By Crosby Girón
Dominican women will no longer tolerate gender-based or domestic violence, and groups of women voiced their concerns and made this known throughout the year. November was a key month in their struggle, however, because it was then that they finally started to see results.
According to Dominican media reports, the Dominican Republic tops the 10 countries in the region with the highest number of women murdered every year, according to a study by the Gender Equality Observatory of Latin America and the Caribbean. In 2011, 233 women were killed in the country, while comprehensive care units received about 67,000 reports related to gender-based, sexual, or domestic violence.
By October of this year, there were 163 femicides in the country, according to the Dominican Republic’s Colectiva Mujer y Salud, or the Women and Health Collective; that figure was marginally lower than at the same time last year, when 204 women had been murdered. Of this year’s slayings, 75 were at the hands of current or former partners, while the other 88 were committed by individuals outside of those personal relationships.
On Nov. 1, several organizations released the Declaration of Compromise of Institutions and Organizations for the Prevention of Gender-based Violence. This initiative was also backed by the ministries of Education, Health, and Sports, as well as the National Police and the Office of the First Lady.
“It’s necessary that men make the compromise to protect women,” Minister of Women Alejandrina Germán told the press Nov. 22, during a march in Santo Domingo headed by her office and that of the Attorney General, during which they demanded respect for women and honored those who had been killed by an intimate partner.
The march was led by Margarita Cedeño, vice president of the country, with the participation of Attorney General Francisco Domínguez. Women of various ages and socio-economic backgrounds attended the event, including those with disabilities. Similar events were held around the country at the same time.
The Penal Code, which the Senate is currently debating, includes sections that women see as “setbacks” in the fight against gender-based violence.
For the Colectiva Mujer y Salud, it’s concerning that domestic violence is only considered serious when it results in death or in disability that is permanent or lasts more than 90 days. The Penal Code would also lower the sentence for sexual assault, would only sanction as femicide murders committed against women by current or former partners, and would condemn abortion in all circumstances.
But Demóstenes Martínez, president of the Committee on Justice in the House of Representatives, said the country’s Penal Code will uphold women’s achievements. According to the legislator, there is consensus on the amendments proposed by the Commission on Gender and articles suggested by the Ministry of Women.
According to Martínez, the demands and interests of women, as well as those from civic organizations, are being taken into consideration by the representatives, which is why legislation on domestic and family violence, the allowance of abortion when the mother’s life is in danger, and the definition and legal inclusion of femicide would be incorporated.
The minister of Women said she is committed to a Penal Code that protects women’s rights, while Magda Rodríguez, president of the House’s Commission on Gender, said Congress will not produce anything that harms Dominican women.
Many women participated in a protest in Santo Domingo on Nov. 24 that was organized by about 20 feminist organizations, including Centro de Solidaridad para el Desarrollo de la Mujer, Confederación Nacional de la Mujer del Campo, Colectiva Mujer y Salud, the Gender Institute at the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo, and the Center for Gender Studies at the Santo Domingo Institute of Technology. The participants demanded an end to violence against women and asked for concrete measures to solve the problem. They also suggested that the State create more jobs and curb workplace discrimination, changes to the education system, and language more inclusive of women’s rights.
On Nov. 25, which is both the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and the day on which the Mirabal sisters who were assassinated by Dominican dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo (1930-61) are remembered, the organizations participating in the protest cited as an example of the violence against women the fact that they are the ones who are “culturally delegated” to do work at home and care for children. In a written statement, they said it was imperative to remember that “41.3 percent of households in the country are headed by women, for whom the poverty level is higher than men.”
Other demands are that the new Penal Code respect the lives of women and not include the “setbacks” covered in the legislation’s first reading in the House of Representatives in October, and that prison sentences for individuals who kill a woman in front of her children be increased.