Violence Against Women: When Will Nicaragua Wake Up?

There were over 32,000 complaints of domestic violence and sexual abuse in Nicaragua in 2012 (Photo Credit: Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images).

There were over 32,000 complaints of domestic violence and sexual abuse in Nicaragua in 2012 (Photo Credit: Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images).

By Liza Konczal, Amnesty USA’s Nicaragua Country Specialist

Less than 2 years after passing a law against violence against women (Law 779), the National Assembly of Nicaragua has weakened the protection it offers.

Near the end of September 2013, the Assembly voted to retract a part of the law that bans mediation in abuse cases. Women’s organizations in Nicaragua had worked arduously to reject mediation in the law, because the result could be re-victimization. Survivors of domestic abuse require protection of the law, not a chance to ‘work it out’ with their abusers.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

What Would You Tell a Victim of Domestic Violence?

Women, girls, men and boys take to the streets in Nicaragua on the Day for the Decriminalization of Abortion in Latin America and the Caribbean (Photo Credit: Grace Gonzalez for Amnesty International).

Women, girls, men and boys take to the streets in Nicaragua on the Day for the Decriminalization of Abortion in Latin America and the Caribbean (Photo Credit: Grace Gonzalez for Amnesty International).

What if she was your mother, your sister, or your friend?  Would you tell her to press charges? Or would you tell her she should work things out with her husband in order to keep the family (including any children) together? In other words, would you want her to be safe, or remain in danger of further abuse and even death?  I hope you would tell her to get out of there and call the police.

In Nicaragua, however, pressing charges may no longer be an option. Last year, Nicaragua passed Law 779, the Integral Law against Violence Against Women. One of its key provisions is that it does not allow mediation to replace criminal punishment of abusers. Tracy Robinson, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Rapporteur for Women’s Rights, called the law “an important step forward.”

Now, Amnesty International is warning that opponents of Law 779 may overturn this key provision on the ground that it “breaks up families” - as if growing up in a climate of violence is good for children. They want to allow mediation as an alternative to punishment in cases involving less than five years of jail time. Doing so will only contribute to a climate of impunity that tells abusive partners that their behavior is acceptable.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Beatriz: Condemned to Die at 22 by El Salvador?

Women’s human rights activists gather in El Salvador to demand Beatriz is granted the life-saving treatment she needs (Photo Credit: Amnesty International).

Women’s human rights activists gather in El Salvador to demand Beatriz is granted the life-saving treatment she needs (Photo Credit: Amnesty International).

Beatriz’s life is literally in the hands of the Salvadoran government. Demand that they immediately grant her the life-saving medical treatment she needs - before it’s too late.

About Beatriz’s Case

As you may have read recently on this blog, Beatriz from El Salvador is 4.5 months pregnant and suffers from lupus and other medical conditions, including kidney disease related to lupus. She also suffered serious complications during her previous pregnancy, resulting in her being deemed at high-risk of maternal mortality should this pregnancy progress. Three scans of her fetus have confirmed it is anencephalic (lacking a large part of the brain and skull). Almost all babies with anencephaly die before birth or within a few hours or days after.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

U.S. Releases Its First-Ever Strategy to End Violence Against Women Globally

survivors of sexual violence in colombia

Survivors of sexual violence unite in Bogotá, Colombia.  1 in 3 women will be victim of violence worldwide. (Photo Corporación Sisma Mujer)

The U.S. government has just released its much anticipated global strategy to prevent and address gender-based violence. The strategy, and accompanying Executive Order, will help ensure that the United States effectively prevents and responds to gender-based violence globally.

This new strategy for the first time puts the full weight of U.S. foreign policy and international assistance behind efforts to end this global human rights violation.

Why is this strategy needed?  Because an estimated one in three women worldwide has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime. In countries from Nicaragua to Afghanistan to the United States, violence against women is global epidemic.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Total Abortion Bans In Latin America Risk Women's Lives

nicaragua woman doctor

Countries around the world that strictly deny women’s access to abortion, including when such access could save their lives and health, also tend to have the highest rates of maternal mortality.

