Thursday, May 31, 2007

Violence against women now a crime

By Maria Florez-Estrada.

A new law increases prison sentences for women abusers.

(Latinamerica press) - After seven years of congressional and high court debates, a law was finally approved in mid-April to make violence against women in Costa Rica a criminal offense.
Under the new Criminalization of Violence against Women law, physical and psychological violence against adult women within a romantic relationship will now be a felony punishable by imprisonment.

The April 12 law creates the crime of “femicide,” which will carry a prison sentence of 20 to 35 years for husbands or boyfriends who kill their partners, and between 15 to 18 years for those who force their female partners into sexual relations against their will.

Men who consistently insult, ridicule and verbally abuse their wives and girlfriends could also face prison sentences of six months to two years, and those who threaten them could receive up to a four-year sentence.

For Ana Carcedo, president of the Feminist Information and Action Center, one of the organizations that had promoted the law, “the most important impact of this law will be seen in long-term, since it will be a cultural one, when it is finally accepted that violence against women is a crime, the state commits itself to intervening, punishing this violence, and sends those who do it to jail.”

But she added that now it must be seen how this legal tool is put into practice. “Hopefully the Costa Rican state will act energetically in the criminal law scope, without waiting for violence to get to levels of femicide.”

As an example of this, Carcedo said that now people who don’t comply protection measures issued by authorities during a domestic violence prosecution trial will be given sentences of six months to two years.

Women no longer center of investigations
Another positive change that the law brings is that now, the male aggressors, not the abused women, are the ones who will be questioned and investigated. “The new law recognizes situations that occur in the privacy of the home, which the penal code” never would have taken into account, such as “wives being forced by their husbands to have sex with a third party.”

The Supreme Court had declared the law unconstitutional in April 2006 after 10 lawmakers sent a petition to the tribunal to review the bill.

Now, a majority of 45 lawmakers approved the law in the second vote, while only two representatives of the right-wing Libertarian Movement party voted against the bill. Last year, it only got to a first-round vote after fierce debates.

This time, several women, including the country’s vice president, the head of the National Women’s Institute and two judges — one from the Constitutional Court and the other from the Supreme Court — visited the 57-member Legislative Assembly “seat to seat” to secure nothing was stopping the law.

No comments:

Related posts