Tag Archive | "domestic violence"

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Jorge Saenz

Comparing the United States to Other O.A.S. Members in Protecting Victims of Domestic Violence

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Jorge Saenz

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Jorge Saenz

In my forthcoming Note, titled Filling the Gap of Domestic Violence Protection: Returning Human Rights to U.S. Victims[1] I argue that “[b]y failing to hold states accountable for enforcing mechanisms of DV protection, the U.S. federal government fails to satisfy its responsibility assumed by the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man (“American Declaration”), thereby violating U.S. citizens’ human rights.” [2]  A topic of discussion in this Note is the United States’ position as a leader on the world stage and a member of the Organization of American States (OAS), an organization of thirty-five member nations [3] that aims to “ ‘strengthen the civic conscience of the American peoples’ for the purpose of the effective exercise of democracy, the observance of the rights of men, and greater integration.”

Expanding from the Note’s focus on how the United States can improve, let us look further into how the United States compares to its OAS compatriots.  In Argentina, 275 women lost their lives this year as a result of gender-based violence. This summer, thousands marched in Buenos Aires in a movement against domestic violence.  Argentina’s population is approximately 44 million, resulting in a rate of 6.25 gender-motivated murders per 1,000,000.  By contrast, “[m]ore than 1,600 women were murdered by men in 2013” in the United States when the population was approximately 318 million, resulting in a rate of 5.03 gender-motivated murders per 1,000,000.

By contrast, domestic violence incidents in Costa Rica were on the rise in 2012, amounting to 222 incidents reported per day. With a population of 4.1 million, that amounts to 55.5 incidents per 1,000,000.  By contrast, in the United States, 20,000 calls are made per day to domestic violence hotlines, [4] amounting to approximately 69 incidents per 1,000,000.

Overall, state sovereignty is a roadblock to national governments that have agreed to work towards international goals but are unwilling to undermine their control over their domain— the United States included. [5]  As I argue in Filling the Gap, domestic violence is a worldwide epidemic that should be curbed, especially by the countries that have agreed to respect human rights by signing the Charter of the OAS.  The United States has an opportunity to set the international tone and heighten protection within its borders.

Melanie graduated Magna Cum Laude from the Florida State University Law Review in May 2016. In law school, she served as an Executive Editor on the Florida State University Law Review and a Governor on the Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division Law Student Division and has several pieces published focusing on constitutional law, specifically individual rights, and family law, specifically child custody and domestic violence. Her long-term career goals include becoming a law professor.


[1] Melanie Kalmanson, Note, Filling the Gap of Domestic Violence Protection: Returning Human Rights to U.S. Victims, 43 Fla. St. U.L. Rev. (forthcoming 2016).

[2] Id. at Introduction.

[3] The members of the OAS are: Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guayana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Kitts & Nevis, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, United States, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

[4] Kalmanson, supra note 1, at Introduction.

[5] See, e.g., http://digitalcommons.wcl.american.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1674&context=auilr, at p.4.


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Women in Italy

Critical Analysis: Italy Responding to Domestic Abuse

Earlier this month Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta announced new harsh measures to respond to the persistent problem of domestic violence.  He calls this problem “femicide” which is the “killing of women because they are women, often at the hands of current or former husbands or boyfriends.”  The new measures, which are effective immediately, set stricter penalties for perpetrators of these types of crimes and expands the protection for women.  Prime Minister Letta said that the 12-point decree was “a sign of radical change on the issue” and he felt it was necessary to send a strong signal of change through the country.

Women in Italy

A rise in acid attacks prompted demonstrations in Italy (Antonio Calanni/AP)

Recently, Italy has been making headlines regarding violence against women, primarily women who are murdered or attacked by current or past significant others.  The United Nations has flagged this as a problem in Italy where gender stereotypes are deeply rooted and a third of all women face sexual or physical abuse in their lifetimes.  Last year, the United Nations special rapporteur on violence against women, Rashida Manjoo, said that Italy’s laws were fragmented, provided inadequate sanctions, lacked aid for victims, and that trials took too long and then failed due to Italy’s statute of limitations.  Manjoo wrote that,  “These factors contribute to the silencing and invisibility surrounding violence against women, its causes and consequences.

Various reports by European agencies and the United Nations underscore the failure of Italy to protect women from their current and past partners.  There are few shelters for battered women to go.  The Council of Europe advises that a country should have one shelter spot for women and children for every 10,000 residents.  By this standard Italy should have 5,700 shelter spots, but it has just 500.  Furthermore, Italian domestic abuse workers say that there is also a shortage in legal, medical, psychological, and financial assistance for battered women attempting to leave abusive relationships.

Earlier this month in Genoa, a man threw acid into the face of a woman.  Investigators suspect it was a crime of passion.  This is the fifth such attack in Italy this year.  In July, a 38 year-old waitress was shot in the chest by her husband when he was in a jealous rage.  In May, a 16-year old girl was stabbed 20 times in the chest by her boyfriend, he then fatally set her on fire.  In Italy between 2000 and 2012, more than 2,200 women have been murdered in similar circumstances.  Statistically, for over a decade a woman has been murdered by her lover every two days.

