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The regime tramples on the sexual and reproductive rights of women prisoners

In the case of Cuban political prisoner Lisdany Rodríguez Isaac, Havana is once again breaking its own laws and violating international legal protocols.

Lisdany and Lidianis Rodríguez Isacc.
Lisdany and Lidianis Rodríguez Isacc. Prisoners Defenders/X

The Cuban regime is once again breaking its own laws and violating international legal protocols that protect sexual and reproductive rights, in the case of political prisoner Lisdany Rodríguez Isacc, held in the prison of El Guamajal, in Villa Clara. Seven weeks pregnant, the young woman is being pressured to undergo an abortion at the same time she is being deprived of adequate food and medical care.

In the words of General Raúl Castro Ruz, the Constitution approved in April 2019 "synthesizes the aspirations of all those who, for more than 150 years, have fought for a free, independent, sovereign and socially just Cuba." This vapid claim came amidst the profound economic and social crisis that the island is enduring, which the recent constitutional reform and its legislative changed have ignored.

Regarding sexual rights, the constitutional text states that "the State promotes the comprehensive development of women and their full social participation. It ensures the exercise of their sexual and reproductive rights, protects them from gender violence in all of its manifestations and spaces, and creates the institutional and legal mechanisms for this."

According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), "women's sexual and reproductive health is related to multiple human rights, such as the right to life, the right not to be tortured, the right to health, the right to privacy, the right to education and the prohibition of discrimination."

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), meanwhile, have indicated that women's right to health includes its sexual and reproductive components.

According to CEDAW, "the denial of access to services needed only by women; low quality services" or "forced sterilization, forced virginity examinations, and forced abortions, without women's prior consent" constitute violations of these rights.

Likewise, the Beijing Declaration, one of the most important global roadmaps towards gender equality, states that "women's human rights include their right to have control over and to decide freely and responsibly on issues related to their sexuality, including sexual and reproductive health, without coercion, discrimination or violence."

The Cuban Government, a member of the Human Rights Council, having committed to comply with international legal instruments protecting human rights, has been once again exposed, this time in the case of the young Lisdany Rodríguez Isacc.

Barbara Isacc, the mother of the pregnant woman, explained that her daughter and her husband had tried for years to have a child. Rodríguez Isacc became pregnant during a conjugal visit. She told her mother that she was seven weeks pregnant. 

"She is suffering a lot of abdominal pain, and is often dizzy, and there's no Gravinol, no medication to give her. So, they wanted to remove it (by curettage). But the poor woman doesn't want to, because she's never been pregnant before. She wants to have it," the political prisoner's mother told DIARIO DE CUBA.

"Now they won't take her to the medical appointment they give pregnant women until ten weeks have passed," Barbara Isacc said.

This Cuban is aware that, given her condition, her daughter needs to be well cared for and fed, but the reality, according to the testimony of hundreds of inmates, is that Cuban prisons suffer from serious shortages of food and medicine.

"Imagine, if there's normally no food for the inmates... So, I imagine they're doing it (pressuring Isaac to abort) for that very reason. Since the situation is bad in there, because the prisoners don?t have enough food, a pregnant woman is going to be a burden," she added.

On Friday, the independent platform Yo Sí Te Creo (IBelieveYou) demanded that the young woman "receive all the care set down in the Mother and Child Program." She pointed out that "it is illegal to force a person to undergo an abortion, regardless of whether they are incarcerated, in accordance with the Criminal Code in force since 2022."

The case of the young woman, convicted, along with her twin sister Lidianis Rodríguez Isacc, for participating in the 11-J protests in Villa Clara, is not the only one featuring a violation of sexual and reproductive rights in Cuban prisons. Other women behind bars have spoken out about the abusive treatment they suffer, not only when they are pregnant, but after giving birth. Mothers and their children are separated when the children reach one year of age.

The situation is aggravated when the reason for a sentence is political, a further violation of women's fundamental rights.

Another political prisoner, Lázara Karenia González Fernández, also convicted for her role in the 11-J demonstrations, is fighting for extrapenal leave to block the State from separating her from her son, just over a year old. This young mother from Cárdenas, Matanzas, has been sentenced to three years and six months of correctional work with internment for the crimes of disturbing the peace, contempt and resistance, of which she has only served seven months, as she was pregnant after the appeal sentence.

Lizandra Góngora, a mother of five minors and imprisoned in Isla de la Juventud, has decried the violation of her right to regular phone calls and demanded that she be transferred to a prison near her residence so that she can see her children.

"They've threatened to send me to Guantánamo or Pinar del Río. I think that's unfair, because my address has been in Havana for 14 years. I'm not going to let them take me to any prison other than the one corresponding to me," Góngora said recently.

Lisdany Rodríguez Isaac, Lázara Karenia González, and Lisandra Góngora are Cuban women who have been violated, this time not by VAW (which claimed 88 victims in 2023 and has another five so far in 2024) but rather the political violence of the Cuban state's apparatus, which, in an effort to quash dissent, attacks mothers, children, and family.

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