ALTERNATIVE REPORT OF THE LIST OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS FORMULATED BY THE CEDAW COMMITTEE, PRETAINING TO THE 7TH AND 8TH COMBINED PERIODIC REPORTS OF THE BOLIVARIAN REPUBLIC OF VENEZUELA (CEDAW/C/VEN/7-8)
The Venezuelan Observatory for Women´s Human Rights (VOWHR), made up of 39 Non-Governmental Women´s Organizations, presents this Report with our alternative vision of the “LIST OF ISSUES AND QUESTIONS FORMULATED BY THE CEDAW COMMITTEE PERTAINING TO THE SEVENTH AND EIGHTH PERIODIC REPORTS COMBINED OF THE BOLIVARIAN REPUBLIC OF VENEZUELA”. Since its creation, the VOWHR has worked with intensity in the monitoring, analysis, awareness, denunciation, provision of recommendations, production of documentaries, diffusion of information and provision of instruction in all things relating to the Human Rights situation of women in Venezuela, keeping as a permanent point of reference the CEDAW Convention.
I LEGISLATIVE AND INSTITUTIONAL FRAMEWORK
THE ORGANIC LAW FOR WOMEN´S RIGHTS FOR EQUITY AND GENDER EQUALITY PROJECT
THE ORGANIC LAW FOR WOMEN´S RIGHTS FOR EQUITY AND GENDER EQUALITY PROJECT
The discussion of the Organic Law for Women´s Rights for Equity and Gender Equality project has been paralyzed since 2008, when it was approved in the first debate. This project in its initial phases was presented to autonomous women´s NGOS. The Observatory raised its observations which were not taken into account and there were no new summons.
THE PENAL CODE
A draft for the integral reform of the Penal Code was presented but it has not been debated for more than fifteen years. Other reforms have been partial. The Code maintains its openly discriminatory character especially on sexual crimes. Women´s NGOS have presented various urgent reform projects which have not been taken into account, referring to those still in force “Crimes or felonies against good usage and good order of families”; Of the crime or felony of Seduction, of that of Prostitution or Corruption of Minors and of Sexual Offenses”. Eliminate the crime or felony of seduction with the promise of marriage and the reduction of the penalty for the crime of rape, if the accused alleges that “the woman is not known to be honest”, eliminate the reduction of the sentence for various felonies in the case that the victim be a prostitute; eliminate the exemption of
the penalty in the case of rape if the accused marries the victim, just are some examples of the old Penal Code which damages the Human Rights of women and underestimates the impact of these facts in the dignity and physical and psychological integrity of the victims. There are expressions such as “marital power” and differentiated penalties for adultery by men and women.
PLEASE INDICATE IF THE PLAN OF EQUALITY OF WOMEN WHICH COVERS THE LAPSE 2009-20 HAS BEEN SUPERVISED AND EVALUATED AND RESULTS OBTAINED.
The National Women´s Institute designed the following instruments: “A National Plan of Equal Opportunities for Women” with general policy lines in 2006. A Plan of “Prevention and Attention of Violence against Women” (2004 to 2008), no results are known. Statistics are a State secret. There is no way to have access to them or to the organs which are receptors of denunciations or complaints before the Public Attorneys or in any other State organism. The Violence protocols for victims are not put into practice in the emergencies of health centers or in the receptors of denunciations or complaints. There was a Plan to Strengthen the Sociopolitical Participation of Women” focused on the promotion of the organization and participation of women in all areas of national activities, forming them and training then. Likewise, nothing is known about its execution or implementation.
These plans without strategic vision in mind were voluntary designs, normative, with grave technical and methodological defects. It has not been possible to obtain information about their application since the web page of the present Ministry or of the previous Institute, have said anything in this respect, and there are no known statistical sources about the pertinent achievements. On the other hand, the annual Reports of Management annually presented by INAMUJER (National Institute of Women), do not inform about the plan or of its achievements. They limit themselves to enumerate the activities of distribution of goods and subsidies and the number of beneficiaries. These Reports do not reflect the proposals contemplated in the plans.
