In Venezuela, thousands of women suffer physical, sexual or mental abuse by members of their families. In 2007 alone, 4,484 women called the helpline set up by the National Institute of Women’s Affairs asking for help. Many more women are too scared to report violence.
The Venezuelan authorities have taken positive steps towards eradicating domestic violence by introducing in March 2007 the Organic law on the rights of women to a life free of violence. The law is a valuable tool to strengthen women’s access to their rights, and has the potential to produce real improvements in the life of thousands of women.
Nonetheless, while passing the law was a welcome step, its implementation has been far from satisfactory. As a consequence, many women continue to suffer from violence, finding themselves unable to escape the situations they are in or report the violence. Abuses remain behind closed doors and perpetrators often go unpunished.
One of the main problems hampering the eradication of domestic violence is the lack of shelters, as women who face violence can find themselves with nowhere to turn for protection. The 2007 law recognizes that the Venezuelan authorities are responsible for ensuring that women fleeing from abusive relationships are properly protected.
However, there are only two shelters run by national authorities for victims of violence to cater for Venezuela's population of over 10 million women. There's an urgent need for more shelters now.
Furthermore, in order to stop domestic violence, women must be able to report abuse with confidence. They must count on a police force that supports and advises survivors, enforces protection measures and investigates allegations of domestic violence.
Unfortunately, this is not the case in Venezuela, as women told Amnesty International how they have been discouraged from reporting by intrusive, judgemental and inappropriate questioning by police and have been made to feel that their complaints were trivial.
Law enforcement officials must be educated on legislation and trained how to deal with cases of domestic violence. The 2007 law makes the government, and the Ministry of the Interior and Justice in particular, responsible for providing such training. However, to date, the number of training programmes set up has been insufficient and have not reached most police officers responsible for dealing with complaints of domestic violence.
Sign the petition and demand that the Government of Venezuela takes urgent steps to protect women's rights!