Date: Thu, 23 Sep 1999 22:23:16 -0500 (CDT)
From: (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: URUGUAY: Poor Women Denounce Domestic Violence
Article: 77495
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <>

/** headlines: 135.0 **/
** Topic: URUGUAY: Poor Women Denounce Domestic Violence **
** Written 12:48 AM Sep 23, 1999 by mmason in cdp:headlines **
/* Written 9:09 PM Sep 22, 1999 by in ips.english */
/* ---------- RIGHTS-URUGUAY: Poor Women Denounce ---------- */

Poor Women Denounce Domestic Violence

By Raul Ronzoni, IPS, 22 September 1999

MONTEVIDEO, Sep 22 (IPS)—While domestic violence was rife throughout Uruguayan society, women from the lower social classes formally complained more often than did those from middle and upper-class households, according to a report released here.

The study by the Programme of Citizen Security of the Interior Ministry, financed by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), revealed that violent behavior and psychological abuse occurred with equal frequency in the three socio-economic levels— which were defined by employment and income.

The statistical study was undertaken with the aid of Chilean psychologist Soledad Larrain, who previously worked with other international agencies like the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

Personal testimony was excluded from the study, but legal experts said that reluctance by women to bring to bring charges could result in grave consequences, due to the escalating fear and emotional stress created by aggression at home.

One woman, charged with murdering her husband, declared I had no other way out except to kill him. For years, he beat and humiliated me, even in front of my children, and several times he forced me to have sexual relations.

A judge later absolved her from the charge and found she had she had acted in self-defense.

Nearly 20 percent of upper-class women consulted in the survey said that they endured physical and psychological violence by their partners frequently, as well as severe or moderate sexual violence.

The fact that women of this social class tend to report the least amount of physical violence (but) admit that they are victims of psychological abuse is because the latter is a more socially acceptable phenomenon, according to the report.

Charges brought to the police or before the courts by wealthy women were practically non-existent, while among the middle-class, 15 percent of women questioned said they had turned to the authorities, and in the lower social stratum, 39 percent said they had made formal accusations against their male partners.

Twenty-three percent of middle-class women and 24 percent of poor women surveyed said they lived in situations of frequent psychological abuse, and moderate or severe levels of physical and sexual violence.

The study also revealed that working-class women experienced more severe physical violence than the other two groups.

Of all the women who suffer domestic violence, only 14 percent of wealthy women and 22 percent of those belonging to the middle- class said they were victims of severe physical mistreatment, while 32 percent of poor women consulted fell into that category.

On the other hand, there were no differences in terms of moderate physical violence among the three social groups.

In the upper-classes, nearly one-quarter of women who said they had suffered abuse described it as moderate, while the numbers were 18 percent for middle-class women and 20 percent for poor women.

Differences arose when psychological abuse was examined, since 58 percent of upper-class women who suffered violence said they endured only psychological mistreatment.

The corresponding figures were 57 percent for middle-class women and 37 percent for working-class women.

The study also indicated that more than half of women who were victims of domestic violence had been physically victimised by their spouse at least once a month; 29 percent said three times a year and 11.8 percent said once a year.

The episodes of physical abuse usually began early on in a relationship. A clear majority (71 percent) of physically abused women said that the violent episodes started between the engagement and the third year of marriage.

In this area, differences again arose according to the socio- economic level of the respondents.

When violence started during the engagement period, it was most likely to affect women of the lowest income level—73 percent of those cases started at some point between the engagement and the third year of marriage, and 15.4 percent began after the tenth year of the relationship.

Among the middle-class respondents, 67.3 percent said the violent behavior started between the engagement and the third year of marriage and 28.8 percent after the tenth year.

Meanwhile, 80 percent of wealthy women said they had experienced violence at the hands of men early in courtship while 6.7 percent said they had suffered abuse after the tenth year of being together with one man.

These figures show that at every social level, violence is not a consequence of the fraying or deterioration of the relationship, but rather corresponds to specific factors and models of behavior that are established very early in the relationship, the study indicates.

The study focused on reducing domestic violence and training people directly involved with the phenomenon, the director of the project, Carlos Baston, told IPS.

Baston noted that analysis of this problem is relatively new in the region, and added that it was only in 1989, in Puerto Rico, that the first legislation was passed to combat domestic violence.

Since then, Argentina, Barbados, The Bahamas, Chile, Panama, Peru, Colombia, Mexico, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, The Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Uruguay have all enacted laws that recognise the existence of such abuse.