During the months of August and September of 2013, the “Patriotic Women´s Council”, as part of the Great Patriotic Pole, headed by President Hugo Chavez himself, as part of the electoral campaign, and as a follow up to the lines contained in the “”Plan for the Fatherland”, proposed by the Government for the present term, presented a Plan for women under the theme “Making Motherland in the Plan for the Fatherland” for the term 2013-2019. This document drafted on the basis of the five “great Historic Objectives” of the Plan for the Fatherland, added in each of them the “Contributions of Women to the Fatherland.
It was a document clearly establishing norms and doctrine, and disperse in its adherence to the Plan for the Fatherland. It seems to have disappeared after the death of Chavez
The current Ministry of Women and Gender Equality presented to the new President of the Republic "Mama Rosa Equality Plan". This plan was named so "in honor of the late President Hugo Chavez ´s grandmother." Only the organizations loyal to the government were invited to design this plan. Its contents are equally normative indications and lack the financial, political and administrative feasibility that any plan requires, in addition to the remarkable technical and methodological deficiencies of the procedures of the previous ones. There is no way to know what the government is doing or if he is fulfilling the plan.
THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON GENDER STATISTICS:
Four years ago the National Statistics Institute created a subcommittee responsible for the design of gender-sensitive statistics and a work group responsible for the design of a protocol for collecting information on violence against women. The first sex-disaggregated statistics appeared in 2012 in demographic aspects and in the main indicators of labor activity. The collection on statistical information on violence against women has not been done.
In the Index of UNDP Gender Inequality, in 2012 Venezuela obtained a value of 0.466, which places it in the position 93 of the 148 countries participating in this particular measurement, reporting a fall in relation to 2011, when Venezuela had a value of 0.447.
II ACCESS TO JUSTICE
Venezuelan women lack the basic resources that guarantee access to justice. There are no sufficient, efficient and non-discriminatory judicial instances and resources to attend the needs of investigating, punishing and redressing the facts and preventing impunity that prevails. The lack of attention goes from the disappearance of the Commission about Women´s Issues in the National Assembly; the serious failure in the following up of the preparation of receptors of denunciations; deficient budget assigned to the plans; exclusion of independent NGOs whose funds were "kidnapped" for this fight and the absence of regional community and institutional support to address the situation. The lack of continuity in the training of officials is serious as is the creation of new legal entities without accessible information on the results of their performance (Network for Training of Public Prosecutors, Justice Network Women of the Judiciary).
THE NATIONAL COMMISSION FOR GENDER JUSTICE has not designed or dictated judicial policies, with the purpose to optimize gender justice system adapted to the needs and social reality of the country. The Commission, in the four years after its creation, carried out three workshops and a discussion with the judicial system operators, but no specific measures are known to improve the functioning of the administration of justice and the effective implementation of the law.
The operation of the courts in general and even more on women´s human rights is increasingly poor, with lengthy litigation, undue delays and re-victimization. The OVDHM confirms that only a small percentage of cases of violence against women, reported in the Public Ministry, reach the tribunals, and of them only a minority get legal sanction. According to the information processed by the OVDHM: operators in the justice system, specialized judges and prosecutors, are not adequately trained to interpret the law about violence against women which has caused deferrals, unjustified dismissal of the charges and loss of judicial files. Victims are requested to present mandatory psychological, psychiatric and social reports on their personal status, to continue the legal process and, in some cases, to adopt the measures of protection and security, even when services for these evaluations are very scarce. Access to free legal aid for poor women is insufficient.
Complaints on Violations of Women's rights received by the Public Ministry.
