Tag Archive | "violence against women"

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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And the Indian government is recognizing that indeed it does.

Rape and Murder in India a Wake-Up Call for Reform

It’s ironic that in India – which proudly proclaims a rich, ancient heritage and where the very symbol for strength and power in ancient scriptures is female (Shakti) – women today are struggling for a safe and dignified environment.

I was visiting India when a 23-year-old physiotherapy student, a victim of a brutal sexual assault in New Delhi in mid-December, was clinging to life in a hospital. She had been raped and severely beaten aboard a moving bus and eventually thrown out of the bus to die. Two weeks later, she succumbed to her internal injuries.

Police arrested five men accused of this heinous crime. They face rape, kidnapping and murder charges.

And the Indian government is recognizing that indeed it does. (Dawn)

And the Indian government is recognizing that indeed it does.

Typically in India, sexual crimes receive only cursory attention. They therefore go unreported and trials drag on forever. But this time there was extensive media coverage and unprecedented outrage all over the country. It seemed like a wake-up call, which led to peaceful demonstrations, especially by young people demanding an expedited trial, reform of outdated criminal laws, and effective implementation and enforcement of existing laws.

I was taken aback by the government’s initial response: Police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowds, primarily college students. Law enforcement authorities barricaded roads and imposed emergency measures to crush the largely peaceful protests.

I was equally struck by the intensity of anger and resolve among my relatives and friends. My nephew and niece in New Delhi and their families were out on the streets with the protesters, a first-ever for them. New Year’s Eve, usually marked with joyous festivities, was a sober candlelight vigil, where several thousands gathered to remember and honor the victim. A similar scenario was witnessed all over India.

Day after day, the protests continued. Political leaders, who typically lead demonstrations and protests in India, were conspicuous in their absence. People were so angry at the politicians for their lack of sensitivity that when the chief minister of Delhi eventually showed up at a gathering after a few days, she was shouted down and had to leave. Public pressure mounted, forcing the government to act. The Home Ministry appointed a three-member commission, chaired by a former chief justice of the Supreme Court of India. The commission received more than 8o,000 suggestions for reforms to the criminal justice system.

The commission called for strict enforcement of sexual assault laws and tougher jail terms for offenders. It urged the legislature to amend the country’s antiquated criminal code and recommended specific changes, including requiring police officers to register every case of·precluding people charged with criminal offenses from holding political office. To expedite these and future sex-offense trials, the government has established special “fast-track” courts.

Mahalakshmi Mahalingam, a social worker who formerly managed a 24-hour rape crisis hot line for the Rape Assistance and Awareness Program in Denver, lamented that “in India, victim blaming is the norm. The current situation bears testimony to how bitter and enraged women are about sexual abuse, coercion and rape.”

The night before India’s Republic Day, which celebrates the enactment of its constitution, President Pranab Mukherjee described the Delhi attack as a “grave tragedy that has shattered complacency.” He called for the nation “to reset its moral compass.”

Eve Ensler, founder of the One Billion Rising campaign, which addresses violence against women, said at a press conference in Delhi, “With the discussion on sexual violence, the window to women’s equality is open wider here than I’ve ever seen.” I hope she’s right.

Ved P. Nanda is Thompson G. Marsh Professor of Law and director of the International Law Program at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.

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University of Denver Sturm College of Law