Last Updated: Friday, 27 November 2015, 12:04 GMT

Chile: Update to CHL41071.E of 21 February 2003 on the measures taken to help victims of domestic violence; whether these measures are effective (2003)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 15 December 2003
Citation / Document Symbol CHL42270.FE
Reference 1
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Chile: Update to CHL41071.E of 21 February 2003 on the measures taken to help victims of domestic violence; whether these measures are effective (2003), 15 December 2003, CHL42270.FE, available at: [accessed 27 November 2015]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

According to the National Women's Service (Servicio Nacional de la Mujer, SERNAM), from March 2002 to March 2003, the 23 Family Violence Support and Prevention Centres (Centros de Atención y Prevención de Violencia Intrafamiliar) [translation] "cared for 6,072 people and welcomed 7,214 individuals to their establishments, all of whom were victims of some type of ill treatment" (Chile 7 Mar. 2003).

According to a Ministry of Finance (Ministerio de Hacienda) evaluation report, 9,297 victims of family violence received assistance in 2002, an increase of 70 per cent from 2001 (ibid. June 2003, 4). The report also noted that, with regard to the efficiency and quality of the services, activities at the Family Violence Support and Prevention Centres were restricted because of a lack of resources and the vastness of the territory they cover (ibid.). For example, although the centres saw an increase in the demand for their services, it is estimated that those who received assistance in 2002 represented only 0.23 per cent of the population thought to be affected by violence (ibid.).

In 2003, steps were taken to reform family law in Chile. In April 2003, La Cuarta indicated that the Chamber of Deputies' United Commissions on the Constitution, Legislation, Justice and the Family (Comisiones Unidas de Constitución, Legislación, Justicia y Familia de la Cámara de Diputados) approved the introduction of a bill to create family tribunals (Tribunales de Familia) (17 Apr. 2003). Under this new law, the number of judges specializing in family law would rise from 51 to 250, and these judges would sit on 60 special panels (La Cuarta 17 Apr. 2003). A May 2003 article on the Mujeres Hoy Website also indicated that a divorce law was being considered (19 May 2003). Under the proposed law, new mediation procedures would be established and the new family tribunals would oversee divorce proceedings in conjunction with specialized lawyers, as well as psychologists and social and religious workers (Mujeres Hoy 19 May 2003). It is worth noting that divorce was not previously an option under Chilean law (AP 30 Sept. 2003).

Articles dated June and August 2003 indicated that the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, in turn, approved the bill to create family tribunals (CAJ 18 June 2003; ibid. 26 Aug. 2003). According to the Andean Lawyers Commission (Comisión Andina de Juristas, CAJ), the family tribunals will play a key role in applying effectively the new civil marriage law or [translation] "divorce law" (ibid.). According to two sources, the first step in setting up the family tribunals is scheduled to begin in mid-2004, with the expectation that they will be ready to hear cases in July 2005 (Mujeres Hoy 19 May 2003; CAJ 26 Aug. 2003) and employ 123 judges at first (ibid.). The last step will be completed in 2007, when the body of magistrates numbers a final total of 250 judges (ibid.).

Sources have reported that the Catholic Church strongly opposes the enactment of the divorce law (Knight Ridder 12 Sept. 2003; AP 30 Sept. 2003). According to the Associated Press (AP), the Catholic Church did its utmost to block this law, including running a television campaign against it (ibid.).

The AP reported that the recently approved law requires couples to prove that they have received psychological counselling before initiating divorce proceedings (30 Sept. 2003). Once both spouses have consented to divorce, they have to wait three years before the divorce becomes final; if only one of the spouses wants the divorce, the waiting period increases to five years (AP 30 Sept. 2003).

According to Latin American Regional Reports, the law is expected to undergo a number of amendments before the Senate finally passes it (28 Oct. 2003). No other information on the status of the divorce law could be found by the Research Directorate.

For more information on the general status of women, please see the report presented by the Chilean government in March 2003 at the 47th Period of Sessions of the Commission on the Status of Women at the following address: .

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 to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Associated Press (AP). 30 September 2003. Eduardo Gallardo. "Catholic Church in Last‑Ditch Fight Against Legalizing Divorce in Chile." (Dialog)

Chile. June 2003. Ministerio de Hacienda. "Centros de Atención Integral y Prevención de la Violencia Intrafamiliar (Centros VIF)." [Accessed 3 Dec. 2003]
_____. 7 March 2003. Servicio Nacional de la Mujer (SERNAM). "Los problemas que afectan la dignidad de las mujeres deben ser enfrentados por todos los integrantes del Estado y la sociedad." [Accessed 3 Dec. 2003]

Comisión Andina de Juristas (CAJ). 26 August 2003. "Cronología, Chile, agosto del 2003." [Accessed 3 Dec. 2003]

____. 18 June 2003. "Cronología, Chile, junio del 2003. » [Accessed 3 Dec. 2003]

La Cuarta [Santiago]. 17 April 2003. "Primera pata de Tribunales de la Familia." [Accessed 3 Dec. 2003]

Knight Ridder. 12 September 2003. Kevin G. Hall. "Chile Considers Allowing Divorce for the First Time; Catholic Church Protests." [Accessed 3 Dec. 2003]

Latin American Regional Reports: Brazil & Southern Cone Report [London]. 28 October 2003. "Chile: Church in Crisis over Divorce Law." [Accessed 9 Dec. 2003]

Mujeres Hoy [Santiago]. 19 May 2003. "Chile: Ley de divorcio abre nuevo mercado para abogados." [Accessed 3 Dec. 2003]

Additional Sources Consulted

IRB Databases

World News Connection/Dialog

Internet sites, including:

El Canelo de Nos [San Bernardo, Chile]

Comité de America Latina y el Caribe para la Defensa de los Derechos de la Mujer (CLADEM)

Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO)

Fundación Chile 21

Isis Internacional [Santiago]

Qué Pasa [Santiago]

Violencia Intrafamiliar, el Programa de Prevención de la Violencia Intrafamiliar desde una Perspectiva de Género en la Provincia de Arica, Chile

Search engine:


Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

Search Refworld