In Venezuela there is no information that you can access about details and data on complaints of violence against women. In addition to the lack of data there are obstacles to those who request them. The Commission for Gender Justice has not developed policies on how to gather information, and ensure that it is achieved consistently and with appropriate frequency and disseminated effectively and promptly. In figures compiled by our Observatory, only a third of cases filed in court for violence against women have had a judgment. In 2010, only 4,484 women called a helpline to report they were victims of abuse. In 2012, in 35 Courts of Violence against Women, 5,018 complaints were received and only 50% reached conclusions. The figures indicate that every 15 minutes a woman is abused by her partner or former partner. The figures indicate that only one case out of nine (1-9) was denounced as disinformation exists regarding women rights and alternatives and ways to exercise them. In the first 6 months of 2013 the public prosecutor recorded 30,130 cases of violence against women, of which 10,352 are physical attacks; most are not prosecuted for lack of evidence. The 108 specialized prosecutors of the country report (2013) 61,377 cases, 1278 weekly. Most of the reported attacks come from partners or former partners, no complaints of communities or individuals. Domestic violence remains a private matter so that women suffer two more forms of violence: the financial and psychological, because the man, to whom the Organic Law of Protection of children and Adolescents (LOPNA,) recognizes all parental rights, even if he is the abuser, receives legal support to continue the relationship despite precautionary measures.
NATIONAL MACHINERY FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF WOMEN
Since the foundation of the Women´s National Institute (2000) the country has not had a public policy of equality, sufficient and updated, not as policy of the State, nor as government policy. The Equal Opportunities Law defined obligations for the State and was passed in 1997 but has never been implemented.
The Popular Power Ministry for Women and Gender Equality , has been the result of the merger of three institutions of various kinds: the National Institute for Women, INAMUJER, Bank for Development of Women, (credit bank) and the Mission Madres del Barrio (Neighborhood Mothers). The General Accounting Office in its annual reports indicates that the Bank gave permanent losses by non-payment of loans which are accessed through the Mission Madres del Barrio or so-called “Meeting Points”, which is a network of micro organizations up to 12 women from low income strata, who are chosen for their ideological commitment to the project of the " XXI Century´s Socialism " or to the ruling party, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela.
There is not a responsible management but unsystematic, partial and inorganic initiatives, the result of episodic and transient expressions, sometimes not from the responsible institute, INAMUJER, but officials that eventually decide so, as happened when President Chavez announced decisions while he ran his Sunday television program or any official that acts and sometimes disappears for lack of presidential support. The same continues with the current President.
The predominance of a woman and maternal approach of the scarce own programs is maintained. INAMUJER articulated the "Missions" or autonomous self-funded programs, even though they have their own management and budget, created for women by the late president, such as "Neighborhood Mothers" and the Missions on the subject of education and health for all the population- The Neighborhood Mothers´ Mission was created to combat women's poverty, with a financial assignation equivalent to 60 to 80% of the minimum wage, "to promote their access to productive work." This contribution, which is discretionary, has been politically manipulated and the truth is that it devalues the meaning of the work of housewives living in extreme poverty by making them dependent on a government handout. It is important to point out that the Ministry and INAMUJER maintain the almost total exclusion of independent or autonomous experts, individualities or NGOS, to participate in the definition of plans or actions that may affect women.
The decentralization of institutional actions is given in very few cases and there are no accessible reports or accountability so that there is no reliable or accessible indication of mainstreaming initiatives of equality in the official actions.
There is no accessible information about the actions of the organism. Eventually, in the web page of the National Institute of Woman appeared some news about events in which the Ombudsman participates..
There are no campaigns in public or private mass media to confront patriarchal stereotypes, stimulating changes to gender equality values, not in advertising media and television programming. Sexism in the media and advertising is not monitored or sanctioned, not even in the official mass media itself. The Government only makes formal and partial use of non-sexist language. The speech of figures both from the Government as from the supporting United Socialist Party (PSUV) routinely employs sexist verbal abuse a gender discrimination towards female figures of the opposition even in grotesque terms.
There is a growing process of gender violence by police officers, such as has happened in civil protests, with high communicational impact, where young women were murdered by the repressive forces of the State: the Bolivarian National Police and the Bolivarian National Guard. As Geraldine Moreno killed by pellets shot point blank in the face or Genesis Carmona killed by a shot to the head with 9mm bullet (banned in demonstrations), by paramilitary groups supported by the Governor of Carabobo State. These events are photographically documented by people present in the protest march and put on social networks the same day.
VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
In Venezuela currently the rights enshrined in the CEDAW and the Constitution, are dead letters, a simple target of advertising and rhetorical manipulation of official discourse. There have been adopted two laws on violence and it is legally recognized as a public crime, a matter of human rights, public health and education, but there is no concrete action plan to end it.
The public prosecutors and other receiving institutes have not been sensitized, do not know the law or refuse to apply it. Lacks in the law or certain demands that it includes, retard the process and application of protective measures that should be taken immediately at the filing of the complaint. Because of excessive delay in the process, audiences are postponed for different reasons (lack of attendance of the prosecutor or of the alleged perpetrator), leading to the dismissal of proceedings and a high level of impunity for crimes of violence against women.
The Prosecution requested in 2013 that femicide must be tried in courts specialized in violence against women and punished with 15 to 30 years in prison. The change was approved by the National Assembly in August 14, 2014 and incorporated to the law about the right of women to a life free of violence
ROOT CAUSES AND PREVALENCE OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN.
Difficulties in implementing the Organic Law on Women’s Right to a Life Free of Violence (LOMVLV) range from the disappearance of the Sub-Committee on Women in the National Assembly to the existence of serious shortcomings in the preparation of the recipients of the complaints, in the allocated budgets and in the tracking and monitoring of complaints; also have been excluded from this struggle, independent NGOS whose funds were "kidnapped" and there is no regional community and institutional support to address the problem. We must emphasize the lack of continuity in the training of officials, in the creation of new legal remedies without following up and evaluating the results (Network for Training of Public Prosecutors, Justice Network for Women of the Judiciary).
The Equality and Gender Equity Plan "Mama Rosa" does not incorporate the judicial institutions (Courts, Public Prosecution and Police, among others), inter institutional relations, visible monitoring, accountability to the community or data collection and publication. The Report of the National Institute for Women refers to the historical memory of our heroes of the independence.
Some data from the web, research institutes and regional studies report that women complain when the situation becomes unbearable. In 2012, in 35 Courts of Violence against Women, 5.018 complaints were received and only 50% came to conclusions. As pointed out by the Public Prosecutor in her Annual Report for 2013, there were a total of 71.812 cases filed, 8083 complaints in the courts, 2.333 in her office, 517 lawsuits, representing 0.33% of the overall sample of admissions to the Attorney and 454 arrest warrants.
COFAVIC, Venezuelan human rights NGO, reported the gender homicides in 18 states to the Inter American Human Rights Commission (2013). It included 452 deaths caused by generalized violence and gender violence, specifically between January and October 2013(65% caused by firearms and 15% by bladed weapons), 4 out of 10 in the streets and 3 inside the houses.
There is not an inclusive National Plan for this problem. The regulation for the Organic Law for the Right of Women to a Life Free of Violence has not been dictated, there is not a national record of data and the results of the application of Official Rule for the Integral Attention of Reproductive and Sexual Health, which includes Violence against women, are not known. There are not spaces of dialogue that include autonomous NGOS, no official data about the dimensions of the problem. It is necessary to investigate through criminal news or to get information from some specialized NGOS.
The law specifies the creation of at least one women´s refuge for each state. There are only three functioning which are: House of Maracay of the Ministry of Women, another of FUNDANA in Caracas and the last one created by the Government of Miranda State ruled by IREMUJERES
VI TRAFFICKING IN WOMEN AND EXPLOITATION OF PROSTITUTION
There is not any reliable or comprehensive knowledge about prostitution in Venezuela, no program of systematic attention. Since 2006 when the CEDAW Committee exhorted Venezuelan Government to answer the situation of prostitution and trafficking, the National NGO “Asociación de Mujeres por el Bienestar y Asistencia Recíproca , AMBAR, has designed several investigations about prostitution and sexual exploitation of women, girls and adolescents in border zones, mining zones and oil camps and has presented them to the Government: Ministry for Women and the National Institute. No one has answered the proposals or worked on the problem.
The Ministry of Health maintains the “pink carnet” for the sexual workers even though it has no clear purpose and it is discriminatory. AMBAR has asked for its elimination for the control of prostitutes since 1995. Most people dedicated to prostitution are young women, and the ones soliciting are men.
