On March 26th Honduran leader Gladys Lanza Ochoa (a known feminist, in a country that desperately needs Feminism and Women’s Rights) was sentenced to 18 months in prison.
She is charged with defamation and slander, for defending a former employee of FUNDEVI (Foundation for development of urban and rural social housing) who claims (not saying that she wasn’t, because she probably was. I haven’t done enough research into that to state anything in my personal opinion so I’m using the words of one of the articles I’ll be citing.) to have been sexually harassed by the executive director of FUNDEVI.
This is a sad day for Honduran feminists and feminists all over the world. With Lanza Ochoa being behind bars Honduras will temporarily lose one of the most influential and powerful leaders for gender equality, who not only spoke about the need for equality but actively worked to achieve it. Violence against women continues in Honduras, and it will take women and men who act out against it as vocally as Gladys did/does, in order to reach equality, which can include feeling secure, and not being targeted by groups in power, or being “observed” while attempting to do real work.
This is a sad time in Honduras for people who advocate for progress, as other leaders (such as Berta Caceres) have been targeted by authorities and face persecution, some more direct than others, such as Berta and Gladys, and others less direct, such as the mocking of Salvador Nasralla, and the comments Juan Orlando made back in late January insinuating that those who opposed the PMOP were doing so out of a connection to “criminal groups”.
As an additional note, if it’s true that she was jailed primarily for defending the ex-employee of FUNDEVI it implies something worrying. The implication is that anyone who is vocal about the fact that they are being sexually harassed cannot make friends or have allies who stand up for them, on the basis that if their friends do decide to advocate for them, they are suddenly at risk for being charged with “defamation” or “slander”. This creates a culture of fear which serves to further protect those who commit acts of sexual harassment. If a prominent feminist leader is declared guilty in a situation where her greatest crime is saying “Hey maybe we shouldn’t vilify women who decide to be vocal about the fact that they’ve been victims of a crime” we are creating a culture where men can get away with harassment easily, and creating a culture that is inconsiderate of the feelings and experiences of women.
This is only true if the reality is that she was jailed because of her defense of the former employee. I personally believe that it could very well be the case, but I’m not saying that this is the only possibility. We as a society need to create a culture where women are taken seriously, and where sexual harassment is treated like the crime it is. No one should have to go to work day after day and be treated as a sex object. No one should have to tolerate rude and vulgar behavior, on the basis of their gender. We should focus on discovering the truth, and determining whether or not people who are accused of sexual harassment actually commit these acts, not imprisoning those who protect possible victims of sexual harassment.
What are your thoughts on the matter?