Tomorrow, Wednesday 24 October, the Dominican Republic government will vote on new Penal Code proposals that includes Article 90, which envisages criminal penalties for women who seek an abortion and for those who provide it or help provide it – regardless of the circumstances, including if the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest or if the life of the women is endangered by carrying on with the pregnancy. Other unacceptable points include downgrading provisions in relation to gender based violence.
Dominican Republic women activists fiercely reject the provisions of the new Penal Code.
You can support women’s rights in Dominican Republic by taking the following steps:
1) Sign the AVAAZ petition here
2) Copy and paste the statement issued by the Feminist Forum of Dominican Republic below and send a mass email to the following addresses:
Abel Martínez Duran, Presidente, Camara Diputados
and these members of the Congress:
Julio César Valentín (senador Santiago) jcesarvalentin@
José Rafael Vargas (senador Espaillat) vargas@
Víctor Sánchez (diputado Azua) v.sanchez@
Víctor Gómez Casanova (diputado DN) email@example.com
Guadalupe Valdez (diputada nacional)
Cristian Paredes (diputado Sánchez Ramírez)
Minou Tavarez (diputada Santo Domingo de Guzmán) firstname.lastname@example.org
Pedro Angel Martínez (Encargado de Prensa del Senado) email@example.com
3) Tweet “NO A ESE CÓDIGO PENAL” to the following twitter addresses:
Twitter addresses of the members of the Justice Commission:
Other twitter of members of congress and other important actors
@VoceroPLD (Vocero de los diputadosPLD)
Indignadas [Indignant Women & Men]
No a ese código penal [No to that penal code]
FORO FEMINISTA [Feminist Forum]
WE REJECT THE PROVISIONS OF THE PROPOSED PENAL CODE AND DEMAND RESPECT
FOR WOMEN’S HUMAN RIGHTS
The Foro Feminista [Feminist Forum] and the women’s organizations present here declare that fundamental provisions of the proposed penal code which was approved following the first reading in the Chamber of Deputies of the Dominican Republic on Tuesday, October 16, 2012 are unconstitutional and do not respect human rights.
Articles in the approved bill would result in a major step backwards and the denial of women’s fundamental rights which already form part of our legal system, such as those contained in Law 24-97, which modified the current penal code. No state which boasts of its democratic character committed to the progressive nature of human rights can allow itself to move backwards in its recognition and protection of those rights.
Elimination of punishment for gender-based violence against women
The proposed penal code contains important negative changes to Law 24-97 such as the elimination of punishment for committing gender-based violence against women. The result of this mutilation is the restriction of the definition of this type of violence to instances in which it occurs between family members. This proposed change to the existing law totally ignores the reality of violence faced by women in this country on a daily basis. The alarming statistic reported by the Attorney General of more than 62,374 complaints filed in cases of gender-based violence and domestic violence reported in 2011, and the 5,657 reported cases of sexual assault against women, testify to this reality, which remains largely unseen and under-reported.
The proposed bill only considers domestic violence a grave offense when it causes the death of the victim or the victim is disabled permanently or for more than 90 days. The proposed bill also is a step backwards from Law 24-97 due to the provision that would define aggravated domestic violence as conditioned upon the existence of “considerable physical harm”. Domestic violence would only considered aggravated when it caused the death of the victim, permanent disability or disability lasting more than 90 days. By contrast, in Law 24-97 the designation of domestic violence as “aggravated” depends on the circumstances in which the crime is committed, including if it was committed in the presence of children, while armed, or while restricting a woman’s freedom of movement among other conditions which all refer to the actions taken by the perpetrator, not by the harm which is caused to and only verifiable by the body of the victim.
Reduces the punishment for incest
The proposed penal code does not prescribe the maximum possible punishment for the crime of incest, thereby failing to recognize the grave harm and lasting impact of this crime on the life of an abused child. The proposed code also eliminates family ties created through adoption from the legal definition of incest.
Reduces the punishment for sexual harassment
Sexual harassment is punishable by between one day to one year of prison in the proposed bill. Furthermore, in contradiction to what is needed given the dimensions and characteristics of sexual harassment in Dominican society, the existing limitations on women with regard to lost wages following the loss of a job and other repercussions which may result from being a victim of this crime are maintained in the proposed bill.
Conceals the rape of a minor
The sexual assault committed against a minor who has been taken from the parental home is included within the infractions listed under the title “endangering a minor”. The prescribed penalty of two to three years in prison is ten times less than that prescribed for the rape of a minor and is equal to the criminal penalty stipulated for a simple theft.
Femicide and the criminalization of abortion under all circumstances
Although femicide is included, the proposed penal code restricts the definition of femicide to occurring only in the context of a romantic relationship, thereby excluding all women who are murdered by anyone other than their romantic partner. Statistics from the Attorney General indicate that 1,382 cases of femicide occured between 2005 and November 2011. Of these, 660 were murders committed by men who were not currently in, and had ever been, in a romantic relationship with the victim.
Finally, to conclude with the indifference demonstrated by the proposed penal code to the demands of women’s groups, the retrograde criminalization of abortion remains unchanged. This ignores the sustained demand from women for the elimination of these criminal penalties, based on the reality of thousands of poor Dominican women who risk their health and their lives every year by undergoing unsafe, back-alley abortions. The criminalization of abortion under all circumstances and in all stages of pregnancy constitutes a violation women’s human rights—of their right to life, health, physical integrity, dignity, freedom of conscience and religion, to the free development of their personality, inter alia.
All of these omissions, gaps and distortions add up to the violation of international women’s rights treaties ratified by the Dominican government, as well as the Constitution of the Dominican Republic, which establishes the following: “Domestic violence and violence against women in all of its forms is condemned. The State guarantees by law the adoption of measures necessary to prevent, punish and eradicate violence against women.” This constitutional mandate is clearly being violated by the proposed penal code.
Considering all of the above, we demand the protection of women’s and children’s rights by the Chamber of Deputies through punishment within the criminal code of rape committed against these two groups, in fulfillment of the State’s obligation to guarantee the protection of the rights of all people, including women, who represent half of the population of the Dominican Republic.
Santo Domingo, October 22, 2012