San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Citizens March Against Violence Toward Women

AN estimated 500 josefinos and membersof organizations from around thecountry marched though San José yesterdayto celebrate the lives of women andcommemorate National and InternationalDay Against Violence Toward Women.The activity began in La Merced Parkand ended in a vigil in front of theLegislative Assembly, where the musicalgroup Cantoamérica performed and femaleartisans displayed their arts and crafts.Gabriela Zuñiga, legal counsel for theFeminist Center for Action and Information,CEFEMINA, a 16-year-old non-profit organizationthat provides legal information andsupport for women, said organizers wantedthe day to be a happy one, highlighting thevalue of women’s lives.“MEN still have power over us andthere is inequality, so this day is aboutregaining hope,” she said.The atmosphere appeared relaxed and asprinkling of rain didn’t dampen participants’spirits. A brass band played and thecrowd advanced waving handwritten signsand colorful banners. One group of womenmade a quilt in a show of solidarity.“We sewed a broken heart and acrushed flower to represent abusedwomen, then sewed images of them mendedto represent women mended throughlove and courage,” said Edith Romero, oneof the quilt makers.WOMEN suffer violence, rape andmany forms of mental and physical abuseon a daily basis, organizers emphasizedduring the event.Since January of this year, 18 womenhave died at the hands of a partner, ex-partneror family member. So far this year, theWomen’s Delegation, a crisis center, hascome to the aid of more than 5,000 womenin reports of domestic violence. Last yearthe group assisted a total of 6,021 women.ON Monday, legislators voted to againallow the “Penalization of Violence againstWomen” law into the first round of congressionaldebate – for the fourth time.The proposed law has already been tothe first round of congressional debatethree times, but on each occasion it wasrejected after consultation with theConstitutional Chamber of the SupremeCourt (Sala IV).Legislator Gloria Valerín, of the SocialChristian Unity Party (PUSC), CEFEMINA,and the National Women’s Institute(INAMU) have lobbied for the passage ofthis law since 1999 (TT, Nov. 28, 2003).Since then, 122 women have died indomestic violence-related incidents here.WOMEN’S organizations agree thatpassing this law is imperative to offerabused women in Costa Rica the protectionthey need. Zuñiga says the law would bethe first of its kind in the world.As well as helping better protectwomen against domestic violence, the proposedlaw says a person convicted of thecrime of “femicide” would face a sentenceof 20-35 years, rather than the 12-18 yearscurrently applied to homicide convictions.The most vocal opponents of the laware the legislators of the LibertarianMovement, who say it is biased towardwomen over age 18, and excludes men,children and senior citizens.Carlos Herrera, of the LibertarianMovement, said the legislation is not necessarybecause it does not resolve anyproblems current laws do not alreadycover.A study conducted by the University ofCosta Rica (UCR) in July and August2003, determined that violence againstwomen is one of the country’s most severeand widespread social problems. It concludedthat 58% of women over age 16have suffered at least one episode of physicalor sexual abuse in their lifetime.This is the fourth year the marchprotesting violence against women hasbeen held here.The date of Nov. 25 was chosen asInternational Day Against ViolenceToward Women to honor the memories ofthe sisters Minerva, Patria and MariaTeresa Maribel, rights activists from theDominican Republic who were murderedNov. 25, 1960, under the Rafael Trujillodictatorship.

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