The Direction for the Prevention of Crime of the Ministry of Interior, Politics and Justice, designed a National Plan of Action to Prevent, Repress and Sanction Trafficking of Persons, and proposed it as a law to National Assembly in 2007. The plan was considered a political theme and has not been studied. However, the Centre of Criminal and Penal Investigations created an office for trafficking of persons and the Public Ministry designated some prosecutors with national competence for the issue. These offices in charge offered no statistics or information about what they do and there is not a web page to follow up their actions. Venezuela does not have prevention campaigns and attention to the victims of trafficking. The Venezuelan Government has not developed any known initiative to discourage the demand for prostitution as was recommended by the Committee in 2006. No preventive action has been done and those dedicated to prostitution advertise without limitations in the mass media
VII PARTICIPATION IN POLITICAL AND PUBLIC LIFE
Even though the women´s ONGS fought for the incorporation of the principle of parity it was not included by The National Electoral Council and the National Assembly in the Organic Law for Electoral Processes(September, 2010). This attitude remained when we demanded the inclusion of parity in the regulation Number One to the Law, and the Council included article 45 which asks for mechanisms to procure an alternative participation of 50% for each sex with no obligation or explicit sanction for violations. The results are: 16% of women in the Parliament, under the average of Latin America and the Caribbean of 24.5% and the world of 20%. There are no positive measures to ensure an egalitarian representation in the judicial and executive branches of the government. According to the Gender Social Gap 2012 the index of empowerment for women is of 28, which supposed a wide gap of 72 for political participation and of 65 for economic equity.
The Physics, Mathematics and Natural Sciences Academy reported in its bulletin (June, 2014) that only 10% of teachers are qualified in sciences, so that a great proportion of students finished primary and secondary levels without scientific education. To achieve a high level of continuation, The Ministry of Education ruled that if there is no final grade in any subject the student is promoted to the next course with the average of the other subjects. Venezuela does not participate in any of the international test of proficiency. The Government gave computers to students of primary and secondary level but there is a very wide gap in scientific training and a lot of political indoctrination.
The Bolivarian Curriculum included some issues about sexual education with a biological tendency. The strategy is to include the issues in the “Bolivarian Collection” which is the only obligatory text for the students. The government considers that the gender perspective is accomplished because everywhere there are specifications about the feminine and masculine article, meanwhile the proposal of equality in rights, opportunities and responsibilities for men and women are wrongly or not applied. Even though, Sexual and Reproductive Human Rights are named in the Constitution, there is no reference to them in the texts; Violence against Women is considered a women´s problem, and negative stereotypes about women´s and men´s roles in society are maintained. The approach to teen-agers´ pregnancy, HIV-AIDS and ITS does not relate with their sexual, emotional and psychological development.
The lack of teachers´ training makes difficult the presentation of sexual issues in the school. The works assigned as home work are not corrected or discussed in the classes and the mistakes remain in the young population.
There is no specific measure to reduce the gap in remuneration between men and women. The tendency to a wider gap when there is less schooling is maintained: 21% for 0 to 5 years, 20% for 6 to 9 years, 12, 2% for 10 to 12 years, 11% for 13 years or more (ECLAC, 2011), 4% of the population who work in the informal sector went to the Venezuelan Social Security Institute to enroll in 2013, according to the Memory of the Ministry of Labor. There is no discriminate data about how many are men or women. Housewives as such are not registered in the Social Security System. There are no measures to repress or stop sexual harassment in the work place, different from the ones of the law about the right of woman to a life free of violence which forbids sexual harassment in the work place.
The official data reported a maternal mortality rate of 54, 92/100.000 in 2010 with a significant increase to 72, 18/100.000 in 2012.However, UNICEF reported a maternal mortality rate of 92/100.000 for Venezuela in the year of 2010. The contribution of adolescents (10 to 19 years) to MM is estimated at 17%. There are 8 million adolescents in Venezuela and around 40% live in poverty.
The Government, advised by the United Nations System, designed a new policy which included buying birth conceptive methods in 2013. However, the instability in supplying the material through the public primary health net persists. It is difficult to get them individually because of the increase of prices and scarcity in the pharmacies. There is a wide gap between the desired and not desired or not planned motherhood, which is dangerous for a young and every year poorer population.
