Wednesday, January 20, 2010

portrait series : survivors


belen, amnesty international domestic violence spokesperson



linda, linda loaiza foundation-caracas, venezuela



marjorie

international reportage for the new statesman/look magazine
mil gracias to all of the incredible women who contributed their story to this project.

exerpts from The New Statesman/Amy Stillman:

In cases of rape or domestic violence, justice is not easily won in Venezuela, a country where violence against women is widespread: last year the Venezuelan daily newspaper Diario Vea reported that five women are killed each week in gender-related violent incidents, and it is estimated that every 15 minutes at least one Venezuelan woman is attacked.

In March 2007, the government's Organic Law on the Right of Women to a Life Free of Violence came into effect; it defines 19 forms of violence against women, including psychological abuse. The law has won praise from women's rights campaigners, but they say that the government has not provided enough resources for implementing it. According to data taken from the Venezuelan Observatory for the Human Rights of Women, only 4 per cent of cases of violence against women have been prosecuted since the law was passed.

Even in the event of prosecution, women rarely receive justice.
Venezuela's poor record on violence against women is not exceptional in the region: up to 40 per cent of women in Latin America and the Caribbean are physically or sexually abused at some point during their lifetime. But what sets Venezuela apart is that its leader is a self-proclaimed feminist.

Hugo Chávez calls for the empowerment of women through his socialist political project the Bolivarian Revolution. At the World Social Forum in January 2009 he announced that "true socialism is feminist". But women's rights groups say that the government is dragging its feet on the issue of violence against women. “If the president is really feminist, he should be investing in improving the system for women to access justice," says Sonia Obregón from the UN Development Fund in Venezuela.

A huge problem is the lack of training for police; domestic violence is not taken seriously because it is viewed as a private matter between husband and wife. "When we tell women to go to the police they often say, 'For what? If I go to the police my husband will know that and he will hit me again in a worse way,'" explains María Sierra from Unifem, the United Nations Development Fund for Women.

Only 10 per cent of women report cases of domestic violence, according to local NGOs.

Overall, violence in Venezuela has reached unprecedented levels. The country has the highest homicide rate in Latin America, with more than 14,700 murders committed in 2008, and an estimated 19,000 in 2009, according to the Venezuelan Observatory of Violence, an academic think tank. “Violence against women has increased, and the reason is simple," says Roberto Briceño León, the group's head. "There is an increase in violent behaviour in general, and a lack of respect for laws and norms fostered by the government itself. Violence has become a legitimate way of solving conflicts."