Santa Elena de Uairen, November 26th, 2014. (venezuelanalysis.com)- Yesterday Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro signed a law recognizing femicide as a form of hate crime, and inaugurated two women’s shelters at a widely attended event in the nation’s capital.
During an official ceremony held in the Teresa Carreño theater in downtown Caracas, 2500 women cheered as President Maduro signed the reform of the Natural Law for Women’s Right to a Violence-Free Life, originally passed in 2007.
Previously approved by the National Assembly, the reform includes femicide, or the murder of a female as an act of hate towards women, as a felony punishable by 25 to 30 years in federal prison.
The reformed law now identifies and condemns at least 19 types of violence against women, including psychological, media, and obstetrical violence. The law also protects women from sexual harassment in the workplace, and considers a husband or partner’s total control over a woman’s income a form of patriarchal aggression.
Parallel initiatives, such as the Woman’s Bank (Banmujer) and the Neighborhood Mothers Mission for single mothers in poverty, have been employed by the government to uphold the law’s protective design.
A student campaign currently exists for “forced pregnancy” to be included in the law, drawing attention to the injustice of Venezuela’s strict anti-abortion laws. Young women picketed outside the Teresa Carreño yesterday, highlighting this proposal and protesting for their right to choose.
During yesterday’s ceremony, the Venezuelan leader also inaugurated two women’s shelters, one in Lara state and the other in Nueva Esparta. The Centers for Attention and Comprehensive Aid to Women (Cafim), staffed with psychologists and social workers, will improve the reach of the legal network set in place to combat domestic violence.
The public defense ministry has received a total of 59,876 claims of violence against women from January 2014 to October, many of which were reported through the 68 specialized legal offices placed throughout the Caribbean nation.
Raquel Guillen, a technical adviser at a public defense office in Bolivar state told venezuelanalysis.com, “When most people think of violence against women, they think only of that which leaves visible bruises; they do not realize this law addresses aggressive behaviors towards women that have been normalized in our day to day society.”
Guillen explained how her office receives many formal complaints from women inside public institutions who are being treated unequally, particularly in local police units and other security forces. “Our job is to orient the client, investigate those claims, intermediate with public defenders, and propagate knowledge that may eradicate gender inequality in the workplace.”
After Maduro signed the reform yesterday, attorney general Luisa Ortega Diaz declared that “never before in the history of our republic have women had such preponderance,” adding that the addition of femicide to Venezuela’s penal code places the country among the leading nations that respect equality and human rights.
Guillen expressed to venezuelanalysis.com her thoughts on the latest reform. “It’s a significant advance.”
But speaking to you as an activist… rather than filling up jails, I believe we should put more emphasis put on modifying male conduct towards women, and on creating a model for raising young men who respect gender equality. But we hope that with the severity of this new sentence, we’ll see less cases of its kind,”she said.
Among Tuesday’s announcements, gender equality minister Andreína Tarazón affirmed the country’s goal to be free of gender violence by 2019. Venezuela’s 3rd annual summit of women’s organizations, scheduled for March 8th, 2015, may represent a landmark effort to achieve that aim.
“2015 will be a turning point for our struggle,” Guillen explained. “There are plans to join forces to create a national alliance, regardless of political color or social status. This is about equality, and the historical struggle that all women have been a part of throughout history.”