The government initiatives do not control the 3 delays which go with maternal deaths: lack of recognition of the signs of alarm for complications in the childbirth, difficulties to transport the pregnant women and shortcomings in the public health services. If there is such a big rate of maternal deaths with a 90% of institutionalized childbirths, the quality of the service is responsible.
The Official Rule for integral attention of sexual and reproductive health was actualized in 2013, the same year they prepared a protocol for the attention of adolescents. We do not know how it was distributed and used in the health services. The results have not change and Venezuela has the highest rate in adolescent childbirth in the region: 91, 1/ 1.000rba, representing the 23% of registered born alive in the country. However, international institutions like “Latin American Women Health Centre ” and “Ibero American Youth Organization” reports an index of 27% and 30%.La Maternity Concepcion Palacios, in Caracas, reports an average of 150.000 childbirths of mothers under 19 years and 15000 under 15 years every year. This situation is more frequent in adolescents of minor resources where the maternity means more poverty and giving up the school.
The Government created a program named “Sons of Venezuela” to support mothers under 18 years giving them 300 bolívares, our national currency, to “defeat the poverty accumulated historically …on the way to Bolivarian Socialism”. It has no educational or training obligation as counterpart and it might encourage the behavior
There are more than six million adolescents and 1/3 is in poverty. The Youth Study 2013 of the Catholic Andres Bello University reports a total of 1.667.470 young women and men that do not study or work, of them 71% are women.
Abortion is illegal and women with few economical resources make use of clandestine practices risking their lives. It is highly understated and there is not reliable and accessible data.
Women who need the post abortion health services are victims of the bad quality of the structures, lack of medical inputs and health personnel in public health. The deliberations about abortion are paralyzed and there are legal measures to punish women who abort.
Venezuela does not present its national report about AIDS since 2011. Fifty NGOS subscribed in August,2013 a document to alert the Ministry of Health about the 1.600 deaths from AIDS and the 11.000 new infections, most of them young men and women between 15 and 24 years. They insisted in the lack of preventive campaigns, no distribution of preservatives and the shortcomings of retroviral medicines since 2005. In December, 2013 the NGO “Citizen´s Action against AIDS” denounced that in 15 states of the country the baby milk is going out of supply. This milk must be given to childbirth mothers with HIV. Since June, 2014 the childbirth mothers lack the medicines to avoid the transmission of the virus to their babies. Zidovudine, in syrup for the babies, intravenous therapy and oral doses are not found. This medicine must be given three times so that the last trimester is the most important and the risk for the babies to be infected is bigger.
Delivery of retroviral medicines through the National Health System and the Social Security is intermittent and impact negatively the health of those infected. The population infected and the organizations that work for them have made frequent protests.
XI WOMEN DEPRIVED OF LIBERTY
Women deprived of liberty are secluded in 1 female prison and 15 annexes and there is no guaranty that their human rights are respected. There are violations of human rights inside the institutions and no accurate investigations are done. Very often the victims are not transported to the judges to declare about the violations committed and denounced in prison. There are no forensic exams to the victims and the violators are not imputed.
In July/15/2007, more than 50 drugged and armed men with guns of the adjacent prison kidnapped and raped the 48 women secluded in the annex in the city of Coro, Falcon State. The authorities ran away and left with no protection the 48 women. Afterwards, instead of a transparent investigation, the victims were threatened to keep them silent, one got pregnant, and two were infected with HIV/AIDS. In March, 2008 The NGO “ Venezuelan Women´s Federation of Lawyers” denounced this rape and total impunity to the Inter American Human Rights Commission in the OAS. Another emblematic symbol of the corruption and lack of guaranty for the human rights of prisoners is Judge Maria de Lourdes Afiuni who was sent to prison by the President Chávez because she ruled according to the law and her independent decision did not please him in December, 2009. She was physically hurt, raped in prison and aborted as a consequence. As a result of international pressure she was sent to house arrest and even now she has not recovered her human rights.