Costa Rica has work to do on prosecuting ‘femicide’

July 13, 2012

From the print edition

“Femicide” is a term for the murder of women because of their gender. As of June, seven cases of femicide have been reported in Costa Rica. In 2011, 11 cases were reported. Experts say these numbers are likely widely underreported.

To better understand the crime, some 40 members of women’s rights organizations and the press attended “Femicide in Numbers,” an event organized by the National Institute for Women (INAMU). 

“The reality of the issue is that femicide occurs because of problems in the home, the community and the culture,” said Maureen Clarke, president of INAMU.

Currently Costa Rican sentencing laws call for up to 35 years in prison for the death of a woman at the hands of a spouse.

The Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women took place in Belém do Pará, Brazil, in 1994. Ibelís Fuentes, coordinator of an INAMU commission on femicide, said the country’s definition and punishment of femicide is not as far-reaching as called for by the Inter-American Convention. This convention extended the definition of femicide to physical, sexual and psychological violence against women.

Franklin Gonzáles, the judicial system’s chief statistician, described the primary triggers of femicide to be jealousy, the ending of a relationship, other relationships or legal complaints.

In Costa Rica, the majority of femicides are committed by clients of the sex trade against sex workers, followed by sexual assault and spousal abuse. Most homicides committed against women occur in San José.

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