El Salvador has this week created a special court in which to try violent crimes committed against women.
In a bid to crackdown on widespread violence against women, the Salvadoran Congress approved the creation of the Jurisdiction and Specialized Courts for a Life Free of Violence and Discrimination on Monday (February 22).
According to a press statement made by the country’s Legislative Assembly, Karla Hernandez, lawmaker and president of the Committee on Women and Gender Equality, said: “With this approval, a debt is being paid to Salvadoran women and many of them may now get a fair trial.”
Violence on the up
Femicide – a term used to describe the killing of women because they are women – and other violent crimes committed against women are an enduring problem in the region. Last year, as reported by Latin Correspondent, the Economic Commission of Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) warned of high femicide rates in Latin America and the Caribbean, including in El Salvador.
Amnesty International’s 2015/2016 Annual Report for El Salvador says that according to data obtained by the Salvadoran Women’s Organization for Peace and official records, between January and October 2015, 475 women were murdered. This marked an increase from 2014, when 294 women were murdered during the same time period.
A 2011 United Nations report underscores the small Central American nation’s ongoing failure “to investigate, prosecute and punish those responsible for gender-based violence” which it says has “contributed to an environment of impunity that resulted in little confidence in the justice system; impunity for crimes, socioeconomic disparities and the machista culture fostered a generalized state of violence, subjecting women to a continuum of multiple violent acts, including murder, rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment and commercial sexual exploitation”
To address the issue of impunity, the Special and Comprehensive Law for a Life Free from Violence for Women (Ley Especial Integral para una Vida Libre de Violencia para las Mujeres) was passed in 2010, approved in the same year and entered into force in 2012. The law criminalizes femicide, and El Salvador is one of several countries in the region to have adopted legislation aimed at tackling violence against women.
It is believed that the new measures announced this week– which involve establishing specialized magistrate, trial and sentencing courts across the country – will strengthen prosecution by providing judges and lawyers who have been specially trained in cases involving violence against women.
Cristina Cornejo, a member of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front party (Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional, FMLN), said: “We are fulfilling our commitment to these women, especially those who have had their rights violated, and we are honoring international conventions that require us to have specialized measures to treat, prevent, and above all, punish violence committed against women in the El Salvador”.
The operation of the new courts is expected to begin this year on June 1 in the department of San Salvador, and on June 1, 2017, in the rest of the country.