Venezuela: Implementation and effectiveness of the 2007 Fundamental Law on the Right of Women to Live Free of Violence (Ley Orgánica sobre el Derecho de las Mujeres a una Vida Libre de Violencia, LODMVLV) (2008-February 2012)
|Publisher||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Publication Date||13 April 2012|
|Citation / Document Symbol||VEN104016.E|
|Related Document||Venezuela : Information sur l'application et l'efficacité de la loi organique de 2007 sur le droit des femmes à une vie sans violence (Ley Orgánica sobre el Derecho de las Mujeres a una Vida Libre de Violencia - LODMVLV) (2008-février 2012)|
|Cite as||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Venezuela: Implementation and effectiveness of the 2007 Fundamental Law on the Right of Women to Live Free of Violence (Ley Orgánica sobre el Derecho de las Mujeres a una Vida Libre de Violencia, LODMVLV) (2008-February 2012), 13 April 2012, VEN104016.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/5072901f2.html [accessed 2 February 2015]|
1. The Fundamental Law on the Right of Women to Live Free of Violence
The Fundamental Law on the Right of Women to Live Free of Violence (Ley Orgánica sobre el Derecho de las Mujeres a una Vida Libre de Violencia, LODMVLV) proscribes 19 forms of violence against women, including [translation] "psychological violence," "harassment," "threats," "physical violence," "domestic violence," "sexual violence," "forced sexual penetration," "forced prostitution," "sexual slavery," "sexual harassment," "work-related violence," "property-related and economic violence," "obstetric violence," "forced sterilization," "media violence," "institutional violence," "symbolic violence," "trafficking in women, girls and adolescents," and "trading in women, girls and adolescents" (Venezuela 2007, Art. 15).
The LODMVLV also lists 13 measures for protection and security, which include providing temporary shelter, removing the perpetrator from the home if safety is at risk, requesting a judge to restrict the perpetrator's visits to the victim, imposing restrictions on how close a perpetrator can get to the victim, requesting temporary arrest, posting police at the woman's residence [translation] "when the time is convenient," confiscating the perpetrator's weapons, obliging the perpetrator to provide the victim with financial resources for subsistence if a relationship of economic dependency exists, and [translation] "all other measures necessary for the protection of all rights of women victims of violence and the rights of their family members" (ibid., Art. 87). According to Article 90,
[i]n cases of necessity or urgency, the receiving agency may directly ask the court that handles cases of violence against women, with functions of oversight, hearing and measures, to issue an arrest order. The resolution ordering the arrest must always be justified. The court must decide within twenty-four hours of the request. (Venezuela 2007, Art. 90)
Information on the implementation of protection orders, restraining orders, and measures to remove the perpetrator from the home, place police at the residence, confiscate the perpetrator's weapons, and oblige the perpetrator to provide economic support for the victim could not be found by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
The punishments listed for the 19 forms of violence against women vary depending on the crime, but include fines and imprisonment (Venezuela 2007).
2. Incidence of Violence Against Women
The Venezuelan Observatory of Women's Human Rights (Observatorio Venezolano de los Derechos Humanos de las Mujeres, OVDHM), an umbrella organization for more than 40 women's organizations (n.d.), makes reference to an increase in violence against women but acknowledges that official statistics on the incidence of domestic violence in Venezuela do not exist (2010, 20). A research coordinator at the Women's Studies Centre (Centro de Estudios de la Mujer) at the Venezuela Central University (Universidad Central de Venezuela, UCV), in correspondence with the Research Directorate, also said that there are no official statistics on domestic violence (UCV 5 Mar. 2012). The research coordinator indicated that, in 2011, there were approximately 150,000 complaints of violence against women, of which approximately 80 percent are considered to pertain to domestic violence (ibid.). However, she also said that these are [translation] "partial figures," as domestic violence is not always reported (ibid.).
The OVDHM states that domestic violence is a "common problem" in Venezuela (2010, 21). Sources indicate that domestic abuse of women occurs every 15 minutes (AI July 2008; US 8 Apr. 2011, 52). According to the US Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2010, in 2010, a woman was killed in domestic violence in Caracas every 10 days (ibid.).
