Venezuela: Information on the rate of conviction for perpetrators of spousal abuse, and protection available to women who are subject to domestic violence (update to VEN18222.E of 15 September 1994)
|Publisher||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Author||Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada|
|Publication Date||1 March 1995|
|Citation / Document Symbol||VEN20240.E|
|Cite as||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Venezuela: Information on the rate of conviction for perpetrators of spousal abuse, and protection available to women who are subject to domestic violence (update to VEN18222.E of 15 September 1994), 1 March 1995, VEN20240.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6ab6838.html [accessed 30 May 2015]|
This response adds to the information provided in previous Responses to Information Requests, including VEN17390.F of 13 May 1994, VEN18961.E of 16 November 1994, VEN19544.E of 25 January 1995 and VEN20000.E of 17 March 1995.
The information that follows was provided by a representative of the Red de Apoyo de Organizaciones Populares de Mujeres (support network of popular women's organizations) (17 March 1995).
Only the victims, rather than their relatives or immediate family, an receive assistance, which is provided mostly by non-governmental organizations. There are no shelters for abused women. Some non-governmental organizations provide free legal aid. There are a number of government institutions that are intended to provide women with assistance, but they are usually ineffective. As an example of this ineffectiveness, the source stated the government prosecution office (fiscalía de la república) created the office of women's rights (oficina de derechos de la mujer), although the prosecutor staffing the office is basically limited to providing information on the available legal procedures available to a victim of domestic or sexual abuse. Only in "high-profile" cases, those that have received significant media coverage, do government authorities show some interest and get involved. In this sense, the press plays one of the most important roles and has helped to bring some cases to the public's attention, but the media has no power to intervene in a case (ibid.).
A bureau linked to the presidency gathers a number of prominent women who are interested in women's issues, but it does not have the means to do much. It has been unable to establish shelters or special police stations, for example. It created a network against domestic violence, but this has yet to carry out any effective activities (ibid.).
The police rarely provides any effective assistance to abused women, and in many cases its members have been the perpetrators of rape and abuse. Sometimes policemen find women who have been abandoned on a roadside after being raped and, thinking that they are prostitutes, proceed to rape and jail them (ibid.).
Cases of rape and domestic violence increase on weekends, when the police is usually reluctant to intervene unless there is a bloody incident (hecho de sangre). Often the police advise victimized women to approach the police station again on a weekday. There are some police stations that are more helpful than others. When they intervene, the police can detain the abusive partner for up to three days. However, many women prefer not to have their abusive partners jailed, for fear that they will act more violently or abandon the home after being released (ibid.).
Detention periods depend on the type of injury. Up to a certain degree of injury the police can detain the abusive spouse or partner for up to three days. When there are serious injuries verified by a coroner, the case can pass on to the Judicial Technical Police (Policía Técnica Judicial or PTJ, the investigative branch of the police). The PTJ refers the case to the courts which then penalize according to what the Penal Code prescribes. The code prescribes penalties for each type and degree of physical injury (ibid.).
However, there is no guarantee that legal procedures will follow their due course or provide satisfactory results. The source mentioned a recent case that illustrates the problem: a husband in a jealous rage attacked his wife of three months, severing one of her arms and some fingers of her other hand. This happened in front of the woman's ten-year old child, and the case attracted the attention of the media. The man, who was not wealthy but had some local influence or contacts, was eventually sentenced to a three-year jail term. The woman remained destitute, and despite support from women's organizations, was unable to obtain any significant reparations or obtain a prosthesis. A government office offered a monthly stipend that equals, at current exchange levels, less than ten cents in Canadian funds. The child has begun receiving psychological assistance from non-governmental organizations, which also helped to build the woman a small house but cannot provide her with any money (ibid.).
The information that follows was provided by the Chile-based ISIS/Latin American and Caribbean Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence in its publication Hoja de Datos and two reports. Many of the terms used are an unofficial DIRB translation of Spanish terms, provided for your reference.
An analysis of 129 sentences passed by the Superior Tribunals of Justice (Tribunales Superiores de Justicia) of Venezuela between 1984 and 1986 showed that 25.5 per cent of them were for gang rape, 12.4 per cent involved two or three victims, and 68.99 percent related to underage victims (Hoja de Datos August 1993, 3).
