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 UPS Warehouse Worker - Teamster Local 804. He is also a member of Left Voice, freelance photographer and socialist journalist.

Twitter Instagram

Gender & Sexuality

Women’s Liberation in Revolutionary Russia

The historian Wendy Z. Goldman gave this talk in Madrid and Barcelona on September 12 and 15, presenting her book Women, the State, and Revolution.

Wendy Z. Goldman

October 1, 2023

Berlin Has a New Pride Demonstration That Cops Hate

Pride should be a protest, not a party. The Internationalist Queer Pride in Berlin takes up the tradition of the Stonewall Riots. Cops hate it — and that's a good thing

Nathaniel Flakin

July 30, 2023
People marching at New York's Queer Liberation March in June. The banner reads "left and labor for trans rights"

Trans Liberation and Socialist Revolution — A Debate with the IMT

Trotskyists should aim to be in the front lines of all struggles against oppression. This is a debate with Alan Woods's International Marxist Tendency (IMT) on how socialists should relate to the movement for queer and trans liberation.

Sasha Frost

July 29, 2023

The Communist Women’s International, in English for the First Time

An Interview with historians Daria Dyakovona and Mike Taber about their new book with documents from the Communist Women’s International


The World Kissinger Built Must Die Too

Henry Kissinger died at 100 years old. But his legacy remains in the brutal world system he built and the future generations of imperialist ghouls he inspired. They all must go.

Samuel Karlin

November 30, 2023

Fact Check: Did German Leftists Try to Bomb West Berlin’s Jewish Community Center in 1969?

Answer: No. The bombing was undertaken by West Germany’s domestic secret service, originally founded by Nazis.

Nathaniel Flakin

November 29, 2023
Protesters in NYC for Palestinian liberation.

Uniting Workers for Palestine Is a Fight for the Future of Labor

The struggle for Palestine shows the potential for the rank and file to push unions to break with imperialism and to build a new, combative, and internationalist unionism.

Tatiana Cozzarelli

November 27, 2023
Haverford College student Kinnan Abdalhamid and Brown University students Tahseen Ahmed and Hisham Awartani, Palestinian college students who were shot in Burlington, Vermont.

Haverford Faculty for Justice in Palestine Releases Statement Supporting Pro-Palestinian Students

Haverford College Faculty for Justice in Palestine have published a statement following the shooting of three Palestinian students in Burlington, Vermont.