Paraguay: Protection available to victims of domestic violence; effectiveness of the law against domestic violence; whether the courts prosecute perpetrators of such violence
|Publisher||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Author||Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada|
|Publication Date||3 November 2004|
|Citation / Document Symbol||PRY43095.E|
|Cite as||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Paraguay: Protection available to victims of domestic violence; effectiveness of the law against domestic violence; whether the courts prosecute perpetrators of such violence, 3 November 2004, PRY43095.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/42df61652.html [accessed 19 September 2014]|
This Response corrects PRY39725.E of 15 August 2002 regarding the date of promulgation of Law No. 1,600 Against Domestic Violence.
When a new constitution was adopted in 1992, the government committed itself to implementing policies designed to prevent family violence (CLADEM n.d.). One result of this commitment was Law No. 1,600 Against Domestic Violence (Ley No 1.600 contra la Violencia Doméstica), promulgated on 6 October 2000 (ibid.). Providing a legal framework for the protection of victims of physical, psychological or sexual abuse by a family member, the law outlines the duties of the courts, the police and health institutions in response to such incidents (Paraguay 6 Oct. 2000).
In particular, the law empowers justices of the peace to receive domestic violence complaints and order protective measures (medidas de protección) such as excluding the perpetrator from the family home or prohibiting him or her from approaching the victim (ibid., Art. 2). Furthermore, the police are required to come to the aid of the victim; to arrest the perpetrator when he or she is found in flagrante delicto; to submit a report to a justice of the peace court within 24 hours; and to carry out any protective measures ordered by a justice of the peace (ibid., Art. 3). Additionally, the law stipulates that public health facilities must provide victims with a medical examination and any required treatment, and forward a copy of the medical report to the court within 24 hours (ibid.).
While Law No. 1,600 is civil in nature and does not provide for any sanctions against perpetrators, article 229 of the 1998 penal code establishes domestic violence as a crime punishable by a fine, provided that it consists of physical violence and is carried out "habitually" (habitualmente) (CLADEM n.d.).
In a 25 October 2004 telephone interview, the national coordinator of the Paraguayan chapter of the Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defence of Women's Rights (Comité de América Latina y el Caribe para la Defensa de los Derechos de la Mujer, CLADEM) provided an assessment of the effectiveness of the country's domestic violence legislation. While noting that Law No. 1,600 has had a positive impact, for example by educating the public on the problem of domestic violence, she claimed that there are significant deficiencies in the manner in which it has been implemented (CLADEM 25 Oct. 2004). For example, she cited instances in which justices of the peace have ordered the victim and perpetrator to take part in mediation, despite the fact that there is no provision for such an intervention under the terms of the law (ibid.). She claimed as well that health facilities outside of Asunción lack the necessary personnel to deal with instances of psychological abuse, and that medical facilities sometimes fail to provide the court with the victim's medical report, because some physicians are unwilling to testify in court (ibid.).
According to the national coordinator, the police force is among the public institutions that have shown the greatest resistance to the implementation of the law, for instance by refusing to enter a home without a court order to intervene in a domestic violence incident in progress or by declining to accept a complaint made by a victim at a police station (ibid.). She claimed that this is particularly likely to occur in cases where the victim has made repeated visits to the station or where the perpetrator is perceived as powerful or occupies a position within the state security forces (ibid.). For example, she cited a 2004 case in which the police and the attorney general's office failed to act on complaints made by a woman who reported being abused by a parliamentarian (ibid.). However, the national coordinator indicated that, in some cases, her organization has had good experiences with police officers who responded well to training, while also noting that issues related to domestic violence have recently been integrated into the standard police training curriculum (ibid.).
In 2003, individuals involved in the application of Law No. 1,600, including justices of the peace and personnel from the police and the attorney general's office, were asked to provide their views on the effectiveness of the law (ibid. 2003). Among their comments, the three respondents from the attorney general's office stated that its implementation within the judiciary has been deficient, due to a lack of understanding of the problem of domestic violence and a lack of resources to follow-up on cases (ibid.). The two justices of the peace who were surveyed indicated that while the law has brought about positive changes in areas such as training, the greatest obstacle to its effective implementation is a lack of personnel who are equipped to deal with domestic violence cases (ibid.). The two police officials who took part in the study claimed that while there has been an increase in the number of domestic violence complaints as a result of the law, a lack of knowledge of its provisions remains a problem for some officers (ibid.).
