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Progress in the eradication of violence against women


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208 Temas de actualidad • Current topics

Progress in the

eradication of violence

against women

Source: Pan American Health Organization. Progress in the eradication of violence against women. Washington, DC: PAHO, Program on Women, Health, and Development; 1997.


During the past two decades, violence against women has been recognized as deserving of inter-national concern and action. Women’s organiza-tions around the world embraced gender violence as a priority issue during the United Nations Decade for Women (1975–1985), and the UN has continued to pursue the issue since 1985 through sponsorship of several meetings of experts and the work of various offices. Two recent international agreements recognized all gender-based violence as an abuse of human rights: the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (1993) and the Inter-American Convention on the Preven-tion, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women (1994), negotiated through the Inter-American Commission on Women of the Organization of American States. Likewise, the UN International Conference on Population and Devel-opment (Cairo, 1994) and the Fourth World Confer-ence on Women (Beijing, 1995) highlighted violConfer-ence against women as an obstacle to gender equality and a threat of great magnitude to the social and economic development of nations.

In the Declaration of La Paz, produced by the Sixth Conference of Wives of Heads of State and of Government of the Americas (1996), Conference participants expressed a commitment to “the for-mulation and implementation of legal policies and norms, as well as regional educational campaigns designed to prevent and eliminate all forms of family violence.” The delegates to the Seventh Con-ference of Wives of Heads of State and of Govern-ment of the Americas, held in Panama City, Panama, in October 1997, reaffirmed that commit-ment. During the Conference, the factual and con-ceptual bases for antiviolence activities were dis-cussed, current initiatives in Latin America and the Caribbean were reviewed, and obstacles to success were identified.



Rev Panam Salud Publica/Pan Am J Public Health3(3), 1998 209 women because they feel they have the right to

intimidate and control them.

Because violence against women has such deep roots, efforts to prevent incidents and assist victims can succeed only by involving many actors in the public and private sectors. The Pan American Health Organization has accordingly recognized violence against women as a priority public health issue, and, since 1994, has mobilized over US$ 7 million for the prevention of gender abuse in the Americas. Most Latin American and Caribbean countries have undertaken both national and com-munity-level activities. The former include promo-tion of legal norms and policies that strengthen the institutional capacity to respond to violence against women. The latter include creation of community networks—of local legal and health workers, police and judges, churches, women’s groups, NGOs, and others—which meet regularly to plan coordinated responses to the problem. The countries are also increasing their efforts to train human resources so that women who seek help and guidance from pub-lic institutions are treated humanely. Additionally, many countries try to enlist the media in efforts to modify norms of acceptance of male superiority and violence against women, and groups are being formed to help men deal with aggression.

Specifically, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, El Sal-vador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Panama have recently enacted national legislation to control domestic violence. In Chile, the number of reported incidents soared following implementation of the law, to more than 50 000 in 1996. Moreover, 73% of female complainants stated that their home situa-tion subsequently improved, and 39% of this latter group felt that their relationships with their part-ners improved. Bolivia is currently conducting na-tionwide public discussions aimed at specifying enforcement and penalty regulations related to its 1995 law. Brazil has two laws on domestic violence pending in the legislature, as well as three bills addressing sexual harassment.

The governments of Brazil, Paraguay, Trini-dad and Tobago, El Salvador, and Belize have commissioned bodies to develop national plans to eradicate domestic violence. In Brazil, the National Council on Women’s Rights is spearheading initia-tives for a series of integrated centers for women at risk and lobbying the federal government to sup-port state and municipal initiatives. The Ministry of Women in Paraguay has formed an interinsti-tutional group which includes NGOs as well as government agencies, and is operationalizing a Na-tional Plan for Equal Opportunities for Women. In Trinidad and Tobago, the National Domestic Vio-lence Unit has set up a hotline for victims and is in the process of fostering community initiatives

including a male counseling and resource center. The Unit is also instituting periodic review of the effectiveness of the Domestic Violence Act.

Bolivia, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Peru now have organizations and self-help groups dedicated to preventing family violence and supporting bat-tered women. Bolivia has established a network of Family Assistance Police Stations which assist pros-ecution of cases of violence against women. Hon-duras now has 12 Family Bureaus. In Nicaragua, a network of Women’s Commissariats is engaged in developing an integrated model of prevention and treatment.

Costa Rica has conducted three annual cam-paigns “For a Life Without Violence.” This govern-ment is also training staff in key institutions to address gender-based violence. Bolivia is piloting educational reforms that include incorporation of gender perspectives in school textbooks. A similar educational effort, but at the graduate professional level, has been proposed in Panama.

In Argentina, the Executive Authority ap-proved Decree 2385/93 recognizing World for Non-Violence Against Women Day and denounc-ing sexual harassment in public administration. Strong advocacy has kept the issue of violence against women at the forefront of public awareness as a social and political problem since the 1980s. The Argentine Department of Community Care, through a pilot project supported by the Inter-American Development Bank and PAHO, is at-tempting to develop strategic guidelines for a model of comprehensive care and prevention coor-dinated through appropriate institutions.

The deep imprinting of gender attitudes and behaviors over the course of millennia is the most powerful obstacle to eradicating violence against women. Structural impediments also exist. In some countries, women must obtain certificates from a medical examiner or forensic physician before they can gain access to the courts, as reports issued by other health professionals are not considered legally valid. Such stipulations are counterproduc-tive because women may find it too difficult to reach, talk to, and pay these officials.


210 Temas de actualidad • Current topics

rapidity with which the community moved from regarding violence against women as an everyday fact of life to judging it unacceptable.


Adelantos en la erradicación de la violencia contra la mujer

En las dos últimas décadas se ha reconocido en varios foros internacionales que la violencia contra la mujer constituye una violación de los derechos humanos merecedora de mayor

atención y de medidas más enérgicas. Motivados por inicia-tivas internacionales en torno al problema —entre ellas las expresadas en las sexta y séptima conferencias de Esposas de Jefes de Estado y de Gobierno de las Américas (1996 y 1997)— muchos países de la Región están tomando medidas para prevenir la violencia cuyo origen radica en el sexo del individuo y para ayudar a sus víctimas. Entre estas inicia-tivas figuran actividades de alcance nacional, como el forta-lecimiento de las pautas y políticas legales en torno a la vio-lencia contra la mujer, y también actividades de carácter comunitario, tales como la creación de redes de acción en el seno de la comunidad. En este informe se examinan breve-mente algunas de las medidas que los países han adoptado a fin de eliminar las actitudes y comportamientos que obsta-culizan la erradicación de la violencia contra la mujer.

Primera Conferencia Iberoamericana de Tabaco o Salud

Fechas: 23 a 27 de febrero de 1999 Lugar: Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, España Tema: Hacia un siglo XXI libre de tabaco

En esta conferencia se tratará de los avances más recientes en métodos para evitar que los niños se inicien en el hábito de fumar y estrategias para abandonar el hábito. Otros grandes temas incluyen políticas sobre el tabaco en relación con la economía, producción, litigación, publicidad, lobbying y legislación, y la mujer y el tabaco. Se invita a los investigadores a pro-poner ponencias y otras contribuciones científicas sobre estos y otros temas afines, las cuales deben recibirse a más tardar el 15 de octubre de 1998.


Isabel Marcelo, Comité Organizador Fundación Canaria de Investigación y Salud

Calle Franchy Roca 1 35007 Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

Islas Canarias, España

Tel.: +34 24 49 86 28; Fax: +34 28 26 17 28

Correo electrónico: jrcalvo@step.es


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