3. Reporting of Domestic Violence
In 2008, Amnesty International reported that, "in the months following" the coming into force of the LODMVLV, reporting of domestic violence doubled (July 2008). However, in a 2009 report, Amnesty International states that women have been "deterred from reporting" by authorities and that "most women" do not report domestic violence due to societal attitudes, misconceptions about domestic violence, and practical circumstances (Jan. 2009a). The US Country Reports 2010 indicates that, according to NGOs, only 10 percent of domestic violence victims report abuse (8 Apr. 2011, 52). The OVDHM also said that domestic violence in Venezuela is regarded as a "private" matter (2010, 21).
4. Criticism of the Fundamental Law on the Right of Women to a Life Free of Violence
Article 97 of the LODMVLV says:
If a receiving agency other than the Public Prosecutor receives the complaint or notification of the offence, it will order the protection and security measures that the case warrants and immediately notify the Public Prosecutor concerned so that an investigation can begin, everything necessary can be done to show that a punishable offence was committed and the pertinent medical, mental and physical examinations ordered for the woman who was a victim of violence. (Venezuela 2007)
The OVDHM states that demanding a psychological evaluation of a victim is an impediment to reporting, and that it limits women's access to justice (2010, 26). The OVDHM says, furthermore, that the requirement for a psychological evaluation can delay the case and that such delays may result in the death of the victim (2010, 26).
According to Ofelia Álvarez, a professor at the Women's Studies Centre at UCV (UCV n.d.), inconsistencies between the LODMVLV, the Penal Code, the Constitution, and international human rights agreements impact the application of the LODMVLV (Álvarez Sept. 2010, 7). For example, according to Article 43 of the LODMVLV,
[w]hoever uses violence or threats to force a woman to have unwanted sexual contact that includes vaginal, anal or oral penetration, possibly by introducing any kind of object therein, is liable to ten to fifteen years in prison.
If the person who commits the offence is the husband, common-law partner, former husband, former common-law partner, present or former lover, even if not living with the woman, the penalty will be increased by a quarter to a third [of the possible sentence].
The same increased penalty will apply if the offender is a parent, grandparent, child, grandchild or other person related by blood or marriage to the victim.
If the offence is committed against a girl or adolescent, the penalty shall be fifteen to twenty years in prison.
If the victim is a girl or adolescent and a daughter of a woman with whom the perpetrator had a relationship as husband, common-law partner, former husband, former common-law partner, present or former lover, even if not living with the woman, the penalty will be increased by a quarter to a third. (Venezuela 2007)
However, sources indicate that, according to the Penal Code, a man is not punished for raping a woman if he marries her (US 8 Apr. 2011, 52; OVDHM 2010, 23). The OVDHM adds that most rape victims know their rapists, and [translation] that "many times raped girls and women are forced to marry their rapists so that the rapists can leave prison" (ibid.). Furthermore, according to the OVDHM, under the Penal Code, men and women are sentenced differently for the same crime (ibid.). For example, a man's sentence is reduced if he kills his wife after finding out that she has cheated on him, or if the victim of a crime is a prostitute (ibid.).
5. Implementation of the Law
Amnesty International reported in 2009 that there continued to be a "gap" between the provisions of the LODMVLV and its actual implementation, and stated that "women fleeing domestic violence are still denied proper protection, as well as the rights to justice and reparation" (Jan. 2009a). In 2010, Álvarez similarly indicated that there are "persistent failures" in the application of the LODMVLV (Álvarez Sept. 2010, 6).
Sources indicate a lack of regulations and protocols necessary to apply the LODMVLV effectively (ibid., 7; OVDHM 2010, 21). According to Álvarez, the government's actions are [translation] "ad hoc" and "fragmented," illustrating a lack of coordination in implementing the LODMVLV (Sept. 2010, 7). The Women's Studies Centre of the UCV also reports a lack of coordination between gender-related and other public mechanisms (UCV 2011, 15). Álvarez states that many initiatives are only [translation] "statements," while others have been "delayed" (Sept. 2010, 7).
