Colombia’s Senate approved on Tuesday a law that obliges authorities to investigate reports of domestic violence and alimony evasion.
Under the new legislation, anyone who witnesses domestic abuse may file a case, allowing authorities to act independently of the victim, which Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos says will not only increase the amount of reported incidences, but also police response.
The previous law provided for authorities to act on a reported case only if the victim filed an official complaint. One of the biggest problems with combating domestic violence “is the lack of [cases filed] because of fear or other reasons. But the new law will help to effectively denounce [such cases],” said Santos in a press release.
According to Human Rights Watch’s Women’s Rights Division, 80% of women are reluctant to report crimes committed against them because of the high rate of impunity for perpetrators of violence.
With the new law, once a party has filed a domestic violence report he or she will not be able to withdraw it or reconcile the case outside of the law, hopefully leading to decreased impunity rates and detering violent family members, according to Santos.
“There is a stricter law now so the person who maltreats his family should think twice,” the president said.
Domestic violence has been and continues to be a major problem in Colombia. A 2010 report by the country’s National Legal Medicine Institute found a woman was killed by her partner every four days. According to a UN report the same year, half of Colombian men admitted to abusing their wives or girlfriends.
The new law includes judicial, labor, health and education policies aimed at ensuring the implementation of Ley 1257 – a 2008 piece of legislation dealing with the prevention and punishment of violence and discrimination against women. Measures included making sure men who posed a danger to their partners were removed from their homes, teaching children about domestic violence, obliging medical professionals to report suspected cases and providing sanctions for workplace discrimination against women.