The murder of five Uruguayan women throughout the course of 2017 and the hospitalisation of another in a serious state, suggests that little can be done to prevent these violent acts.
Juan Carlos Díaz Guerrero
These premature deaths, for many of them were little more than children, have reopened the debate surrounding violence based on gender and has put society as a whole on alert, encouraging many people to speak out against the atrocious acts.
One striking similarity characterises these crimes: all were committed by a partner or ex-partner of the victims and in some cases even in the presence of small children, which adds even greater tragedy to these acts. In 2016 seven minors died in such circumstances, as a result of violence between couples. The director of the National Institute of Women, Mariela Mazzotti, has said for many years that children are not indirect victims but rather direct victims, for they bear the rage of their mother’s suffering.
The number of deaths may seem small if one fails to take into account the fact that, according to data from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, in the last year 29 women have lost their lives to domestic violence (one every thirteen days) and a further 14 have been the victims of attempted murder, whilst every 17 minutes an incident of this nature was reported.
The source indicates that the rate of gender-based violence during this period was so high that it was more common than robbery; with 24,454 accusations being filed.
This figure is in fact down by 1,190 in comparison to a similar period in the past, representing the first decrease in a decade.
Despite these figures, one cannot ignore the efforts being made by the government to eradicate gender violence, for example the special significance held by the 2015 approval of the 2016-2019 Plan of Action: ‘For a Life Free of Gender Violence, on an Intergenerational Basis’.
Acts and Accusations
The trigger of murders jumped to public attention in February of this year when a Uruguayan woman died at the hands of her 45 year old partner, who savagely beat her around the head with a flowerpot.
According to police, in this instance the man had no criminal background nor any previous accusations of domestic violence filed against him.
The attacker escaped from the home where they had been living together, got a taxi to a police station and handed himself in.
Last January four women also lost their lives as a result of gender violence and a quarter of them remained in a serious condition, subsequently sparking marches and protests by feminist organisations against violence.
One of the women murdered died at the hands of her ex partner; a serving police officer who used his regulation weapon to shoot her in the head in front of their small children. The judge serving on the case has decided that the children will now remain in the custody of their paternal grandparents; a decision that has raised many questions.
In the scope of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the protocol of action on issues of domestic violence and/or gender violence was passed by decree and establishes an integral approach for the prevention, attention, sanction and reparation in cases involving officials of this department.
In a public declaration, the United Nations in Uruguay reiterated their cooperation in the fight against violence particularly that committed against women.
It recalled how in February 2015 the UN had reported on the deaths of women as a result of gender violence and, above all, it highlighted what remained to be done to eliminate this scourge on society.
In this regard, it noted that two years later ‘the situation continues to be very worrying’ and that these deaths will have a serious impact on the victims’ families and for society as a whole.
The report emphasized that Uruguay simply cannot allow violence to become part of the norm, and it deeply lamented the fact that these terrible acts continue to happen, ‘in spite of the advances made in public policy against gender based violence’.
According to data drawn from official country statistics, ECLAC (Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean) states that Uruguay sits in fifth place out of Latin American and Caribbean countries (23 in total) with regards to the number of women killed by their partners or ex partners.
The multilateral organisation expressed that they will continue to work with the government and civil society in order to make the public more aware of the urgency of the need for change at all levels. Moreover, it stated that is it therefore, ‘fundamental to advance towards a national legislation that considers international standards surrounding this issue’.
The early adoption of the draft ‘comprehensive law to guarantee women a life free of gender violence’, which is currently under parliamentary consideration, was considered a step in the right direction.
A life free of violence
In recent years, an action group has risen from the Uruguayan state. Educational, preventative and punitive in nature, it highlights the 2015 approval of the 2016-2019 Plan of Action: ‘For a Life Free of Violence, on an Intergenerational Basis.
This multifaceted group aims to contribute to the consolidation of a national public policy to prevent, confront, reduce and repair gender based violence in all its diverse and concrete manifestations.
Since its creation, the 19 departmental commissions fighting against gender based violence have grown in strength, and the parliamentary debate regarding the Comprehensive Law project has become more extensive.
The Inter-Agency Integral Response System has also become stronger. This works in relation to issues such as prevention, care services, access to justice, protection of victims and rehabilitation of criminals, amongst others.
Meanwhile, in the first nine months of 2016, the departments of Canelones, Montevideo, Ciudad de Plata-San José and Maldonado set up 280 electronic devices (ankle monitors), which will extend to other regions of the country this year. (PL)
Photos: Pixabay – (Tranlated by Eleanor Gooch)