Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 July 2014, 14:54 GMT

Venezuela: Domestic violence, including legislation, redress and services available to victims (update to VEN33338.E of 29 December 1999)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Ottawa
Publication Date 4 September 2003
Citation / Document Symbol VEN41904.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Venezuela: Domestic violence, including legislation, redress and services available to victims (update to VEN33338.E of 29 December 1999), 4 September 2003, VEN41904.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4a70409128.html [accessed 23 July 2014]
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.

Further to the information provided in VEN40379.E of 6 June 2003 and VEN41656.E of 19 June 2003, a 2002 study on domestic violence in Venezuela published by the Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defense of Women's Rights (CLADEM) provides background information, discusses existing legislation, and provides the following information on the protection of the rights of victims in practice (defensa de derechos en la práctica):

The resources available include a law aimed at protecting women and families against violence, as well as the various police institutions, prefectures and justices of the peace. However, those charged with receiving complaints of domestic violence are poorly trained, resulting in delays and in the treatment of complainants other than in the manner which is stipulated by law; some institutions enabled by law to receive complaints simply refer complainants to other organizations.

Helping to fill a void, the Judicial Technical Police (PTJ) created the Division against Violence towards Women and the Family (División contra la Violencia a la Mujer y la Familia) in January 19993/4from 70 cases received in February 1999, in April of the same year the division received 956 complaints. Many complaints were received by the PTJ after they were referred to it by prefectures and other authorities who should have handled the complaints themselves. The number of complaints the division has been receiving exceeds its capacity to handle them adequately, so the PTJ refers them back to the other institutions, resulting in a denigrating and ineffective experience for complainants.

Acceptable evidence of domestic violence as stipulated by law includes testimonies from witnesses and relatives, certified medical examinations and other evidence. According to an inspector ni the Division against Violence towards Women and the Family, two types of violence require two different forms of evidence: threats, harassment and psychological violence require witnesses who can attest to any of those; physical and sexual violence require a medical examination certificate. The law states that a victim can submit a medical certificate issued by any private or public health institution; however, another Division inspector indicated that although such certificates may well be accepted for inclusion with a complaint, a forensic doctor's report must be submitted for the complaint to proceed. This constitutes a significant obstacle, because there are few forensic doctors and they are difficult to consult.

Access to lawyers is another obstacle faced by victims: hiring a lawyer is costly in Venezuela, and although the law encourages non-governmental organization involvement to assist victims in legal proceedings, the organizations themselves have limited resources.

Domestic violence cases can be resolved in two ways: conciliation or litigation. Conciliation can be risky, since it requires an open confrontation of the parties. Given a society sceptical of the effectiveness of laws, a victimizer could turn more violent during an encounter, and thus make the victim more fearful of pursuing redress through litigation afterwards.

Cases requiring litigation are forwarded to a prosecutor's office within 48 hours. The law provides for brief trials, so these should not exceed three months in duration. In practice, attorneys have processed domestic violence cases quite fast and have managed to resolve within them questions of support and other matters affecting a victimized family.

The Criminal Procedures Code (Código Procesal Penal) has reportedly interfered with the application of the law on domestic violence. The law provides for the arrest of victimizers, as long as there is certainty that their arrest is the only way to protect the family, even if the Criminal Procedures Law dictates otherwise. A specialist from the Natinoal Council of Women (Consejo Nacional de la Mujer) is quoted by the study as saying that when authorities do not carry out arrests in such circumstances, they are neglecting their duty and not enforcing properly the law.

An important limitation of the law on domestic violence is that it refers only to family members, and thus excludes couples who have not yet lived together. However, some cases of violence may be covered by provisions of the Criminal Code (Código Penal), and the law on domestic violence has some flexibility, so the limitations are sometimes a result of the particular practice and interpretation of cases by the authorities handling them. Lack of proper training, such as inadequate understanding of the seriousness of threats and psychological violence, can perpetuate problems with the latter. Equally, a forensic doctor may describe a large facial machete cut as a "slight injury" (lesión leve), a wording which can affect significantly the outcome of a litigation, since a forensic report is key in such proceedings.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to tnse 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.

Reference

Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defense of Women's Rights (CLADEM), Lima. 2002. Belkis Suárez Faillace. Respuestas institucionales frente a la violencia de género y a la situación de las mujeres bajo conflicto armado y post-conflicto. Caso: Venezuela. [Accessed 29 Aug. 2003]

Additional Sources Consulted

IRB Databases

Latinamerica Press [Lima]. 2000-2003

Internet sites and search engines, including:

Fempress [Santiago]. Searchable archives, 2000-2003

Isis Internacional

United Nations (UNICEF and CEDAW)

VHeadlines [Managua]. Searchable archives

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 http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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