Facebook Instagram Twitter YouTube

The Mirabal Sisters and the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

November 25 is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Why was this date chosen and what does it have to do with the Mirabal sisters?

Luigi Morris

November 25, 2017
Facebook Twitter Share

Image from Vibe

36 years ago, at the First Latin American and Caribbean Feminist Conference, November 25 was established as the International Day For The Elimination of Violence Against Women. Around the world, this day is marked by marches, protests, and artistic expressions against gendered violence. As the U.S. is rocked by the revelations of thousands of women who have come forward to denounce sexual assault and violence in the #MeToo movement, this day has increased in importance as a reminder of the state of women’s rights.

The date of November 25 was chosen due to the 1960 assassination of the Mirabal sisters in the Dominican Republic. Known as “The Butterflies” (Las Mariposas), Patria, María Teresa, and Minerva fought against the U.S.-backed dictatorship of Rafael Leónidas Trujillo in the Dominican Republic between 1930 and 1961.

The Trujillo Dictatorship

The 31 years of Trujillo’s cruel iron-fisted rule, which begun in 1930, were characterized by the severe repression of labor and student movements, as well as leftists, feminists, and anyone viewed as his opponent or dissident. Trujillo ruled with an absolute lack of democratic freedoms.

His regime brought about the death of more than 50,000 people. Haitians in the Dominican Republic were specific targets. In October 1937, Trujillo organized the “Parsley Massacre” of Haitians at the border. While the final death toll is unknown, it could be up to 30,000 over the course of a week.

By 1960, several Latin American countries experienced resounding political changes. The dictatorships of Rojas Pinalla in Colombia and Pérez Jiménez in Venezuela collapsed. In 1959, the Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista fled his country because of the triumph of Fidel Castro’s revolution. Change was in the air. 

In the Dominican Republic, a covert insurgency organized against Trujillo’s dictatorship.

The Mirabal Sisters

With the idea of defending democracy and freedom, the Mirabal sisters joined the political group “June 14” in in honor of the dissidents that were tortured and killed 14 June, 1959. Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa helped distribute pamphlets about the Trujillo’s many crimes, and sought guns and materials for bombs with the goal of organizing an armed revolt. They were discovered, and Patria’s house was burned to the ground.

In 1960, they and the June 14 group bore the brunt of political repression and Trujillo’s campaign of terror. The Mirabal sisters were detained on several occasions, tortured in clandestine sites, and sexually assaulted by Trujillo’s soldiers.

On November 25, 1960, after the Mirabal sisters were released from prison, their car was stopped on the highway. The three sisters and the driver were brutally beaten to death, and the car was pushed into a ravine to simulate an accident.

The sisters’ murder sparked strong indignation among Dominicans and increased demonstrations of opposition. The Mirabal sisters became a symbol of struggle against the dictatorship. In 1961, Trujillo was killed and efforts by the family to maintain political control of the Dominican Republic failed.

The following year, the perpetrators of the crime against the Mirabal family received 30 years in prison, a sentence they did not serve. With the help of military groups loyal to the Dominican president, they managed to escape from prison and from the country.

International Day for the Elimination of Violence

In 1981, the first Latin American and Caribbean Feminist Conference was held in Bogotá, Colombia. There, November 25 was established as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, which pays homage the Mirabal sisters who are an example of organizing against oppression. Years later, in 1999, the General Assembly of the United Nations voted for November 25 to be recognized as the day of the Elimination of Violence against Women.

The Mirabal sisters are honored because they stood up against the oppression of the state. Ostensibly, this is different from the kind of violence that most women suffer– often at the hands of boyfriends and husbands. However, the massive #NiUnaMenos marches point out, the state bears much of responsibility for violence against women; the state is responsible for holding up patriarchy. It is responsible for the lack of domestic violence shelters and other resources for women who experience violence; it is responsible for the low wages that keep women economically dependent on men; it is responsible for enforcing and perpetuating sexist elements in society. Furthermore, politicians perpetrate sexual assault against women. And yet, when women come forward, state institutions shame and discredit their stories. In this context, thousands of people around the world are rising up to demand an end to violence against women.As the daughter of one of the murdered Mirabal sisters wrote, “If they kill me I shall reach my arms out of the grave and I shall be stronger.” Today, we must all join the international fight against gender violence in honor of the legacy of The Butterflies.

Facebook Twitter Share

Luigi Morris

Luigi is a freelance photographer, socialist journalist and videographer. He is an activist for immigrants' rights.

Twitter Instagram

Gender & Sexuality

“We are your economy”: Trans Youth Walkout and Speak Out

The following is a speech by a young trans person as part of an action called for by NYC Youth for Trans Rights.

Tatiana Cozzarelli

March 20, 2023
Mexican president AMLO on the left with the female members of his cabinet. International Women's Day protesters on the right.

President AMLO’s Government Is Not Feminist

On March 8, Mexican president AMLO spoke cynically of his commitment to feminism. But the fight against gendered violence, militarization, and labor precarity will be fought by the masses, not the so-called “progressive” government in Mexico.

Barbara Funes

March 13, 2023
A sign drawn on a small whiteboard, in trans pride colors. Text: "CUNY Graduate Center and Professional Schools Workers for Trans Rights" Beneath the text is a chain of 9 smiling stick figures in different colors, all holding hands

CUNY Union Chapter Unanimously Passes Resolution in Support of Trans Rights

The Graduate Center chapter of PSC-CUNY, the faculty, staff, and graduate worker union of the City University of New York, passed a resolution pledging support to all workers fighting the anti-trans bills nationwide.

Olivia Wood

March 12, 2023

“We Won’t Go Down Without a Fight”: Trans Youth Walkout and Speak Out

The following is a speech by a student activist from NYC Youth for Trans Rights.

Raven Benjamin

March 11, 2023


Despite Threats of Arrest, Refinery Workers in France Refuse to Break Strike

As energy strikes continue, France is faced with a kerosene shortage that’s creating an urgent situation at the country’s airports. With capitalist profits on the line, the government has attempted to force Normandy refinery workers back to work through an anti-strike legal weapon called requisitions. In their first victory, refinery workers forced the police to withdraw in an incredible demonstration of solidarity.

Nathan Erderof

March 24, 2023

“We Need Action Committees Everywhere”: Building the General Strike in France

Workers across France are organizing action committees to build a general strike to take down the Macron government and the Fifth Republic.

Arthur Nicola

March 24, 2023

What’s Behind Xi Jinping’s Visit to Moscow?

Chinese president Xi Jinping has visited Moscow for the first time since the beginning of the Ukraine war, in an effort to strengthen trade relations between the two countries.

Madeleine Freeman

March 23, 2023
Protesters gather during a demonstration on Place de la Concorde in Paris on March 17, 2023, the day after the French government pushed a pensions reform using the article 49.3 of the constitution. - French President's government on March 17, 2023 faced no-confidence motions in parliament and intensified protests after imposing a contentious pension reform without a vote in the lower house. Across France, fresh protests erupted in the latest show of popular opposition to the bill since mid-January.

Battle of the Pensions: Toward a Pre-Revolutionary Moment in France

President Macron's use of article 49.3 to push through an unpopular pension reform bill has opened up an enormous political crisis that has changed the character of the mobilizations against the French government. We are entering a "pre-revolutionary moment" that can change the balance of power between the classes in France.

Juan Chingo

March 21, 2023