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Combating gender violence in Bolivia

According to data from the Public Prosecutor’s Office, 12,746 cases of family violence and 61 deaths as a result of gender violence have been recorded in the last year, with jealousy and excess alcohol being the main causes of the fatal outcome.

 

Nara María Romero

 

With the aim to change this panorama, Bolivia moves forward in defence of women and girls’ rights by passing laws and regulations to protect their lives. Nonetheless, there is still much work to be done in this area.

Faced with alarming figures, Bolivian organisation Coordinadora de la Mujer demanded last March 8 on International Women’s Day that more action is needed to combat this epidemic.

The organisation, which brings together 26 entities defending gender equality in the South American country, described femicide as the “most extreme form of violation of women’s rights”. At regional level, the city of Cochabamba reported the highest number of incidences in 2016-2017.

María Ángela Sotelo, who works for the non-profit organisation, noted that women make up half of Bolivia’s population, a country in which 13 cases of sexual violence occur each day, and one woman is killed every three days.

Sotelo recognised the importance of Law 348, which was brought into effect on March 10, 2013 to protect women from all types of violence, and which stipulated 30 years in prison as a punishment for the crime of femicide, constituting the maximum penalty in Bolivian law.

According to the summary posted on the organisation’s website, the law defines the “eradication of violence as an issue of national urgency and public health, with the emphasis on prevention, protecting women in violent situations and punishing aggressors”.

Aside from femicide, new types of crime were defined, including sexual assault, family violence, forced sterilisation, failure to fulfill commitments, and abusive sexual acts, and 16 forms of violence against women were established.

These include physical violence, femicide, psychological violence, media violence, symbolic and/or hidden violence, violence against dignity, honour and name, sexual violence, and violence in political activity and leadership.

Data from the Attorney General reveal that 26 cases of femicide occurred in 2013, 71 in 2014, 110 in 2015, 111 in 2016 and 109 in 2017.

Despite the new regulations and efforts, these criminal acts have not been able to be suppressed, though the number did drop to 61 in 2018.

At present, the number of reports of physical assaults against women increases on weekends due to alcohol consumption.

The majority of femicides take place at home, and according to doctor and sexologist Carolina Rivero, jealous men are characterised by certain traits such as being manipulative, possessive and emotionally immature.

The specialist highlighted that there is a thin line between being jealous and being caring, a self-deception that keeps many women in such abusive relationships.

Psychologist Kattia Oporto highlighted similar criteria, and goes one step further in warning women to leave their partner at the first sign of physical or psychological abuse, though she also acknowledged that forgiving and victimising is widespread in Bolivia.

A special pro-women cabinet

With this topic in mind, President Evo Morales recently decided to set up a special cabinet made up of six ministers with the aim to combat violence against women and children, which he would personally run in coordination with women’s organisations around the country. In this way, the cabinet would issue regulations to implement Plurinational Service for Women and De-patriarchalisation, and would be named after Ana María Romero in homage to the social activist and defender of both women’s rights and the most vulnerable sectors of Bolivian society.

The President highlighted these measures as new mechanisms for defending women and finding practical ways to end gender-based violence.

In spite of the government’s willingness to implement measures and pass laws to defend women and girls’ rights, other measures are needed in to promote more awareness and educate Bolivian society on the whole, as one that is dominated by the patriarchy.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, the United Nations and state-owned company Mi Teleférico launched a campaign to end violence against women, with the slogan: ‘Let’s paint Bolivia orange: let’s end violence against women.’ The campaign began on 1 November with cultural protests and messages of equality, and is still ongoing.

The campaign aims to highlight the damaging aspects in daily life for girls and women, as well as the actions needed to end the problem at a personal, familial, and institutional level. (PL)

(Translated by Lucy Daghorn – Email: lucy.daghorn@gmail.com) – Photos: Pixabay

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