The Perspective of Women
Violence of History: Domestic Violence

"Nadie se mete entre problemas de marido y mujer."

This common maxim among Dominican society clearly establishes the general attitude towards domestic violence. It was only in January of 1997 that the Dominican Republic issued Ley 24-97, or “La ley contra la violencia domestica”, making all forms of domestic violence completely illegal and punishable by law [1]. Its passage, which was greatly supported by international groups such as PROFAMILIA (Asociación Dominicana Pro-Bienestar de la Familia), finally helped demonstrate to all Dominican women that domestic violence is not only illegal, but morally unacceptable. Until then, not only was violence against women legal, but it was not seen as a violation of human rights.

 

A barrio near Jimani

A barrio near Jimani. Picture taken by Emily Codik, 2006.

The Study of Domestic Violence

The study of domestic violence in the Dominican Republic yields to several difficulties. There are hardly any records of reports of domestic violence prior to 1997, because it was not even a crime. Thus, crimes went unreported and have no records within the Policia Nacional. Even today, many women are unaware of laws against domestic violence and many current crimes go unreported. Each statistic presented regarding murder or acts of violence do not reflect the large quantity of crimes that continue to go, not only unreported, but completely disregarded by the Policia Nacional or by the society as a whole [2]. Probably the greatest factor to interfere with any official reports of domestic violence is that the records kept with the Policia Nacional might reflect inaccurate and distorted information. In addition, only 2% to 10% of all acts of domestic violence are even reported to the police[3].

Thus, the largest amount of information available comes from organizations that are focused on stopping domestic violence. These organizations may manipulate forms of data freely because of the lack of information provided by the government. Lastly, the evidence provided in any study of domestic violence must take in consideration that women still lack the incentive to report these crimes, which have been illegal for less than 10 years.

According to a study by Dominican Today, out of 3,400 women, approximately 44% have been victims of domestic violence, with domestic violence defined as both physical and nonphysical abuse.  When disregarding the possible errors of sampling of these 3,400 women, the prospect that approximately 50% of these women have been victims of domestic violence reinforces the seriousness of the problem. However, it is important to note that Dominican Today does not supply with any information of how these 3,400 women were selected for the study.

Also, out of a certain Dominican barrio, over 90% of women between the ages of 15 and 49 claim to have been victims of domestic violence. Furthermore, in about half of these very same cases, the aggressor has been the female’s husband or boyfriend [4]. Again, the location of this particular barrio, may truly affect the data, especially since the exact location of the study is not clear. Regardless of the location, however, the fact that so many women are victims of domestic violence in a specific barrio makes it clear that the problem has not been solved in the past 10 years.

Yet certain studies show a decrease in the amount of women that are victims to domestic violence. The same study by Dominican Today states that within the last five years, 15% of women had been victims of domestic violence while in the past year, the figure lowered to 8% of women being affected [5]. Domestic violence, as seen in the figures above, are generally concentrated in the countryside’s of the Dominican Republic and less in the cities, such that the statistics relating to surveys of women are greatly impacted by where and who the surveyors contact.

Logo Policia Nacional

Logo - Policia Nacional

From www.policianacional.gov.do/

Location for International Organizations & Las Hermanas Mirabal

As a result of the widespread domestic violence mentioned above, after the development of the implementation of Ley 24-97, many institutions have been established throughout the Dominican Republic in order to prevent and to control domestic violence. Furthermore, the Dominican Republic continues to be known internationally as a homesite for organizations of domestic violence. The United Nation’s INSTRAW (United Nations International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women), for example, is located in the country’s capital, Santo Domingo. Also, November 25th, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, began after the murder of three Dominican women known as the “Inolvidables Mariposas”, Las Hermanas Mirabal. As stated by the United Nation’s information note on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women:  

The memory of the Mirabal sisters and their struggle for freedom and respect for human rights for all has transformed them into symbols of dignity and inspiration. They are symbols against prejudice and stereotypes, and their lives raised the spirits of all those they encountered and later, after their death, not only those in the Dominican Republic but others around the world [6].

As such, not only do the Mirabal sisters present an image against injustice and stereotypes, but they also encourage Dominican women to speak against domestic violence and for the rights of all women.

 

Las Hermanas Mirabal

Las Hermanas Mirabal

Picture from www.radiolibertad.org

PROFAMILIA & UNESCO

PROFAMILIA and INSTRAW clearly represent the involvement of globalization with the elimination of domestic violence. Both organizations are internationally run, such that PROFAMILIA exists as a branch of The International Planned Parenthood Federation of the Western Hemisphere Region while INSTRAW is a branch of the United Nations.  The developments of each have not only affected the passing of the Ley 24-97, but have also worked heavily in enforcing its aims. Therefore, the involvement of these international organizations contributed to the 7% decrease from Dominican Today's national statistic regarding domestic violence. Although it may be impossible to isolate the exact cause for this decrease, the increasing prescence of these institutions must have atleast a minimal effect on the amount of domestic violence present.

The accomplishments of the 1997 Ley 24-97 and the growing programs of PROFAMILIA and INSTRAW, established a means of “public discourse” for the problems of domestic violence[7]. Despite these accomplishments, there are still many advances to be made such as raising awareness and encouraging women to report cases of domestic violence. It is only through the involvement of organizations such as these mentioned above that the Dominican Republic has been able to progress and improve in domestic violence laws. The presence of these institutions and their symbolism for globalization encourage the establishment of equality and rights to all women in the Dominican Republic. It is these international institutions that must be the “catalyst[s] for change”[8].

 

 


[1] “Confronting Domestic Violence.” International Planned Parenthood Federation. 1999.
14 Sept. 2006. <http://www.ippfwhr.org/publications/serial_article_e.asp?SerialIssuesID=15&ArticleID=53>.

[2] “Current Projects – Dominican Republic.” Canadian Lawyers for International Human
Rights. 15 Sept. 2006. <http://www.claihr.org/projects_current_dominican.htm>

[3] “Confronting Domestic Violence.” International Planned Parenthood Federation. 1999.
14 Sept. 2006. <http://www.ippfwhr.org/publications/serial_article_e.asp?SerialIssuesID=15&ArticleID=53>

[4]“Confronting Domestic Violence.” International Planned Parenthood Federation. 1999.
14 Sept. 2006. <http://www.ippfwhr.org/publications/serial_article_e.asp?SerialIssuesID=15&ArticleID=53>.

[5] “Domestic Violence Takes Heavy Toll on Women.” Dominican Today. 31 May 2006. 15 Sept. 2006.
<http://www.dominicantoday.com/app/article.aspx?id=14047>.

[6]“International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.” UN Information
Note. 1999. Division for the Advancement of Women. 15 Sept. 2006.
<http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/news/vawd.html>.

[7] “Confronting Domestic Violence.” International Planned Parenthood Federation. 1999.
14 Sept. 2006. <http://www.ippfwhr.org/publications/serial_article_e.asp?SerialIssuesID=15&ArticleID=53>.

[8]“Confronting Domestic Violence.” International Planned Parenthood Federation. 1999.
14 Sept. 2006. <http://www.ippfwhr.org/publications/serial_article_e.asp?SerialIssuesID=15&ArticleID=53>.