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HONDURAS
Impunity encourages femicides
Jennifer Ávila
3/7/2014
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Number of violent deaths of women continues to increase.

Despite the fact that Honduras is a signatory to two important conventions on women’s rights and has approved laws to protect women, the state is still blind to the reality that kills the women of Honduras, points out Nohemy Dubon, defender of the human rights of women.

In 2013, 635 women between the ages of 20 and 30 years of age suffer a violent death, according to the Violence Observatory of the National Autonomous University of Honduras. In 2012 the Observatory confirmed 606 female violent deaths, of which 52.6 percent, or 319, were femicides.

According to data from the Movement of Women for Peace “Visitación Padilla,” known as Las Chonas, every 12 hours a woman suffers a violent death, and 97 percent of the cases remain unpunished. Las Chonas have registered more than 40 violent deaths of women in the first two months of this year.

Honduras is a signatory to the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women, as well as International Labor Organization agreements such as agreement 100 on equal remuneration, agreement 111 on employment and occupation discrimination, and agreement 156 regarding workers with family responsibilities. Moreover, there are national laws in place such as the law against domestic violence and the equal opportunities for women law.

Despite more than 10 years of struggle to include the crime of femicide in the Honduran legal framework and the fact that the National Congress changed the Penal Code on Feb. 21, 2013 to classify femicide as a crime punishable with 30 to 40 years in prison, feminist movements ensure that this is only a government strategy to say that something is being done, but in reality the situation has not improved.

Extreme violence
“Violence against women is expressed through discrimination and is always accompanied by sexual assault, mutilation, violence is specific in the case of women,” explains Dubon. “Violence against us is extreme, in addition to all the [types of] violence that we women suffer in private and public [life]. […] The extreme is femicides, massacres of women happen and this government gives no response. There is a 97 percent impunity rate, cases are not prosecuted.”

A report published at the end of 2013 by the National Commission on Human Rights (CONADEH), reports that at least 3,616 women lost their lives violently between 2000 and June 2013, and 50 percent of these cases occurred during the mandate of former President Porfirio Lobo (2010-2014).

Domestic violence is, at the national level, the most reported form of violence against women, ensures Maria del Carmen Garcia from the nongovernmental organization Integral Development of Women and Families Unit (UDIMUF). Cases are many, but the justice system does not protect women even when there are laws aimed at reducing this calamity, she points out.

Adalinda Hernández is a Lenca indigenous woman who survived domestic violence and who today, through the Marcala Women’s Network, attempts to end this cycle for many women in her community, located in the western department of La Paz and whose culture is deeply rooted in the patriarchal system.

 “In the Lenca culture we believe that men are the center of everything, that is how I grew up and when I married the first thing I was told is that [he] was the owner of my life and if he had to whip me, well, I had to endure it,” explained Hernández.

Likewise, the Garifuna women of African descent in the Honduran Caribbean ensure that domestic violence is a serious problem in their communities, in addition to other types of violence that affect them. The Hope for the Garifuna Women of Honduras Organization groups women of different communities to work on issues like the seizure of their lands by foreigners, violence due to drug trafficking in that part of the country and the lack of access to healthcare.

Comprehensive Care Model
Violence against women prevails in discriminatory and misogynistic ways of thinking that are present when women or families of the victims demand justice and are again faced with victimization when they are made to tell again and again how they suffered from violence in addition to making them responsible for the aggressor’s violent behavior.

In this context, the work on gender violence prevention that the UDIMUF has been doing for six years in the La Ceiba municipality of the Honduran Caribbean is a model that should be extended to the national level for women’s organizations.

Maria del Carmen García, a UDIMUF lawyer, explains to Latinamerica Press that to ensure access to justice and respect to the victims, in La Ceiba the procedure to report violence against women happens through a joint effort between the Public Ministry, the Health Secretary and the network of women’s organizations.

She added that the Network Against Violence towards Women — made up of civil society organizations, including UDIMUF, the Violence Observatory and church organizations — audits the reports of violence against women and execution of justice to ensure respectful and just trials for women.

 “It is a hand-holding support, demanding, and denouncing strategy on this issue. It has trained and made people more sensitive to the issue in a joint manner and now we also inspect the safe house which depends on the mayor’s office of La Ceiba because we want to have a place to guarantee safety in a criminal process for women,” specificied García.

The Network Against Violence towards Women has made it a goal to nationally replicate the Comprehensive Care Model (MAI), which for now is only in place in La Ceiba. This model combines the Public Ministry, the Health Secretary and the Supreme Court of Justice to carry out trials that do not re-victimize women as occurs currently through the national system.

However, there are many challenges to export this model to the entire country, ranging from arbitrary laws to conflicts between the women’s organizations and public institutions that worsened since the 2009 coup d’état that overthrew former President Manuel Zelaya (2006-2009).

“For example, in Honduras the emergency contraception pill is illegal and thus a comprehensive health and safety protocol has not been established to care for victims of sexual violence, even with La Ceiba’s MAI,” ensured Garcia. “There must be political willpower from the institutions in charge of safety and justice in Honduras. There is now a bill to take this model to the national level. We hope it happens.” —
Latinamerica Press.


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Garifuna women of the Carribean coast of Honduras work to prevent gender violence (Photo: Jennifer Avila)
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