Costa Rica plans ‘SlutWalk’ to defy Catholic clerics

August 11, 2011

Costa Rican women have scheduled the country’s first “SlutWalk” (“Marcha de las Putas” in Spanish) to protest a call by senior Catholic clerics for women to stop imitating men and to dress modestly, an organizer said Wednesday.

Montserrat Sagot, a university professor and feminist leader, said that protesters will rally on Sunday outside San José’s Metropolitan Cathedral.

Feminists are angered by remarks on Aug. 2 from senior Catholic clerics during a ceremony in the city of Cartago honoring Costa Rica’s patron saint, the Virgen de los Ángeles.

At the event, with some 2 million faithful in this overwhelmingly Catholic nation present, Bishop José Francisco Ulloa called on women to dress “modestly” to not be “dehumanized” and “objectified.”

“The sexual gift that God gave women is wrapped in love and fidelity for its ultimate purpose: fertilization,” Ulloa said.

President Laura Chinchilla, the country’s first female president, and other top church and government officials were also at the event.

Mexican Cardinal Francisco Robles, representing Pope Benedict XVI, said at the ceremony that a woman’s mission “does not consist of emulating men, but rather in creating a more humane world by exercising creativity in the household.”

Robles urged women to enter public life “without imitating men,” and to strengthen their role at home as mothers and family members.

The statements were like gasoline poured on a fire on Costa Rican social media websites.

The SlutWalk is being pushed mostly by young women “who are outraged and feel the need to answer the conservative priests,” Sagot said.

“The mandate from the (Catholic) church for women to act with modesty and decency is the same conservative message that intends to blame women for the abuses of which they are victims,” said Sagot, the author of several books, including “When Violence Against Women Kills: Femicide in Costa Rica.”

SlutWalks have become a global phenomenon to protest against sexual violence. The event usually involves women dressed in skimpy clothing who march to challenge the idea that victims of sexual assault should be blamed for the crimes against them.

The movement began after a Toronto police chief said women should stop dressing “like sluts” to avoid becoming the victims of rape. Marches have been staged in places like Nicaragua, India, the United States and Iceland.

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