Prime Minister Letta’s new 12-point decree is a step in the right direction, though it will not help the 81 women killed since the beginning of 2013, 75 percent of which were committed by significant others.  While the new laws will not help these women, hopefully it will protect women going forward and work to uproot the deep seeded gender stereotypes in Italy.

Sarah Emery is a 3L and the Executive Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.



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Asma al-Assad

A Co-Conspirator or a Casualty? A Second Look at Asma, wife of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad

She doesn’t have bruises. She adorns photos and televisions with a near-perfect, pearly-white smile and a haircut fit for a queen. She’s a first lady who’s chic and fashionable. She laughs and jokes with gusto—even stating once that she was the “real” dictator of the family, and not her husband.

But once a friendly face to the West, she’s mostly been in hiding since the start of the Syrian Uprising in March of 2011. Rumor has it that she’s now pregnant with Bashar al-Assad’s fourth child. Media around the world have speculated her silence, questioning why she, a native-born Briton with Syrian roots, continues to stand by a man of sheer tyranny. What’s more, she’s been heavily criticized for her online shopping sprees while EU and other international sanctions prevent her from visiting her favorite boutiques in person. Her brief, public cameo at a charity event supporting children of government soldiers killed in the conflict in March was a source of complete media uproar.

Asma al-Assad

Asma al-Assad: Victim or Villain?

It’s easy to see Asma al-Assad as a self-involved, pretentious woman who cares little for her Syrian people.  To some, she may even be even a co-conspirator in her husband’s criminal enterprise. Many first ladies are often seen this way when their husbands involve themselves in bloody uprisings–a great and recent example being Grace Mugabe, the wife of Robert Mugabe, president of Zimbabwe. And perhaps there is nothing more to Asma than complicity in mass murder. But it is also possible that Asma, as well as other, lesser-known ladies like Ri Sol-ju (wife of Kim Jong-Un), are actually the world’s most transparent, and most tragic, victims of domestic violence.

Domestic violence—also called domestic abuse, battering, or intimate partner violence—occurs between people in an intimate relationship. Domestic violence can take many forms, including emotional, sexual and physical abuse and threats of abuse. And although men are sometimes abused by partners, domestic violence is most often directed toward women. For women of Asma’s caliber, tell-tale signs of domestic abuse between herself and Bashar al-Assad won’t be so easily detectable because of her husband’s sheer level of power. Furthermore, Asma represents a country where a quarter of married women reported experiencing some level of physical abuse by their husbands. She is not only politically isolated, but also culturally and perhaps religiously.

Asma may, in fact, be a purloined letter in the eyes of the media, government officials, and also the average person following the Syrian crisis.

It’s no secret that Bashar is no peacekeeper. He is quite the opposite: United Nations investigations into his involvement in the commissions of crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide are set for referral to the International Criminal Court—so it is not so far-fetched to consider that such a man would also be less-than-kind to his own wife. In this aptly political affair, Asma faces a different level of abuse. Given the notoriety of her husband and the current state of the Syrian government, much of the mental and psychological abuse would stem from fear of being killed should she align herself anywhere but behind her husband. He may not physically abuse her, but less-obvious types of abuse may be occurring behind closed doors and away from the eyes and ears of the media or state governments.

He is most certainly doing one of more of the following, either intentionally or by virtue of his power: monitoring her movements, preventing or discouraging her from seeing friends of family, controlling how she spends money, and instilling a sense of fear or authority over her simply through his prominent and voluntary involvement in the brutal oppression, torture, and killing of Syrian civilians–including children. He may also be doing any or all of the following behind closed doors: unfairly accusing her of being unfaithful, getting angry with her in a way that is frightening to her, threatening to hurt her or the people she cares about, or threatening to harm himself or herself when he is upset. In fact, shortly before the start of the Uprising, Asma admitted to Vogue that her husband never wears his wedding ring.

Asma’s seemingly cheerful and supportive image is not incompatible with signs of a woman in an abusive relationship. She may believe that an abusive relationship with her husband is normal and continue to support him out of denial. Given her unique situation as a first lady, she also may believe she has no outlets or ways to escape without certain death or injury to herself or her children. Asma is also surrounded by a network of family that is heavily entrenched in the political and social underpinnings of Syrian affairs. It is highly likely, if impossible, that she would not receive any sort of physical or moral support from family if she decided to leave Bashar.

It’s also impossible to know if a woman involved in such an intricate political network will ever have a chance to speak candidly about her relationship with her husband.

For now, we may only have e-mail exchanges between Asma and Bashar to understand their relationship—exchanges filled with fleeting bouts of flirtation and electronic laughter. But before the media jumps to conclusions that a first lady like Asma is nothing but the supportive wife of a tyrant, it is important to take a step back and realize that such a woman can also be a victim of the most abusive of partners.

Maha Kamal is a third year law student at the University of Denver and a Staff Editor on the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy. 

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University of Denver Sturm College of Law