Most Latin American countries criminalize abortions, forcing girls and women to resort to unsafe, clandestine abortions.  According to the World Health Organization, “Death due to complications of abortion is not uncommon, and is one of the principal causes of maternal mortality” and of an estimated 300,000 hospitalizations.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Nicaraguan Women Demand Their Rights In Face of Rampant Sexual Violence

By Tarah Demant, Women’s Human Rights Group

Obeygiant.com/Shepard Fairey for Amnesty International

Women and girls in Nicaragua are at risk.

In its most recent global report, Amnesty International reported on the high rates of violence against women and girls in Nicaragua, especially rape and sexual violence.  Such violence is rooted in a global culture of discrimination, which systematically devalues the lives, rights, and voices of women.

In Nicaragua, girls are especially vulnerable to rape and sexual violence.  Two thirds of rape victims are under 18, and the most common cases are for girls between the ages of 13 and 15.

Most young survivors of rape get little or no government support to rebuild their lives. The government has so far failed to fulfill its duty to prevent sexual abuse and provide care and support to survivors.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Sexual Violence Against Girls in Nicaragua Widespread

Rosmery, a young survivor of sexual violence at age 12, draws her hopes for the future represented by a tree which marks her past, present and future.

In Nicaragua, rape and sexual abuse are widespread, and the majority of the victims are young and female.  More than two thirds of all rapes reported between 1998 and 2008 were committed against girls under the age of 17, and nearly half of victims were under age 14.

Though there is overwhelming evidence of widespread sexual abuse in the country, and five UN expert committees have called on the government to address the issue of violence against women and girls, the Nicaraguan government is still failing to treat this human rights emergency with the urgency that it deserves.

Last week, Amnesty International published a report on sexual violence against girls in Nicaragua. The report highlights that information on preventing and responding to abuse for those at risk or suffering from sexual violence is difficult, if not impossible to find, leaving many girls trapped in abusive situations with no clear escape.  Further, the stigma associated with sexual crimes means that it’s often the survivor – not the abuser – who is blamed, and young survivors of rape or sexual abuse get little to no government support to rebuild their lives.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Freedom of Expression, Incessantly Suppressed in Latin America

The Inter American Press Association has been calling attention to numerous governmental acts intended to censure and inhibit freedom of expression in Latin America. As political leaders in Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela have been leading the efforts in funding media outlets that do little else than disseminate political propaganda, the problem is spreading fast throughout the entire region.

Silence Image

In Ecuador, the federal government seized the newspaper El Telégrafo, after they also confiscated the assets of banker and major shareholder Fernando Aspiazu, who was jailed on charges of fraud and unlawful activity in the now defunct Banco de Progreso he owned.  The authorities redesigned the newspaper and are now using it to spread hard-hitting official advertising campaigns.

In Argentina, President Cristina Kirchner declared the two leading newspapers in the country, El Clarin and La Nacion, as enemies of her government. Since then, she has tried to find ways to control their activities. With this objective in mind she took over the nation’s main supplier of newsprint, alleging that the two leading newspapers illegally conspired with dictators to control the company three decades ago and then used it to drive competing newspapers out of business.

In Brazil, with the blessing of the federal government, at least five states are trying to enact legislation intended to create agencies that would allow the local Executive Power to control and overrule local media’s activities.

In Mexico, it is not the action of the government, but its inaction that is affecting local media. In the past six months 14 journalists have been killed. The headquarters of the Newspaper “El Sur”, in Acapulco, were attacked by drug cartels, all because the reporters and the media dared to denounce the illegal activities and organized crimes in the country.

The examples go on and on.  Authorities in Latin America are trying to suppress freedom of expression.  Without these vital components of democracy, the livelihood of the nations is endangered at its very core. Hundreds, if not thousands of people throughout the region have given money, work and their lives to ensure that their countries may one day enjoy true freedom of expression, uncensored and unadulterated by their governments.  But, with the most recent actions (or inactions) of the regions governments, all pro-democratic efforts may result in vain.  The progress that had been made is being reversed. The days in which one could give an opinion may soon come to an end.  Authorities must stop.  And civil society must act now.

To those of you who are reading this article, realize that you are doing so precisely because some freedom of expression is still possible.  Together we can and we must ensure that oppressive governments do not put an end to our rights.

