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March 8: Women’s Day With Less Rights in Nicaragua

For the sixth consecutive year, Nicaraguan women were unable to demonstrate on #8M, under a dictatorship where the only woman in command is Murillo

mujeres Nicaragua, 8 de marzo


Redacción Confidencial

8 de marzo 2024


Women's rights are in “sharp decline” in Nicaragua. This is not to say they had significant advances before, according to activists and feminists. However, the rapid deterioration of women's rights is more evident because as the rule of law has weakened in the country, it also harmed the struggle of women and girls. This is the panorama of March 8 in Nicaragua, International Women's Day.

For the sixth consecutive year, Nicaraguan women are unable to march to demand the vindication of their rights. Hundreds of feminist organizations have been closed down and their property confiscated, while rates of gender violence continue to rise and the idea of a false equality, in which women do not exercise any real power, persists.

CONFIDENCIAL lists eight setbacks in women's rights in Nicaragua, on the occasion of March 8.

1. Six years without being able to march

On International Women's Day, Nicaraguan women are unable to demonstrate in the streets without being repressed, due to the de facto police state imposed on the country.

The last time women protested to demand the recognition of their rights and raise their demands to the State was on March 8, 2018, forty days before the beginning of the April Rebellion. Since then, the Ortega and Murillo regime took control of the streets and now no one can demonstrate. Marches are prohibited.

Not being able to demonstrate this #8M in Nicaragua is a cause of “indignation” for feminist activists and further confirms the authoritarian character of the Nicaraguan regime. Any gathering of women in public or private spaces implies intimidation by paramilitary groups and the risk of imprisonment because the dictatorship does not tolerate the slightest act of dissent.

2. Gender violence left 74 victims of femicide in 2023

Data from the organization Catholics for the Right to Decide indicate that 2023 concluded with 74 victims of femicides; 23 of which occurred in the Caribbean and 22 abroad. Most of these crimes are characterized by the cruelty with which they were committed; one of these women was even burned alive by her partner, who then committed suicide.

Between January and February 2024, five other Nicaraguan women were also murdered, three in the national territory and two abroad, according to the organization.

Despite the alarming data on the situation of violence experienced by women in Nicaragua, the Ortega regime has not taken any action to prevent it, say feminist activists. On the contrary, impunity continues to prevail in aggressions against women.

3. The regime holds 19 women political prisoners

Women do not evade the political trials of the Ortega regime either. To date, 19 political and student activists, feminists, and human rights defenders continue to be prisoners of conscience. The trials against them have been carried out without due process, without judicial guarantees, and with dozens of irregularities.

Most of these women have been held in precarious conditions, in solitary confinement, and in some cases, without the right to visits from family members and lawyers, without adequate food, medical check-ups, or any other rights, even though many of them have chronic illnesses.

Most of the political prisoners have been convicted for allegedly committing crimes of undermining national integrity, spreading false news, and even drug trafficking, with sentences ranging from eight to 12 years in prison.

4. Forced underage childbearing

Nicaragua is also the country with the highest adolescent birth rate in Latin America and the Caribbean, with 85.6 cases per 1000 adolescents, according to data from 2022 published by the World Health Organization (WHO). The situation “worries” United Nations agencies, but has been “normalized” by Nicaraguan authorities.

WHO data, cited in the report “Situation of Human Rights in Nicaragua,” by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), indicate that complications of pregnancy and childbirth are “the leading cause of death among young women aged 15 to 19 years in middle and low-income countries.”

Early pregnancies affect the physical and psychological health of minors and are a risk factor for not completing their basic studies and for dragging them into a cycle of poverty. However, in Nicaragua, the National Assembly prohibited therapeutic abortions in October 2006, an option that had been in force in the country for more than a hundred years.

According to Nicaragua's Penal Code, any sexual contact with a minor “is considered rape.” However, in the face of thousands of pregnancies of girls and adolescents, the regime simply does not investigate or punish the aggressors.

5. More than 300 women's NGOs have been shut down

The Ortega regime has also shut down more than 3,000 non-profit organizations, including more than 200 that worked exclusively with women and another one hundred that also served the LGBTQ community, according to María Teresa Blandón, a sociologist and feminist banished de facto by the Ortega dictatorship.

This situation has left thousands of women victims of violence unprotected and without access to prevention programs. 

Many of the canceled organizations provided sexual and reproductive health services, accompanied women victims of violence, and even had shelters where they sought refuge. 

The properties confiscated by the regime from these organizations have been used for “anything,” demonstrating that Ortega's government “is not interested” in women's rights, says Blandón. Their only objective with this onslaught has been to silence social organizations. 

6. A country without violence prevention policies

Nicaragua also lacks an articulated strategy to curb the increase in violence against women. This, coupled with a context of impunity and the accelerated dismantling of women's organizations, creates a dangerous scenario for women, warn feminist activists.

Blandón maintains that the regime has never outlined its State proposal to confront violence against women. In any case, she pointed out that a strategy requires sustained actions over time, allowing the adoption of measures to prevent these cases from recurring.

It was only in July 2023 that the dictatorship presented an “informative booklet” for women victims of violence to know the procedure to denounce their aggressors. However, this effort comes eight years late and is “a way out” in the face of the increase of femicides and gender violence.

Previously, in January 2021, life imprisonment was introduced for certain exceptionally serious crimes. However, this “has not had any positive impact” in terms of reducing the number of femicides, says Luisa, another women's rights defender, who asked not to be identified for fear of widespread persecution in Nicaragua.

7. Women are forced to mediate with their aggressors

Faced with the increase in violence against women, the Ortega regime reopened the Women's Police Stations that it had closed down in 2015. There are 298 stations as of February 2024, according to statements made by the Inspector General of the Police, Commissioner General Jaime Vanegas. These facilities, however, do not have trained personnel or insufficient resources, and there is no institutional network to follow up on women's complaints.

Luisa says that the constant complaints of women victims of violence are that these police stations do not provide the necessary attention, they are re-victimized and on many occasions, they try to mediate with the aggressors.

The activist also assured that violence against women comes from the State institutions themselves, starting with the Women's Police Stations.

“You can open a thousand police stations in every block, but as long as there is no awareness of this situation of violence against women, there will be no solution,” she said.

8. The mirage of gender equality

The Ortega dictatorship also boasts that Nicaragua is among the ten countries with the greatest gender equality. This parity imposed through Law No. 648, Law of Equal Rights and Opportunities, known as Law 50/50, has generated a clientelistic and partisan presence in public positions. At no time were women given real power.

An example of this is that in September 2023, the Sandinista dictatorship installed the “co-chiefs” within the National Police and promoted nineteen general commissioners as part of a strategy to commit policewomen to “repress more.” At the same time, according to feminists and security experts, they “calm discontent” within the police ranks, “pay loyalties,” and position Rosario Murillo as a “defender of women's rights.”

Although the presence of women in public positions is increasingly notorious, few are publicly known by name and surname. They do not give interviews to the media and only carry out the orders of the spokesperson of the Sandinista regime, Rosario Murillo, who is the only woman with power within the dictatorship.

This article was published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by our staff. To get the most relevant news from our English coverage delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe to The Dispatch.


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Redacción Confidencial

Redacción Confidencial

Confidencial es un diario digital nicaragüense, de formato multimedia, fundado por Carlos F. Chamorro en junio de 1996. Inició como un semanario impreso y hoy es un medio de referencia regional con información, análisis, entrevistas, perfiles, reportajes e investigaciones sobre Nicaragua, informando desde el exilio por la persecución política de la dictadura de Daniel Ortega y Rosario Murillo.