The provision dealing with domestic violence within Paraguay's penal code has also been subject to criticism. For example, Clara Rosa Gagliardone, a lawyer and executive secretary of an Asunción-based non-governmental organization active in the area of domestic violence called the Kuña Aty Foundation (Fundación Kuña Aty n.d.a) stated that article 229 of the penal code contravenes the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women by only criminalizing violence that is habitual in nature and by only punishing such violence with a fine (CLADEM n.d.). While the national coordinator of CLADEM Paraguay also referred to these weaknesses in the law, she noted as well that it fails to address psychological violence and applies only to individuals who are cohabitating (ibid. 25 Oct. 2004). Furthermore, she claimed that the limited sanctions it imposes has led some lawyers, acting on behalf of domestic violence victims, to attempt to have the perpetrator charged under penal code provisions dealing with bodily harm (lesiones corporales), which provide for more severe punishment (ibid.). As well, the attorney general's office has reportedly often failed to respond to a domestic violence complaint by initiating proceedings under the penal code, instead merely forwarding the complaint to a justice of the peace for intervention under the terms of Law No. 1,600 (ibid. n.d.).
No specific information on the degree to which the courts prosecute perpetrators of domestic violence could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. However, in a study of the impact of changes in the administration of justice in domestic violence cases, CLADEM claimed that although once can point to instances in which judges have taken such violence seriously in their sentencing decisions, it is more common for perpetrators to be treated leniently by the courts (CLADEM n.d.). Additionally, the CLADEM Paraguay national coordinator stated that while Law No. 1,600 charges the Women's Secretariat (Secretaría de la Mujer) of the Office of the President of the Republic of Paraguay (Presidencia de la República del Paraguay) with the task of monitoring domestic violence cases, its records are incomplete due to a failure of the judiciary, police and health facilities to provide them with the relevant data (ibid. 25 Oct. 2004).
A number of organizations provide assistance and advice to victims of domestic violence. For example, the Women's Secretariat operates a telephone hotline for victims as well as a specialized agency called Support Services for Women (Servicio de Apoyo a la Mujer, SEDAMUR) (Paraguay n.d.a; ibid. n.d.b; OAS 2 Apr. 2004). This agency, staffed by an interdisciplinary team of lawyers, social workers and psychologists, provides a range of services to women, including individual counselling, accompaniment and case follow-up (Paraguay n.d.b).
Among the non-governmental organizations offering services to domestic violence victims are the Kuña Aty Foundation and the November 25th Women's Collective (Colectivo de Mujeres 25 de Noviembre), both of which provide legal services and psychological counselling and are active in the area of public education (Fundación Kuña Aty n.d.b; Isis Internacional n.d.). However, according to the CLADEM Paraguay national coordinator, domestic violence services are highly concentrated in the Asunción and the country lacks any shelters for victims (25 Oct. 2004).
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 additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
Comité de América Latina y el Caribe para la Defensa de los Derechos de la Mujer (CLADEM). 25 October 2004. Telephone interview with the national coordinator of the Paraguayan chapter in Asunción.
_____. 2003. Balance en profundidad sobre violencia doméstica en Paraguay.
_____. n.d. Estudio en profundidad sobre cambios institucionales en el sistema de administración de justicia y servicios conexos, alianzas y estrategias para la erradicación de la violencia doméstica contra las mujeres.
Fundación Kuña Aty, Asunción. n.d.a. "Plantel de la Fundación 'Kuña Aty': Consejo Directivo."
_____. n.d.b. "Cuándo y cómo surgió la Fundación?"
Isis Internacional, Santiago de Chile. n.d. "Directorio de organizaciones e instituciones."
Organization of American States (OAS). 2 April 2004. Informes de los Estados Miembros sobre la implementación del Programa Interamericana sobre la Promoción de los Derechos Humanos de la Mujer y la Igualdad y Equidad de Género (PIA): Informe de Paraguay.
Paraguay. 6 October 2000. Poder Legislativo. Ley no 1.600 contra la violencia doméstica.
_____. n.d.a. Secretaría de la Mujer. "Línea S.O.S."
_____. n.d.b. Secretaría de la Mujer. "SEDAMUR."
Additional Sources Consulted
Oral sources: The Colectivo de Mujeres 25 de Noviembre, Fundación Kuña Aty and Centro de Promoción de la Mujer (PROMUR) were unable to provide information within the time constraints of this Response.
Internet sites, including: Acción [Asunción], Cimacnoticias, Isis Internacional, Tertulia [Guatemala City] 2003-2004.