Last Updated: Thursday, 17 April 2014, 09:19 GMT

Chile: The protection, services and recourse available for women victims of domestic violence (2005 - February 2007)

Publisher Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 13 March 2007
Citation / Document Symbol CHL102427.FE
Cite as Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Chile: The protection, services and recourse available for women victims of domestic violence (2005 - February 2007), 13 March 2007, CHL102427.FE, available at: [accessed 17 April 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.

Overall situation

Sources indicate that violence against women continues to be a problem in Chile (Freedom House 28 Sept. 2006; see also US 8 Mar. 2006).

According to the National Women's Service (Servicio Nacional de las Mujeres, SERNAM), 70 women die each year from gender-related violence, and 7 out of 10 women are victims of domestic violence (Chile 2 Jan. 2007). A study by the Chilean National Statistics Institute mentioned in an EFE News Services article indicates that, from January to November 2006, 40 women were killed, 13 of whom had previously made complaints to the police (25 Nov. 2006).

The proportion of women victims of domestic violence is higher in rural areas, but an accurate picture of the situation cannot be drawn because Chile has no system for collecting the required information (Inter Press Service 3 Apr. 2006). However, 13,000 of the 26,606 cases of domestic violence assigned to prosecutors between the coming into force of a new law on domestic violence in October 2005 and 19 July 2006, came from the Santiago metropolitan area (El Mercurio 22 July 2006).


The Chilean Web site for citizens' services [translation] "Simple Procedures" (Tramite Facil) gives citizens access to a range of information, including procedures to follow for victims and witnesses of domestic violence (Chile 27 Oct. 2005). To file a report, citizens can call any National Police Force Unit (Unidad de Carabineros), 24 hours a day, or the specialized family affairs unit in Santiago, the capital (ibid.).

The Web site also explains how and where a woman can access the network of Regional Domestic Violence Prevention and Services Centres (Centros Regionales de Atencion y Prevencion en Violencia Intrafamiliar) (Chile 19 June 2006). To receive legal, psychological and social support, victims must call to make an appointment and register in person at a centre; preference is given to group therapy sessions (ibid.). In November 2006, SERNAM ran 29 centres in Chile (EFE News Service 25 Nov. 2006; Chile 16 Aug. 2006, 14) [translation] "to prevent [domestic violence] and to develop mechanisms of protection" (ibid.).

According to Inter Press Service, one of the first measures taken by the government of Michelle Bachelet was to make public health services responsible for the physical and psychological treatment of victims of domestic violence (3 Apr. 2006; Inter Press Service 28 Mar. 2006). The implementation of this type of program for victims is scheduled to begin in 2007 (ibid. 3 Apr. 2006). In August 2006, the United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women congratulated the Chilean government for considering gender perspectives when developing its public policies (25 Aug. 2006). The Committee took a similar approach with respect to the adoption, among other things, of the law on procedures and sanctions concerning cases of family violence (2005) and the law that created the family courts (2004) (UN 25 Aug. 2006).

Recourse to the law

A new law on family violence came into force in October 2005 (El Mercurio 22 July 2006; Chile 16 Aug. 2006, 13). Among other things, the new law facilitates police intervention when a person is caught committing an offence and criminalizes domestic violence in such as way as to prevent any reconciliation between a victim and her attacker that according to the new law, would go against [translation] "public interest" (ibid., 14).

The 60 family courts have 258 specialized judges (Chile 16 Aug. 2006, 12). The SERNAM minister acknowledges that the new system has some problems, but she also states that women are using it more than ever since the law was introduced in October 2005 (ibid.). According to the minister, 22 prosecutors have been assigned to domestic violence cases, allowing them to specialize in the field (ibid., 14).

Only a small percentage of women report family violence: 10 percent of victims file a formal complaint (Chile 2 Jan. 2007). In addition, the majority of complainants withdraw their complaint (ibid.; EFE News Service 25 Nov. 2006) and stay in the home they share with the aggressor (Chile 2 Jan. 2007).