Rape, assault on pudency, incest, abduction, adultery, seduction, corruption of minors and bigamy are all considered crimes "against good habits (buenas costumbres) and the good order of families (el buen orden de las familias)" (Hoja de Datos Nov. 1993, 6). According to the Penal Code, rape consists in forcing "a person of either gender into a carnal act" and is punished with imprisonment of 5 to 10 years (ibid.). The same penalty is applied to individuals who commit a carnal act with someone who was under 12 years of age when it was committed or who has not reached 16 years of age when the case is dealt with; when the accused is an elder relative, tutor or teacher, or a person responsible for the safekeeping of a victim who for some reason has been detained or confined (ibid.). The same penalty is also applied if the victim was unable to resist because of health or mental disability, when the victim has been unwilling for whatever reason or when the accused has used fraudulent means or narcotic substances to commit the carnal act (ibid.). The Penal Code does not contemplate rape by a spouse (ibid.).
According to article 393 of the Penal Code, the penalty applied in cases of rape, lascivious acts, carnal act or abduction will be reduced to one-fifth of the prescribed penalties if the victim is a prostitute (ibid.). The accused will be relieved of any penalty if he or she marries the victim before a sentence is given, and if the marriage takes place after sentencing, all penalties and their penal or legal implications will be dismissed (ibid.).
According to article 395 of the Penal Code, persons convicted of seduction, rape or abduction will have to pay the victim for damages if no marriage takes place between them and if the victim were a single or widowed woman, and honest (honesta) (ibid.).
The following organizations provided assistance to victims of sexual and domestic violence in 1993 (Hoja de Datos June 1994, 8):
-Programa de Atención a Víctimas de Violencia Sexual y Doméstica. Started in 1985 by the Asociación Venezolana para una Educación Sexual Alternativa (AVESA, a non-governmental organization). Its main goal has been to provide integral attention (atención integral) to women who have suffered rape and/or abuse by their partner, and to sexually abused children. Its main activities consist in providing information, training and education, as well as medical and psychological assistance. AVESA and the governmental Consejo Nacional de la Mujer have been developing national workshops for assisting women who are victims of domestic and sexual violence (Talleres Nacionales de Capacitación en la Atención a Víctimas de Violencia Sexual y Doméstica). Together with other Venezuelan organizations, these two organizations form the Venezuelan network of assistance to victims of domestic and sexual violence (Red Venezolana de Atención a Víctimas de Violencia Sexual y Doméstica).
-Casa de la Mujer de Maracay. A non-governmental institution that assists women who suffer abuse by their partners. It provides mainly psychological assistance and advice to women who suffer domestic and/or sexual violence.
-Casa de la Mujer del Caroní. Non-governmental institution that provides assistance to women who suffer rape and domestic abuse. Its main activities are providing legal and psychological assistance, information and education.
A directory of programs published in 1990 lists three Venezuelan programs aimed at assisting women who have been victims of violence, one of which is the Programa de Atención a Víctimas de Violencia Sexual y Doméstica described above (ISIS 1990, 116-19). The report states that this program has a local scope, and is aimed at girls and women in general. The other two programs listed in the publication are:
-Defensa a la Familia Contra los Maltratos. A program of the Ministry of State for the Promotion of Women and the Ministry of the Family. Its main activities consist of training and education, legal counselling, dissemination of information, and referring cases to other government bodies. It has a nationwide scope, and is aimed at both rural and urban women.
-Programa de Mujeres del CESAP (Centro al Servicio de la Acción Popular). Aimed mostly at women of lower income, maids, rural inhabitants, grassroots organizations and educational centres, this non-governmental program is concerned mostly with education, training and providing support for organizations.
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. Please find attached the list of sources consulted in researching this information request.
Hoja de Datos [Santiago]. June 1994. "Violencia Doméstica y Sexual Contra la Mujer: Centros de Atención."
_____. November 1993. "Violencia Sexual y Normas Penales: America Latina y el Caribe."
_____. August 1993. "Venezuela."
ISIS Internacional. 1990. Violencia en Contra de la Mujer en America Latina y el Caribe: Directorio de Programas. Santiago: Isis Internacional.
Red de Apoyo de Organizaciones Populares de Mujeres, Caracas. 17 March 1995. Telephone interview with representative.