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From newsdesk@igc.apc.org Tue Nov 28 08:30:43 2000
Date: Mon, 27 Nov 2000 22:34:59 -0600 (CST)
From: IGC News Desk <newsdesk@igc.apc.org>
Subject: RIGHTS/WOMEN-LATAM: Domestic Abuse Still Rampant Despite New Laws
Article: 109933
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Domestic Abuse Still Rampant Despite New Laws

By Abraham Lama, IPS, 25 November 2000

LIMA, Nov 24 (IPS) - Although advances have been made in the legislation of most countries in the world, domestic abuse remains widespread as the World Day for Eradication of Violence Against Women rolls around again, on Saturday. Latin America is no exception.

In Latin America, Puerto Rico was the first country to adopt specific legislation to prevent and crack down on domestic violence against women, in 1989. The next countries to follow suit were Chile and Argentina in 1994, and Bolivia, Ecuador and Panama in 1995.

Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Peru enacted similar laws in 1996, and the Dominican Republic modified its penal code to include legislation against domestic violence in 1997.

In industrialised countries, one of every four women have been the target of physical abuse by a family member, according to the United Nations Statistics Office, while the proportion is even higher in developing nations.

A World Bank study focusing on 35 industrialised and developing countries found that between 25 and 50 percent of women had suffered physical abuse at the hands of their partners.

The World Bank report states that the situation often drives women to take extreme decisions. For example, victims of domestic violence are 12 times more likely to attempt suicide than women who have not suffered such abuse.

It is difficult to measure the degree of domestic violence in the world, because there are few studies on the question at a national level, and the research that does exist uses different methodologies and suffers from serious shortcomings in terms of the documentation available on such offences, said lawyer Gina Y ñez, coordinator of the Manuela Ramos Movement's Defence of Human Rights, Peru's leading women's advocacy group.

A Women in Action report drawn up by an international inter- disciplinary team in 1993 indicates that in Colombia, 30 percent of women have been victims of domestic abuse, while 19 percent are victims of habitual violence at the hands of their partners.

In Costa Rica, 20 percent of 1,388 urban women and 2,118 rural women interviewed in a study on gender reported that they had been the target of physical abuse, 33 percent reported psychological abuse, and 10 percent said they had been subjected to sexual violence by their partners.

In Chile, two out of three women interviewed said they had suffered domestic abuse, while 60 percent of respondents living in the slums of Quito, Ecuador said they had been beaten by their husbands or partners.

The women and family police division in the Ecuadorean city of Guayaquil registered 6,153 cases of domestic violence from October 1996 to April 1997, 93 percent of which involved women who had been beaten by their husbands.

In Saca Tepequez, Guatemala, 49 percent of women interviewed said they had been the victims of physical abuse, while a study conducted in Jalisco, Mexico, found that 56.7 percent of respondents living in the city and 44.2 percent of those living in nearby rural areas reported at least one incidence of domestic violence.

Peru's Ministry for the Promotion of Women reported that seven out of 10 women were victims of mistreatment in their homes, although police received only 24,576 reports of abuse in 1997 and 27,935 in 1998.

A report by the Manuela Ramos Movement pointed out that studies in Chile, Canada and the United States found that violence against women led to economic losses not only for the victims, but for society at large.

One of every five workdays missed by women in Latin America is due to episodes of family violence, state the authors of the report, which calculates that the losses are equivalent to two percent of the region's combined Gross Domestic Product.

With respect to the personal impact, the study carried out in Santiago, Chile, found that women workers who did not suffer psychological abuse in their homes earned an average monthly salary of 385 dollars, while those who reported severe psychological violence only earned 150 dollars on average.

Domestic violence, especially against women and girls, constitutes the most frequent human rights violation, said the Manuela Ramos Movement's Y ñez. And even though the states are not the violators, they must be held accountable if they fail to establish and enforce laws to prevent such abuse.

Getting violence against women and girls to be considered a human rights violation was one of the achievements chalked up by the women's movement at the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, Y ñez underlined.

The following year, the United Nations Human Rights Commission incorporated women's rights in its mechanisms designed to protect human rights, and named a special rapporteur, whose mission is to compile information and assess the situation of gender violence in the world, the activist added.

At the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing in 1995, participants agreed to demand that governments adopt urgent measures to fight and eliminate all forms of violence against women.