Which world leader declared that he wants to remove the panties of female ministers as he strummed a lute in his country’s main plaza? Or that he beds members of his country’s most prominent indigenous women’s organization?
Many would be surprised to hear that it’s Bolivia’s Evo Morales. But Morales’ Rob Ford-ish quotes are not the news-making international headlines one might assume. Instead, he has been winning a place in the hearts of many people of conscience for his progressive reforms to the poor South American country’s laws and constitution—paying particular attention to women.
Since Morales came to power, he has enshrined electoral gender parity in the constitution and passed a law to combat violence against women. Entitled “The Law to Guarantee Women a Life Free of Violence,” it names 16 forms of violence against women and sets the punishment for femicide at 30 years in jail with no possibility of parole.
But many criticize the law for having no teeth. Among the loudest critics are Mujeres Creando, a renowned Bolivian feminist organization. They are the sharp stone in Morales’ quinoa soup.
According to Bolivia’s Center for Women’s Information and Development (CIDEM), since the law’s approval in March 2013 the rate of femicides has increased and only a handful of perpetrators have been busted, leaving over 90 percent of reported femicides unpunished.