According to figures from the Chilean Ministry of the Interior (Ministerio del Interior), a total of 93,404 complaints of domestic violence were recorded in 2005, whereas 78,948 were recorded in 2003 and 87,697 in 2004 (Chile n.d.b). In 2006, 95,829 complaints were recorded, and the Ministry of the Interior noted an increase in detention rates for crimes involving domestic violence, which increased from 13.4 cases per 100,000 residents to 40.9 cases (Chile Feb. 2007).

The Criminology Institute (Instituto de Criminologia), through its Centre for Assistance to Victims of Sex Crimes (Centro de Asistencia a Victimas de Atentados Sexuales, CAVAS), provides legal, psychological and social assistance and offers psychological assessments to victims, aggressors and witnesses in order to support the work of the legal system (Chile n.d.a).

No other protection measures

A pilot project to assist victims was introduced in two local public prosecutor's offices to prevent the withdrawal of complaints and to prevent attackers from reoffending (El Mercurio 22 July 2006). The government would also like to introduce shelters for women victims of domestic violence in every part of the country (Chile 16 Aug. 2006, 14).

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.


Chile. February 2007. Ministerio del Interior. "Denuncias y detenciones delitos de mayor connotacion social y violencia intrafamiliar, anual y cuarto trimestre 2006." Informe Nacional. [Accessed 12 Feb. 2007]
_____ . 2 January 2007. Policia de Investigaciones de Chile. "Violencia familiar: Las razones del silencio." [Accessed 12 Feb. 2007]

_____ . 16 August 2006. Intervencion de S.E. Senora Laura Albornoz Pollman, Ministra Directora del Servicio Nacional de la Mujer de la Republica de Chile. Presentation on the fourth periodic report of the government of Chile given to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women during its 36th session. [Accessed 12 Feb. 2007]
_____ . 19 June 2006. "Violencia intrafamiliar: Solicitud de ingreso a Centros Regionales de la Mujer (SERNAM)." [Accessed 12 Feb. 2007]
_____ . 27 October 2005. "Violencia intrafamiliar – Acogida de víctimas y recepción de denuncias." [Accessed 12 Feb. 2007]
_____ . N.d.a. Policia de Investigaciones de Chile. "Mision del INSCRIM." [Accessed 12 Feb. 2007]
_____ . N.d.b. Ministerio del Interior. "Frecuencia de denuncias por violencia familiar segun unidad territorial." [Accessed 12 Feb. 2007]

EFE News Service. 25 November 2006. "70 Chilean Women per Year Slain by their Partners." (Factiva)

Freedom House. 28 September 2006. "Chile." Freedom in the World 2006. [Accessed 6 Feb. 2007]

Inter Press Service. 3 April 2006. Daniela Estrada. "Chile: Bachelet Steps Up Efforts to Treat Battered Women." (Factiva)

_____ . 28 March 2006. Daniela Estrada. "Mujeres-Chile: Cerco a la violencia domestica." (Factiva)

El Mercurio. 22 July 2006. "Fiscalia prueba plan para mejorar la atencion a victimas de violencia familiar." (Factiva)

United Nations (UN). 25 August 2006. Observaciones finales del Comité para la eliminacion de la discriminacion contra la mujer. (CEDAW/C/CHI/CO/4). [Accessed 12 Feb. 2007]

United States (US). 8 March 2006. "Chile." Department of State. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2005. [Accessed 12 Feb. 2007]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: The Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defense of Women's Rights (CLADEM) and the Servicio Nacional de las Mujeres (SERNAM) did not respond to a request for information within the time constraints of this response.

Unsuccessful attempts were made to reach the Centro de Estudios para el Desarrollo de la Mujer.

Internet sites, including: Carabineros de Chile, Chilean Congress, Factiva, Instituto Nacional de Estadisticas de Chile, Resource Center of the Americas, UNIFEM Andine Region.

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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