Men In Nicaragua Support Anti-GBV Legislation (Law 779)
In June 2012 the National Assembly in Nicaragua passed new legislation on Violence Against Women. Known as Law 779, it has an integral approach that seeks to protect women from men’s violence, guarantee the provision of qualityservices, prevent gender based violence and punish perpetrators. The law typifies “femicide” as a specific crime and prohibits mediation in the case of violent cries committed against women.
In the year that has passed since Law 779 was set in motion, it has been branded as “unconstitutional” by many detractors including ADANIC (the Democratic Association of Lawyers in Nicaragua), that has called on the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) to resolve a series of appeals that have been introduced against Law 779, challenging its constitutionality.
Prominent Evangelical and Catholic religious leaders (men) have described Law 779 as “anti-family” and “anti-men”, exhorting that it is the new law, rather than men’s violence itself, that is responsible for breaking up families. In May 2013, Catholic Bishop Abelardo Mata made statements to the media comparing Law 779 with the Anti-Christ:”...the new number of the beast is not 666, its 779”.
The calls for reforms to Law 779 have been taken up by some members of the CSJ who are proposing allowing mediation in the case of “minor crimes” of violence against women that entail a sentence of less than 5 years imprisonment. Women’s Organizations, however, are vehemently against this or any reform to Law 779, insisting that mediation is a violation of women’s right to protection and access to justice and actually puts women in danger. The Women’s Network Against Violence in Nicaragua reports that 13 femicide victims during 2012 had previously mediated with their killers.
As a contribution to this ongoing debate, the Nicaraguan Masculinities Network for Gender Equality (REDMAS), affiliated to the MenEngage Global Alliance, issued the following statement, to express their solidarity, explain why they support Law 779 and oppose its reform.
YOU, “COMPAÑERAS”, CAN COUNT ON US
Statement made by the Nicaraguan Masculinities Network for Gender Equality (REDMAS), affiliated to the MenEngage Global Alliance, May 2013.
(Translation note: the statement is addressed to “compañeras” which in Spanish is an affectionate term that refers to women in general, but also to close women friends and colleagues. Literally understood as “women who share the same bread” (“companions” in English), the use of “compañeras” conveys a deep respect for equal opportunities and rights).
“In the face of the recent upsurge of male voices against law 779, that both worries and angers us, we want to let you know, compañeras, that you can count on us. As the poet Benedetti says, you can count "not up to one or up to ten"; we are with you.
We are with you because we believe that Law 779 is a fair and necessary response to reality in Nicaragua, in which machismo has produced and continues to produce unacceptable levels of inequality between women and men. The macho model gives men power over women, power that manifests itself in the use of physical, psychological, sexual and patrimonial violence. As a result, women who experience such violence can never achieve the equality that the Nicaraguan Constitution outlines. The correct implementation of Law 779, on the other hand, represents an opportunity and an important step in making equality between women and men a reality.
Law 779 contains a thorough classification of forms of violence (article 8), defining crimes and their respective penalties in a very detailed manner (articles 9-18), and in proportion to the injury caused, which are classified as "minor", "serious" and "very serious". We believe that all crimes of violence against women must be punished in due proportion and should never be arbitrated by a compulsory process of mediation between the victim and the perpetrator.
We are with you because we recognize that violence against women instils terror in many women, who fear for their lives and those of their children. Trapped in positions of subordination, it is hard for them to negotiate agreements, freely and voluntarily, with their aggressors that are mutually convenient. Mediation in cases of violence against women often exposes women to blackmail, intimidation and to more violence, and in some cases to hate crimes in which women are murdered by men. Mediation, therefore, is a mechanism that favours the perpetrators of violence over the victims. It is a resource used by the aggressors’ lawyers to defend the indefensible.
Our support for law 779 is based on the premise that States should promote special protection measures and affirmative action in favour of population groups that historically have experienced systematic violence, marginalization, discrimination and social exclusion. This is established in The Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
Consequently, we believe that the Nicaraguan State, as a matter of urgency, should promote programmes for the prevention, provision of care, punishment and eradication of violence against women (like those proposed in article 22 of Law 779) and should allocate the necessary budget to ensure their implementation. In particular we recommend that these programmes prioritize "the transformation of socio-cultural behavioural models of being women and men, including the formulation of programs and of formal and non formal educational actions at all levels within educational and instructional establishments, in order to prevent, provide care, punish, and eradicate stereotypical behaviour that allows, encourages and tolerates violence against women" (Art. 22 subparagraph (b)).
In conclusion, we support Law 779 because the eradication of violence and discrimination against women is essential to move forward in building a society in which men and women really do have the same rights and opportunities.
We say once again, compañeras, that you can count on us and we take this opportunity to invite other men to add their voices in support of Law 779”.
Men members of the Masculinity Network for Gender Equality,
Nicaragua, May 2013