Last Updated: Monday, 30 May 2016, 14:07 GMT

Dominican Republic: Information on the laws and protection available to women who are victims of domestic violence

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 1 November 1994
Citation / Document Symbol DOM18559.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Dominican Republic: Information on the laws and protection available to women who are victims of domestic violence, 1 November 1994, DOM18559.E, available at: [accessed 31 May 2016]
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.


The information that follows was provided by a member of the Coordinadora Nacional de Mujeres de la República Dominicana (National Women's Coordinator of the Dominican Republic) who specializes on the subject of violence against women (10 Nov. 1994).

There is no legislation dealing specifically with domestic violence. Violent acts committed by a spouse, partner or relative are treated under the Penal Code as a form of "common" violence (assault, injury, etc.) without consideration for family ties or other aspects that might be particular to domestic violence.

Although rape in general is a punishable offence, spousal rape is specifically excluded from the Penal Code. Penalties for rape and other forms of abuse diminish as the age of the victim increases, and are considered too lenient by women's organizations. Rape of a minor who is more than 11 years old, for example, can receive a prison sentence of no more than two years.

Murder of a spouse can be exempted from punishment if the victim had committed adultery. Although for some decades the provision has covered murder by either spouse, it is more often used by men, and women who murder their adulterous spouses suffer a much greater social stigma than men who do the same.

Women who abandon the home, even if they do so to protect their lives, lose all rights over their children and the household goods.

A husband can legally prevent his wife from leaving the country at any time. Some women who leave the Dominican Republic to escape abusive husbands do so claiming to be going to work abroad and earn money to send back home, in order to keep their husbands from preventing their exit.

A number of bills reforming all the above have been proposed by various organizations and some have even been tabled in Congress. However, none has received serious consideration or discussion, and it is unlikely that a reform of the current legislation affecting the situation of women will be passed in the near future.

The following information is an unofficial translation of a report in Spanish published by ISIS International in 1990.

According to the information received by ISIS, violence against women is being addressed only by women's groups. Although two surveys show that the problem is a matter of public debate, women usually do not denounce violent acts and thus prevent a better handling of the problem.

The Statistics Department of the National Police reported in the decade of the 1980s a total of 3,093 cases of violence against women, of which 1,194 were rapes and 1,099 were attempted rapes. In all, for this period 3,553 cases were reported for the population of both genders. Of these, 95.8% (3,093) affected women.

One in six homes is affected by some form of domestic violence, such as beatings, verbal aggression, rape, submission and other, according to the Research Centre for Feminine Action, CIPAF.

Background information was received on 2 specific programs and a general one, all non-governmental, two of which are under way; the other one is not active yet.

1) The Research Centre for Feminine Action (CIPAF), although lacking a specific program, has been operating since 1981 and carries out continuous and systematic activities related to violence against women as an essential part of its work.

Activities: most prominent are those of information and dissemination campaigns, programs in the media, gatherings, training, education, research and studies.

Difficulties [faced by the program]: Denunciations or reports run the risk of remaining as "mere complaints without options." There is a lack of depth in the studies and analyses, of access to new sectors of society and of demands for a state response.

Manifestations of violence [on which the program focuses]: domestic violence, with emphasis on physical mistreatment and murder; violence or abuse at the workplace; prostitution and rape; sex tourism.

2) Mental Health Program of the Association Tú, Mujer.

Activities: geared towards psychological assistance or counselling and special assistance to women who are victims of sexual violence; training and education; information and dissemination (workshops, gatherings, seminaries, campaigns and programs in the media); research and studies. Assists mostly women in the middle and lower income levels.

Manifestations of violence: psychological mistreatment; prostitution; sensationalism in the media; violence or abuse at the workplace.

Difficulties: financial and human resources.

3) Program of Legal Assistance and Support for Women of the Dominican Committee of Human rights (under preparation).

Activities: in addition to legal counselling, it will provide psychological assistance and develop activities of information and dissemination (gatherings and programs in the media).

Difficulties: financial; low educational level of those affected and who are not aware of their own situation or possibilities; authorities' obstacles for the performance of legal work for women.

Manifestations of violence: emphasis is placed on domestic violence (physical mistreatment and murder). To a lesser degree, prostitution, rape, violence or abuse at the workplace, violence in the media, sex tourism and political violence.

Please find attached some documents that provide information on women's organizations and background on the situation of women in the Dominican Republic. Additional information on the subject can be found in Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1993, available at your Regional Documentation Centre.

This response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the DIRB 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.


Coordinadora Nacional de Mujeres de la República Dominicana, Santo Domingo. 10 November 1994. Telephone interview with member specialized on the subject of violence against women.

Violencia en contra de la mujer en America Latina y el Caribe: Información y PolíticasInforme Final. 1990. Santiago [Chile]: ISIS-Red Feminista Latinoamericana y del Caribe Contra la Violencia Doméstica y Sexual.


Encyclopedia of Women's Associations Worldwide. 1992. Edited by Jacqueline K. Barrett and Jane A. Malonis. London: Gale Research International, Ltd., pp. 99-100.

Latinamerica Press [Lima]. 1 September 1994. Olga Cedeño. "The Problems of Young Motherhood," p. 6.

. 17 February 1994. Olga Cedeño. "Dominicans Find Solace, Hope in Cult Beliefs," p. 6.

. 13 May 1993. Olga Cedeño. "Acute Poverty Feeds Dominican Prostitution," p. 6.

. 13 May 1993. William Steif. "Sisters Take on Prostitution and AIDS," p. 6.

. 22 March 1990. "Campesinas Struggle to Organize," p. 6.

Women's Movements of the World: An International Directory and Reference Guide. 1988. Edited by Sally Shreir. London: Longman Group UK, pp. 75-76.

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.

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