Millennium Development Goals Are Failing World's Poorest People

World leaders are meeting next week at a United Nations Summit in New York to review progress made to alleviate poverty around the world since the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were set a little over a decade ago.  Unfortunately, the MDGs are failing the world’s poorest people because governments are ignoring and abusing human rights.

More than a billion people living in slums are not even included in MDG efforts because the MDG target on slums only commits to improving the lives of 100 million slum dwellers.

Amnesty International’s Secretary General, Salil Shetty, will be leading Amnesty’s delegation to the summit.  He said:

“Unless world leaders agree to take urgent steps to uphold the human rights of people living in poverty, the poorest and most disadvantaged people around the world will continue to be left out of the MDGs.

“But language alone is not enough, people must be able to hold governments accountable when they fail to uphold human rights. They should be able to challenge corruption or neglect through courts and regulatory bodies to ensure governments actually fulfil their obligations.”

An estimated 70 per cent of those living in poverty are women. Yet MDG efforts in many countries fail to address the wide-spread discrimination women face in accessing food, water, sanitation and housing, while discriminatory policies, laws and practices that underpin gender-based violence and undermine progress on all the MDGs, have been left to fester.

Kenya is one country whose policies have ignored the needs of women living in slums © Amnesty International

Many states are carrying out mass forced evictions that drive slum dwellers even deeper into poverty and violate their right to housing.

For example, in just one city in Nigeria over 200,000 people are currently facing eviction because the authorities plan to demolish more than 40 informal settlements in Port Harcourt’s waterfront area. Thousands will lose their livelihoods as well as their homes if the demolitions go ahead.

Kenya is an example of another country whose policies have ignored the needs of women living in slums while trying to meet its MDG targets. Women living in slums risk being attacked when trying to use communal toilets, particularly after dark. The lack of effective policing to prevent, investigate and punish gender-based violence or provide an effective remedy to women and girls, means violence against women goes largely unpunished.

Another case is Nicaragua, which despite committing to the MDG target on improving maternal health, has outlawed abortion in all circumstances. The overwhelming majority of pregnancies as a result of rape or incest are amongst girls aged between 10 and 14, whose health and life are put at risk by unsafe abortions or by having to give birth at an early age.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Peruvian Indigenous Leader Detained, Facing Unfair Trial

Rio Sangtiago in Bagua Peru

Rio Santiago, Bagua, Peru ©Ronar Espinoza – Vicariato de Jaén

Segundo Alberto Pizango Chota, president of the Peruvian national indigenous federation AIDESEP, has been arrested immediately upon his return to Lima today after several months in exile in Nicaragua. He is facing charges in Peru which seem to be politically motivated and unsubstantiated, and he may not be given a fair trial. Peruvian indigenous and human rights organizations are already mobilizing to pressure the Peruvian government to dismiss all unsubstantiated charges and ensure that he receives a fair trial. 

Pizango was granted asylum by the Nicaraguan authorities, after the Peruvian authorities accused him of being responsible for violence which led to the deaths of 33 people in Bagua, Amazonas department, northern Peru, on June 5, 2009.  However, at the time of the violence, Alberto Pizango was in Lima, hundreds of kilometers away, and he had made it clear that he was not calling for violence, but rather asking the government to annul a series of laws which were being passed without the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous people, as a first step to initiating a dialogue as equals. Nearly a year later, Alberto Pizango still hopes to find a way to improve relations between the Peruvian government and the country’s indigenous movement.  It seemed like the right time to return to Peru and to his position as leader of AIDESEP.

Yet, the decision to arrest Pizango today appears to be another demonstration of the continued disregard by the Peruvian authorities of their duty to respect, promote and protect the rights of Indigenous Peoples in the Amazon region.
 
Amnesty International believes that the charges against Alberto Pizango seem to be based purely on the government’s interpretation of events, which is not based on genuine evidence. Consequently, Amnesty International is deeply concerned that Alberto Pizango will not face a fair trial now that he has been arrested upon his return to Peru. Take action now!

UPDATE (5/27/10): We’ve just learned that Alberto Pizango has been released, but his trial is expected to go forward. Please continue to call for a fair trial, and for the unsubstantiated charges to be dropped.