Sources indicate difficulty in accessing information from the government, including statistical information about the level of violence and about implementation measures (Álvarez 2010, 10; OVDHM 2010, 19). Sources state that the lack of access to official information is a barrier to evaluating programs and progress (UCV 2011, 15; OVDHM 2010, 19) and identifying obstacles (ibid.). For example, Country Reports 2010 indicates that there are no reliable statistics regarding the prosecution and conviction of rape (US 8 Apr. 2011, 52). The OVDHM states that there are inconsistencies in information provided by the government (2010, 19).
Sources indicate that women are generally not well informed about the LODMVLV and their consequent rights (Álvarez Sept. 2010, 7; El Nacional 24 Jan. 2011). According to Álvarez, as a result, many women do not go to the proper authorities to seek the protection of the law (Sept. 2010, 7).
5.1 Complaints Process
Article 71 of the LODMVLV provides the following information about how and to whom to make a complaint:
The complaint to which the previous article refers may be made orally or in writing, with or without the assistance of a lawyer, to any of the following organizations:
- Public prosecutor.
- Justices of the peace.
- Offices of mayors and prefects
- Division for protection of children, youth, women and families of the investigative body with jurisdiction in the case.
- Police agencies.
- Border control units.
- Municipal courts in places where the bodies named above exist.
- Any other body that has jurisdiction in this matter.
Each of the bodies mentioned above must establish offices with specialized staff to receive complaints of the acts of violence to which this law refers.
Indigenous peoples and communities will establish bodies to receive complaints, constituted by the legitimate authorities according to their customs and traditions; however, women victims of violence may also go to any of the other bodies indicated in this article. (Venezuela 2007)
According to the OVDHM, women often encounter "difficulties" when making complaints (2010, 27). The organization indicates that the authorities responsible for providing protection often lack privacy, specialized staff and adequately trained staff (OVDHM 2010, 27). The UCV research coordinator said that, in several cases, administrators of justice do not apply the LODMVLV due to their prejudices (5 Mar. 2012). Similarly, Country Reports 2010 indicates that victims run into "substantial institutional and societal prejudice" when reporting rape and domestic violence (US 8 Apr. 2011, 52). In 2009, Amnesty International reported that victims often faced "intrusive, judgemental and inappropriate questioning in an environment which felt neither secure nor confidential," and indicated that officials "treated their complaints as trivial or outside their remit and so failed to ensure immediate protection when it was needed" (Jan. 2009a). Other sources, as well, say that there is a general tendency to blame the victim for the violence that she experienced (UCV 5 Mar. 2012; OVDHM 2010, 27). The OVDHM adds that such delays in providing protection may lead to the death of the victim (ibid.).
In July 2008, Amnesty International said that "much still remains to be done in terms of allocating resources to enable police officers to respond appropriately to victims of domestic violence." According to Country Reports 2010, police are "reluctant to intervene" in domestic violence cases (US 8 Apr. 2011, 52). The OVDHM states that there are "very few" occasions in which authorities investigate cases of violence against women (2010, 27).
Article 116 of the LODMVLV states that tribunals for addressing violence against women would be set up in Caracas, in each state capital, and other locations as determined by the Executive Directorate of the Judiciary (Venezuela 2007). Amnesty International reported in July 2008 that there were no specialized courts to handle gender-based violence. Sources indicate that, in 2009, the rate of impunity for cases of violence against women was 96 percent; that is, only four percent of complaints were prosecuted (Álvarez Sept. 2010, 7; OVDHM 2010, 21). According to the New Statesman, an online British magazine founded in 1913 to disseminate "socialist ideas" (New Statesman n.d.), the first case of domestic violence to result in imprisonment occurred in June 2009 (27 Aug. 2009).
On 29 June 2010, El Nacional reported that 29 specialized tribunals were then in place, including eight in Caracas. In the same article, however, El Nacional quotes a judge as saying that there were not enough specialized tribunals to meet the needs of victims (29 June 2010). Similarly, Álvarez said that the specialized courts, specialized prosecutors and multidisciplinary support teams that had been created were "insufficient" (Sept. 2010, 6).
