Last Updated: Friday, 28 November 2014, 15:42 GMT

Bolivia: Protection and recourse for women who are abused by their spouses; how to file a complaint

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 15 December 2006
Citation / Document Symbol BOL102093.FE
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Bolivia: Protection and recourse for women who are abused by their spouses; how to file a complaint, 15 December 2006, BOL102093.FE, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/46fb72f630.html [accessed 29 November 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.

Legislation

A 2006 article published by the Women's Information and Development Centre (Centro de Información y Desarrollo de la Mujer, CIDEM), a non-governmental organization that defends the rights of women (US 8 Mar. 2006, Sec. 5), states that Law 1674 Against Familial and Domestic Violence (Ley de la República No 1674 Contra la Violencia en la Familia o Doméstica) provides no recourse to the law for women, because the law is preventive rather than punitive (CIDEM 2006a). In addition, any action that can be taken is costly (ibid.). The law does not punish perpetrators and has not reduced the number of cases of violence against women (ibid.).

A report by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women states that, although law 1674, adopted in 1995, is a preventive law, it has been

[UN English version]

rewritten through mutually agreed work with different organizations and based on the systematized inputs gathered both from the Government and from civil society; in order to make it more effective in practical terms. For example, psychological therapy has been added to the range of options available to the judge to apply to those found guilty of domestic violence. In addition, implementing regulations have been incorporated into the same law in order to articulate clearly, in a special section of the draft revision, the functions of the Family Protection Units, the municipal integral legal services, health services and non-governmental organizations. (27 Mar. 2006, 5, para. 27)

According to Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2005, the Bolivian government took few concrete steps to combat domestic violence in 2005 (US 8 Mar. 2006, Sec. 5; see also UN 27 Mar. 2006, 4, para. 17).

A 2006 CIDEM report notes the following criticism of Law 1674 expressed by some Bolivian judges (2006b). According to the judges, the law against familial and domestic violence has not lived up to its promises (CIDEM 2006b). For example, courts specialized in handling complaints of domestic violence were never created (ibid.). Cases of domestic violence are given low priority because they are considered to have little bearing on public order (ibid.). In addition, the units set up under Law 1674, such as the Municipal Integral Legal Services (Servicios Legales Integrales Municipales, SLIM) and the Family Protection Units (Brigadas de Protección de la Familia, BPF), do not receive the support they need to operate properly (ibid.). These public institutions do not enjoy the minimum conditions to be able to offer effective services to women seeking professional help in the regions (ibid.). This information could not be corroborated by the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

Municipal Integral Legal Services

According to Article 20 of Decree 25087 (Decreto Supremo No 25087), the Integral Legal Services are family violence prevention agencies that are supposed to be implemented in Bolivia's various municipalities (Bolivia 6 July 1998). These agencies offer social, psychological and legal assistance (ibid.).

The results of an survey on the implementation of the SLIMs conducted in Bolivia's 327 municipalities by the former Office of the Deputy Minister for Women (Viceministerio de la Mujer) indicates that only 126 (39 percent[MC1]) of these municipalities offer such services (CIDEM 2006b). In addition, the lack of financial resources for the active SLIMs jeopardizes their existence (ibid.). This information could not be corroborated among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. No examples of concrete intervention by the SLIMs could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

Family Protection Unit

A joint report published by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the Bolivian Ministry of Health and Sports (Ministerio de Salud y Deportes de Bolivia) states that the Family Protection Unit is the police authority responsible for handling cases of assault causing bodily harm that are not considered [translation] "crimes" under the Penal Code (2004, 14).

According to Article 8 of Decree 25087, the Family Protection Units must

[translation]

- help people who have been abused, even inside their homes, without requiring an order and no matter when the attack took place, in order to protect the victim and avoid more serious attacks;

- apprehend the aggressors and turn them over to the legal authorities;

- prepare a report of the facts by gathering information from relatives, neighbours or other persons present, and gather all evidence and put it in a safe location;

- confiscate the weapons or other objects used to threaten and attack and hand them over to the legal authority;

- inform victims about the protection available under the law and the services the state has to offer;

- take the victim for medical care;

- prepare an inventory and inform the judge or the Office of the Public Prosecutor [Ministerio Publico];

- accompany the victim and help her remove her personal effects from her home or another location.

II. The police investigation will be conducted ex officio, independent of the complainant's expectations. (Bolivia 6 July 1998)

The CIDEM report indicates that 38 Family Protection Units are operating in the country (2006b). Despite their lack of resources, they are the only agencies that record the facts when domestic violence is reported to the General Command of the Bolivian Police (Comando General de la Policía Boliviana) (CIDEM 2006b). However, not all units do this (ibid.). This information could not be corroborated among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. No examples of concrete intervention by the Family Protection Units could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

How complaints are filed

In Bolivia, the victims can file a complaint with

[translation]

- the Integral Legal Services (SLIMS) (cases of physical, psychological and sexual violence);

...

- Family Protection Units (cases of physical, psychological and sexual violence);

- family courts (cases of physical and psychological violence);

...

- public health centres, which must send a report and a certificate to the SLIM or the Family Protection Unit (cases of physical and psychological violence), indicating the number of days of sick leave taken, which can be used as evidence. (CIDEM 29 Nov. 2006)

In 29 November 2006 correspondence, a CIDEM representative provided the following information. The victim, a member of her family, or any other person who is aware of the abuse can file a complaint either in person or in writing. To file a complaint, the victim must be of majority age, or else she must be accompanied by her parents or guardians. A piece of identification is not necessary in order to file a complaint, but it can facilitate proceedings. The victim does not need to be accompanied by a lawyer, and this process is free. If the victim feels that she was not treated with respect, she can file a complaint with the Office of the Ombudsman (Defensoría del Pueblo), a governmental human rights agency. This information could not be corroborated among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

According to the CIDEM representative, victims can also turn to non-governmental organizations that offer services to victims of violence. No information on these non-governmental organizations could be found among the sources consulted[MC2] by the Research Directorate.

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.

References

Bolivia. 6 July 1998. Decreto Supremo No25087. [Accessed 30 Nov. 2006]

Centro de Información y Desarrollo de la Mujer (CIDEM). 30 November 2006. Correspondence from a representative.
_____. 2006a. "Inputs Buenas prácticas." (United Nations Inter-Agency Network on Women and Gender Equality, IANWGE) [Accessed 23 Nov. 2006]
_____. 2006b. Sistema de Información. "Panorama de la violencia intrafamiliar en las principales ciudades de Bolivia." Document sent by an official.

Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and Ministerio de Salud y Deportes de Bolivia. 2004. "Prevención y Atención de Violencias." [Accessed 27 Nov. 2006]

United Nations (UN). 27 March 2006. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Consideration of reports submitted by States Parties under article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Combined second, third and fourth periodic reports of States parties: Bolivia. (CEDAW/C/BOL/2-4). [Accessed 27 Nov. 2006]

United States (US). 8 March 2006. Department of State. "Bolivia." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2005. [Accessed 30 Nov. 2006]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: The Defensoría del Pueblo and the Ministerio de Salud y Deportes, Programa de Género y Violencias did not respond to requests for information within the time constraints of this response.

Internet sites, including: Amnesty International (AI), Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Human Rights Watch (HRW), Organisation mondiale contre la torture (OMCT), Organization of American States (OAS).

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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