Violence Against Women: When Will Nicaragua Wake Up?October 11, 2013
By Liza Konczal, Amnesty USA’s Nicaragua Country Specialist
Less than 2 years after passing a law against violence against women (Law 779), the National Assembly of Nicaragua has weakened the protection it offers.
Near the end of September 2013, the Assembly voted to retract a part of the law that bans mediation in abuse cases. Women’s organizations in Nicaragua had worked arduously to reject mediation in the law, because the result could be re-victimization. Survivors of domestic abuse require protection of the law, not a chance to ‘work it out’ with their abusers.
There are so many cases where mediation is useful and necessary in resolving issues between parties. But when one of those parties has threatened the life of another, the protection of the law must be firmly in place.
[pullquote text=”Survivors of domestic abuse require protection of the law, not a chance to ‘work it out’ with their abusers.”]The swift revocation of this protection is testimony to the vulnerability of women’s rights in Nicaragua. The weakening of Law 779 was made with little opposition in the Assembly (a final vote of 83 in favor, only 4 opposed) and with no input from women’s rights organizations. That means other sections of this act could be just as vulnerable: a daunting thought in a nation where violence, rape and sexual abuse are widespread. Amnesty International reported that between 1998 and 2008, police recorded 14,377 cases of rape. More than two thirds of these (9,695 cases) involved girls under the age of 17.
Law 779 showed how the efforts of brave citizens could affect positive change in Nicaragua. It passed in 2012 despite powerful opposition. Referring to the law, human rights activist Bianca Jagger had asserted, “For the first time ever, violence against women is recognized in the exercise of public function.”
The enactment of the law represented a significant advancement in human rights in Nicaragua. The weakening of this law is alarming.