The UCV research coordinator, in her March 2012 correspondence with the Research Directorate, indicated that there are 36 special tribunals for violence against women made up of teams of judges, psychologists, social workers, and educators who have been trained on gender perspectives (5 Mar. 2012). Information on the locations of the special tribunals could not be found by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response. She also said that, in 2011, prosecutors' offices specializing in violence against women were created (UCV 5 Mar. 2012).
Country Reports 2010 indicates that, according to the Public Ministry, of the 570 decisions made by specialized tribunals in 2009, 72 percent were convictions (US 8 Apr. 2011, 53). However, Country Reports 2010 also says that, according to the newspaper El Nacional, out of a total of 120,217 complaints of violence against women submitted to specialized courts, more than 118,000 were still under investigation and only 60 had reached final sentencing (ibid.). According to El Nacional, the specialized tribunals have sentenced [translation] "only" five people to prison for assaulting women (25 Apr. 2010).
Álvarez indicates that legal aid is difficult to access due to delays in scheduling appointments with the government and NGO bodies specializing in such cases (Sept. 2010, 7). According to the OVDHM, there is [translation] "very little" legal advice available to victims (2010, 27).
Sources indicate that other challenges with the judicial system include the provisional status of judges and limited resources for staffing and materials (Álvarez Sept. 2010, 6; OVDHM 2010, 21). According to Álvarez, these problems result in delays and impede the prosecution of offenders (Sept. 2010, 7).
According to the UCV research coordinator, police, prosecutors and judges have received [translation] "large quantities" of training (5 Mar. 2012). A UCV report also indicates that judges have received training (2011, 11), while the New Statesman indicates that, although police and prosecutors have received training, police training has not been adequate (27 Aug. 2009). Amnesty International (Jan. 2009a) and Álvarez (Sept. 2010, 6) similarly indicate that the training provided is insufficient. Álvarez adds that the lack of training for officials often hinders the immediate application of protection for victims of violence as stipulated in the LODMVLV (Sept. 2010, 8-9). Álvarez indicates that challenges to training include staff turnover and the lack of evaluations of training programs to assess their relevance (Sept. 2010, 9).
6. Services Offered to Women Victims of Violence
According to Álvarez, deteriorating public services have impeded providing care to women victims of violence (Sept. 2010, 7). Álvarez adds that specialized NGOs that are not aligned with the government have faced cuts in financing (Sept. 2010, 7).
Country Reports 2010 indicates that the government has initiated public awareness campaigns and a national hotline for victims (US 8 Apr. 2011, 53). According to the OVDHM, the hotline was created in 1999 (2010, 18). A UCV report states that the hotline, 0800MUJERES, provides women with orientation and consultation (2011, 11). The UCV report indicates that according to the National Institute for Women (Instituto Nacional de la Mujer), the hotline took 10,745 calls between January 2010 and September 2010 (2011, 23). Amnesty International states that many women indicated that advertisements for the hotline helped them to "escape violence" (July 2008). However, according to Álvarez, the hotline is not publicized sufficiently (2010, 7).
Article 32 of the LODMVLV provides that each level of government (municipal, state and national) will create shelters for women in situations of violence (Venezuela 2007). However, Amnesty International reported that, by the end of 2008, there were just two government-run shelters in Venezuela (Jan. 2009b). Amnesty International adds that although these shelters were "highly praised," there were "far too few to meet current needs," and it asserted the "urgent need" for more shelters (Jan. 2009b). A 29 June 2010 El Nacional article also says that the number of shelters in Venezuela was not sufficient, and indicated that there were [translation] "only" three shelters in the country. According to the UCV research coordinator, in her March 2012 correspondence, there are two public shelters and two private shelters (UCV 22 Mar. 2012). She added that two of these shelters are located in the capital, while the other two are located in Maracay, and that [translation] "all women victims of violence can access them" (ibid.). Corroborating information on who can access these shelters could not be found by the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response. In addition, information on the capacity of the shelters could not be found by the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
6.2 Health Services
Article 70 of the LODMVLV provides that health-care providers who are aware of abuse may submit a complaint (Venezuela 2007). However, sources state that health services are "insensitive" to the causes of women's injuries (UCV 2011, 23; OVDHM 2010, 24). For example, sources indicate that, in 2010, Jennifer Carolina Vieira was killed by her husband, a boxing champion (US 8 Apr. 2011, 53; OVDHM 2010, 25). Prior to her death, Vieira had submitted a complaint against her husband, but then later dropped the complaint (US 8 Apr. 2011, 52; OVDHM 2010, 25). According to the OVDHM, Vieira had visited health services several times for different injuries, but the staff did not provide her with advice or support her throughout the complaint process (ibid.).
