From a member of the National Revolution Tour
March 1, 2021 | revcom.us
Forced motherhood is female enslavement! A recent article in the New York Times brings to light a nightmarish reality in Venezuela where thousands of women are being forced against their will to bear children—due to the fact that birth control is almost completely unobtainable and abortion is illegal. Women who had once dreamed of becoming teachers or scientists or following other pathways in life are now condemned to raising families of 6, 8 or even 10 children.
“I felt like I was drowning,” said a mother of five children, sobbing bitterly when she discovered that she was pregnant again with her sixth. She had been searching in vain for any kind of birth control which she and her husband could afford. But a pack of condoms costs $4.40 while the monthly minimum wage is $1.50—making it completely inaccessible to her and most other women in Venezuela. Even when women attempt to control their reproduction by avoiding sex during the times when they are the most fertile, it is not uncommon for them to be forced by partners who consider sex their “right”—thus subjected to abuse and on top of that forced to give birth to yet more children. Women who choose instead to try to end their pregnancies are risking and losing their lives—unsafe abortions are the 3rd leading cause of maternal death in a country with a very high maternal death rate. And girls as young as 14 are choosing sterilization rather than face a life with zero control over their own reproduction.
The women of Venezuela are caught in a brutal vise of patriarchy, Catholicism, imperialism and the workings of the capitalist system.
Venezuela’s economy is in severe crisis—the product of an economy totally dependent on oil sales and enmeshed within the global network of imperialist commodity relations in which social and human development hangs in the balance of an unequal structure of world production and trade—and on the movement of prices on the world market. And the price of oil has been falling precipitously over the last decade. The situation is made vastly worse by sanctions imposed by the U.S. on Venezuela meant to punish the government which has declared itself “socialist” and carrying out the “Bolivarian revolution.”1 These sanctions are further strangling an economy which is already in free fall as the price of oil has declined in recent years. They are preventing new investment or development of other sectors of the economy. All this has resulted in extreme shortages of basic necessities like diapers, milk, rice, medicine—and birth control. Contraception—pills, condoms and other forms— used to be widely available in Venezuela but is now completely absent from 90 percent of pharmacies. In most cases the only way to obtain it is on the black market with prices so exorbitant that this basic necessity of women’s health is available to only the wealthiest in society.
Venezuela is a country which has long been marked by a huge gender gap with only 52 percent of women participating in the workforce, compared to 80 percent of men, and with 28 percent wage gap between female and male salaries. The collapsing of the economy with the resultant disappearance of contraception is grossly exacerbating these inequalities which are built into Venezuelan and all capitalist societies and tightening the chains of traditional family relations and values.
A key factor in this is the massive historical influence of the Catholic Church in Venezuelan society which has created a situation where patriarchal views about women—as property of men and bearers of children—hold powerful sway on large parts of the population and have largely gone unchallenged. Abortion is outlawed in Venezuela in all cases except when the mother’s life is at risk—with providers facing a possible one to three years in prison and women themselves facing six months to two years. Yet numerous women are risking their lives seeking illegal abortions or self-administering medical abortions without the proper medications and conditions to do so safely. Women who do have abortions—and survive them—are saddled with shame and a shroud of secrecy. A recent high profile arrest of a university professor for assisting a 13-year old in obtaining an abortion has struck terror into women and those who have helped them with underground abortion services.
This situation is untenable. A world where women lack even the most basic right to control their own reproduction, to decide if and when they want to bear children, is a world that no one should have to live in. These chains of oppression and patriarchy are being cruelly tightened and reinforced on the women of Venezuela. The cascade of consequences in women’s lives coming from the loss of access to birth control reveals how deeply the oppression of women is woven into the fabric of capitalist society, how deeply rooted it is in traditional patriarchal family structure and in an economy that is based on meeting the demands of imperialist capital accumulation instead of the material, social and cultural needs of the people. For this reason the oppression of women cannot be uprooted within the confines of the worldwide capitalist-imperialist system.
This oppression can only be uprooted through socialist revolution on the road to communism and the emancipation of all humanity. The following quote of Bob Avakian speaks to how central the liberation of women is to such a revolution and how a socialist economic and political system can unleash a whole process through which not only would full reproductive rights be granted immediately to women, but all the inequalities between men and women could finally be overcome:
In some recent writings on the question of morality, I have called attention to the fundamental point that, throughout the entire revolutionary process that aims to create the conditions for communism, the struggle must be waged to continually, and ever more thoroughly, overcome and uproot the relations of inequality and oppression that shackle women; to promote personal, family, and sexual relations that are based on mutual love and respect and equality between men and women; and to increasingly develop forms for the masses of people to carry out—through cooperative efforts involving men equally with women—the functions which are now focused overwhelmingly in the family and which are a burden on women in particular. Through this profound revolutionary process, the “nuclear family” will be finally abolished and replaced by new forms of social relations in communist society—a society based on conscious and voluntary cooperation among people—without economic, political, and social domination and inequality.
From Break ALL the Chains! Bob Avakian on the Emancipation of Women and the Communist Revolution
Break the Chains! Unleash the Fury of Women as a Mighty Force for Revolution!”
1. See “Hugo Chavez Has an Oil Strategy… But Can This lead to Liberation” by Raymond Lotta. Revolution, July 1, 2007, for an analysis of the actual program and outlook behind Hugo Chavez’s “Bolivarian Revolution” which does not represent a fundamental break with imperialism, nor embody a vision or path to truly liberating societal transformation. [back]
Download the full text from revcom.us, engage and spread far and wide the New Years’s Statement by Bob Avakian