Don’t Ease Domestic Violence Punishments in the Dominican Republic

Target: President Danilo Medina

Goal: Stop a proposed bill in the Dominican Republic that would ease punishments for domestic violence and make it harder to prosecute offenders.

In the Dominican Republic gender-based violence is the fourth-highest cause of death among women. Every two days a woman is killed in the country by an act of violence. Domestic violence is something that is culturally accepted in the machismo society. Now, the congress in the Dominican Republic is about to vote on a bill which would ease punishments for domestic violence perpetrators. Urge the lawmakers in the Dominican Republic not to move back on women’s rights and instead better protect women.

The Dominican Republic has a very machismo, male-dominated culture which contributes to domestic violence. The country has a high percentage of unemployed women, while women who are employed make significantly less than men. This makes many women feel powerless towards their husbands. Women feel like they cannot leave an abusive home because they would have nowhere to go.

Women in the Dominican Republic are treated as lesser than men. It is common in the country for employers to require pregnancy tests before hiring women. This year alone, the World Health Organization estimates that there have been at least 163 femicides reported. UNIFEM reported that 70% of Dominican women experience violence at some point. In the past six years, over 1,300 women have been killed in the country due to violence. Men dominating women and domestic violence are part of the culture, and educational efforts need to be made to change that.

Many domestic violence incidents are never reported. Many women are not aware of the resources available. The majority of women killed by domestic violence never file a complaint. The system of filing domestic violence complaints in the Dominican Republic is severely flawed. Of the complaints that are filed, only four percent receive judgment and fewer than half receive convictions. The agencies responsible for helping women with domestic violence do not take their role seriously. There are not enough offices in the country and the offices that do exist are ill-equipped. Workers in these offices are not trained to handle domestic abuse cases. Many women who do file complaints are forced by their partners to retract them. In order to report domestic violence, women must face many barriers and prejudices.

Despite the tragic domestic violence situation in the country, lawmakers are reviewing a proposed bill that would ease punishments for domestic abuse. The bill would eliminate provisions including gender based violence. One provision in the bill would make domestic violence a serious offense with a maximum sentence of 30 years, but only if the result is death or injury that lasts up to 90 days. The current law on domestic abuse determines severity based on the action, not on the physical result. The proposed bill would also reduce the sentence for sexual abuse of a minor from 5 to 3 years and would eliminate the maximum sentence for incest. The bill would make any abortion illegal, even if the mother’s life is in danger. The bill is a huge step back in women’s rights.

The proposed bill has sparked outcries from women’s rights and human rights groups. If the bill is passed it would severely harm women’s rights in a country that is already unsafe for women. Sign the petition and urge the Dominican government to turn down the bill and take steps to protect women in the country.

PETITION LETTER

Dear President Danilo Medina,

Domestic violence is a serious issue plaguing the Dominican Republic. Gender-based violence is currently the fourth cause of death for women in the country. Statistically, every other day a woman is killed by domestic violence in the Dominican Republic. The offices which the government has set up for women to report domestic abuse are ineffective. There are not enough offices and the few offices in the country are ill-equipped. Government officials who are responsible for receiving domestic violence claims are not properly trained. The government of the Dominican Republic has not been effectively ensuring the security of women in the country.

Now, there is a proposed bill which would reduce the penalties for domestic violence. The bill would make it harder to prosecute domestic violence and would reduce sentences for domestic abuse. The bill is a huge step backwards in women’s rights.  Now is the time for the government to take action against femicide and domestic violence, not action for it.

I demand that you veto the proposed bill changing domestic violence laws. I ask that you work to change the attitude towards domestic violence in the country. Stand for women’s rights and stop the bill.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

 

Photo Credit: Ira Gelb via Flickr

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