The OVDHM also says that there are no specialized health services to assist female victims of violence (ibid.). The organization adds that there are [translation] "few" mental health services, and inadequate staffing in the mental health services that exist (ibid.).
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
Álvarez, Ofelia. September 2010. Las responsabilidades institucionales para la garantía del derecho de las mujeres a una vida libre de violencias: análisis de debilidades y propuestas para su superación.
Amnesty International (AI). January 2009a. Open Police Station Doors to Women: Support Women Escaping Domestic Violence in Venezuela. (AMR 53/002/2009)
_____. January 2009b. Open Doors to Shelter: Support Women Escaping Domestic Violence in Venezuela. (AMR 53/001/2009)
_____. July 2008. Ending Domestic Violence in Venezuela. (AMR 53/002/2008)
El Nacional [Caracas]. 24 January 2011. Hector Faúndez Ledesma. "El conocimiento de la norma hace más fácil la denuncia." (Factiva)
_____. 29 June 2010. Ana María Matute. "Faltan tribunales de violencia de género." (Factiva)
_____. 25 April 2010. Edgar Rivero. "Violencia física contra las mujeres acarrea hasta 9 años de cárcel." (Factiva)
New Statesman [London]. 27 August 2009. Amy Stillman. "Chávez is failing women."
_____. N.d. "About New Statesman."
Observatorio Venezolano de los Derechos Humanos de las Mujeres (OVDHM). 2010. Violencia contra las Mujeres en Venezuela: Informe alternativo sobre el derecho de las mujeres a una vida libre de violencia.
_____. N.d. "Quiénes Somos."
United States (US). 8 April 2011. Department of State. "Venezuela." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2010.
Universidad Central de Venezuela (UCV). 22 March 2012. Centro de Estudios de la Mujer (CEM). Correspondence from a research coordinator to the Research Directorate.
_____. 5 March 2012. Centro de Estudios de la Mujer (CEM). Correspondence from a research coordinator to the Research Directorate.
_____. 2011. Centro de Estudios de la Mujer (CEM). Informe de la Situación de Género en Venezuela.
_____. N.d. Centro de Estudios de la Mujer (CEM). "Revista Venezolana de Estudios de la Mujer."
Venezuela. 2007 (amended 2007). Ley Orgánica Sobre el Derecho de las Mujeres a una Vida Libre de Violencia. Translated by the Translation Bureau, Public Works and Government Services Canada.
Additional Sources Consulted
Oral Sources: Attempts to contact a professor at the Women's Studies Centre at Venezuela Central University, and representatives of the Asociación Civil Proyectos Inesalud, Asociación Hogares sin Violencia, Colegio de Abogados de Caracas, Instituto Nacional de la Mujer, Observatorio Municipal de Violencia, and United Nations Development Fund for Women were unsuccessful.
Internet sites, including: Canadian Foundation for the Americas; ecoi.net; Fundación para la Prevención de la Violencia Doméstica hacia la Mujer; Human Rights Watch; Instituto Nacional de la Mujer; Observatorio de los Derechos Humanos de las Mujeres en Venezuela; Social Institutions and Gender Index; United Nations — Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, Refworld, Secretary General's Database on Violence Against Women, UN Development Programme, UN Population Fund, UN Trust Fund for Human Security.