23, October, 2013

Building Legal Frameworks to Address Femicide In Latin America

By reforming national penal codes and enacting special laws, Latin American countries are taking first steps towards eradicating femicide in the region.

In the face of increasing cases of femicide, Latin American countries responded by ratifying the first and only regional instrument aimed at eradicating violence against women, the Inter-American Convention to Prevent, Punish and Eradicate Violence Against Women, in 1994. Since then, governments across the region have demonstrated their commitment by pushing throughreforms to national criminal justice systems in an attempt to effectively address this phenomenon. This Brief begins with an overview of the main causes and manifestations of femicide in Latin America, followed by a descriptive analysis of two particular kinds of reform pushed through in recent years. First, the criminalisation of femicide in national penal codes in countries such as Chile, Mexico and Peru, and second, the adoption of special laws in Costa Rica, Guatemala and Mexico. Based on this case study analysis, some initial observations of impacts are presented before a discussion of the contextual factors that have helped drive these changes forward. Finally, some of the strengths and weaknesses of the Latin American models are identified, which provide interesting lessons for  readers other regions of the world.

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Lecciones clave:

  • The criminalisation of femicide in national penal codes and new laws represents an important first step to effectively prosecuting extreme violence against women in Latin America.
  • Special laws can provide an effective framework for tackling femicide by mandating governments to carry out a range of measures aimed at achieving long-term changes to norms and practices that have helped perpetuate and normalise violence against women.
  • Specialist tribunals staffed by judges and other personnel trained in human rights and gender issues provide a successful model for improving access to justice in cases of femicide.

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