which carry no penalty. There has
been a 36 percent increase of reported cases of violence
against women this year, an indicator that more women are
coming forward to "break the silence" about gender-based and
domestic violence. In a separate meeting with Poloff, Ampie
lamented that the judicial system in Nicaragua is susceptible
to corruption and is biased against women so that most of the
cases that come to the attention of the police are never
processed by the judiciary or are treated with impunity. She
explained that the police are now trying to place greater
emphasis on prevention by working with the entire family
rather than simply with the woman as victim, but the
commissariats (which receive funding from the Swedish
government) need outside help to strengthen and sustain their
programs. Since victims of violence need to be examined by a
medical doctor assigned to the Institute of Medical Forensics
under the auspices of the Supreme Court before they can take
any legal action, women who have been sexually abused often
give up rather than submitting to medical examination.

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GENDER VIOLENCE IN NICARAGUAN CULTURE
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7. (SBU) Sylvia Torres delivered a passionate, if somewhat
abstract, presentation on the cultural roots of violence
against women and her theory on how the perpetuation of a
patriarchal power structure leads to tolerance for and
justification of gender-based violence and the subordination
of women. In addition to echoing Commissioner Ampie's
concerns about the alarming statistics of violence against
women and girls, Torres addressed the growing trend of forced
child marriage, when parents marry off underage daughters,
who have been raped and sexually abused, to their aggressors
who are usually much older men. In her view, the
partriarchal family model suppresses the rights of women and
translates into authoritarianism of the state. Capturing a
common sentiment among Nicaraguan feminists, she voiced
solidarity with a group of nine women activists from the NGO
Women's Network against Violence who have been under
investigation by the Public Ministry since late November for
their controversial intervention in 2003 on behalf of a
nine-year old girl known as "Rosita" who was repeatedly raped
and eventually impregnated by her step-father. She
criticized the goverment for going after women who are
"defending the rights of women," while narcotraffickers,
rapists, and other criminals are "out on the street."

8. (U) Grethel Lopez of Casa Alianza set the stage for the
film with an articulate overview of the problem of human
trafficking as a form of violence against women and girls.
She described the increasingly sophisticated ways that
traffickers use to stalk, lure, trick, and exploit their
victims. Children who have been abused in the home are often
preyed upon by traffickers who lure them with false promises
of a better life, travel to exotic places, or even gifts such
as cell phones and money. Even if rescued and returned to
their home, victims of domestic abuse are likely to be
revictimized by traffickers. Organized human trafficking
rings also increasingly resort to the use of an older female
figure who functions as an intermediary or advisor and
prepares victims to work as sex slaves after they are
essentially held captive, deprived of food, and broken down.
The female figure often is a trafficking victim herself.
Asserting that the fight against trafficking in persons was a
shared responsbility, Lopez expressed regret that even in the
face of evidence of a trafficking crime, government and civil
society often look the other way and do nothing.

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SPREADING THE WORD
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9. (U) After the conclusion of the film, there was an informal exchange with participants who voiced their appreciation for the Embassy's initiative on behalf of women. Although Nicaraguans are increasingly aware of the concept of human trafficking, they had never actually seen such a graphic portrayal of the phenomenon and its multiple facets. We also distributed Spanish versions of a fact sheet on USG efforts to fight trafficking in persons, the "Working for Women Worldwide" publication, and informational posters to raise awareness of trafficking in persons produced by the International Organization for Migration with INCLE funding.

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COMMENT
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10. (SBU) Since final exams were being held the same week as
our program, student attendance at the event was limited.
Based on the positive response by professors and other
attendees, however, we will identify additional opportunities
to reach a broader audience and show the film in other
educational settings. Given the current climate of hostility
between the women's movement and the Ortega government (Ref.
B), this is an opportune time to demonstrate U.S. support for
women in Nicaragua, particularly in the areas of ending
violence, fighting trafficking, and promoting women's
economic empowerment, education, and health.

TRIVELLI

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