Close sidebar
Live
OPINION / Women's Rights

Fighting for justice in Venezuela and beyond

The judicial system in Venezuela, and much of Latin America, is not prepared to handle cases of gender-based violence.

by Linda Loaiza Lopez Soto

In 2001, when I was 18 years old, I was kidnapped and kept hostage by a stranger for over three months. He tortured me, beat me with unspeakable brutality, raped and humiliated me in unspeakable ways.

After my rescue, I pursued justice. However, not only was I faced with unqualified and untrained magistrates, judges, prosecutors, public defenders, police officers, and forensic doctors on the subject of gender-based violence, but also the justice system showed a deliberate interest in protecting the assailant, because he was the son of an important public figure in Venezuela.

Finally, after struggling to issue a verdict against this person, the justice system decided to obscure the acts of sexual violence and torture of which I was a victim, which led to the assailant being subjected to a negligible penalty of six years and one month.

Failed by the institutions charged with protecting and guaranteeing my human rights within my home country, I sought justice before international ones until I reached the Inter-American Court, where I denounced the failings and treatment of the Venezuelan justice system.

On February 6, my story will be the first case of gender-related violence in Venezuela to reach the Inter-American Court, and a ruling against the state would effectively create legal precedence that could help other women in Venezuela or the region who are seeking justice after suffering gender-based violence. 

Moreover, a condemnation against Venezuela would show Latin American women that the battle to eliminate the privileges and biases which favour and protect male aggressors and re-victimise female victims is not for naught.

My battle has been aided by different women's organisations that work for the condemnation of these crimes and for the full compliance with the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women, Belem do Para Convention.

Venezuela, as a signatory of this convention, is obliged to comply with its rules. But the cultural patterns and gender stereotypes that lead to obstructions of justice are not changed by the ink in legal statutes, neither are they enough to treat victims with respect.

In the context of the crisis that Venezuela is facing, this becomes particularly concerning. Although there have been legal advances within the country, there is a lack of information and transparency about the number of victims of gender-based violence and the effectiveness of the processes to address these crimes.

As a consequence, thousands of women are still legally abandoned - they experience the tragedy of being victims of violence and, in many cases, end up dead.

Furthermore, in the year 2013, when the Venezuelan government denounced the American Convention on Human Rights, the opportunity to go before the international justice vanished for many victims of human rights violations.

My case reached the Inter-American Court before this decision was taken. Thanks to this and to my own struggles, as well as by dozens of Venezuelan women who saw the court as a beacon of hope, this trial will be held in the continent's largest human rights tribunal.

Beyond Venezuela, I want my story to encourage other Latin American countries to adopt measures of violence prevention and due process so that women are treated with respect and dignity.

Many women around the world, and throughout Latin America, have terrible stories to tell. In all of these stories, there is something that hurts and something to remember, but also, there is always something to fight for. I want my story to help all of those women who have faced violence remain strong, tenacious, and tireless. Giving up is not an option.

Linda Loaiza Lopez Soto and her representatives - the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), the Comite de Familiares de las Victimas de Febrero y Marzo de 1989 (COFAVIC) and in national instances the lawyer Juan Bernardo Delgado - will present her case before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on February 6. You can watch the proceedings live at: corteidh.or.cr

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial stance.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR



YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Interactive: Take a tour through divided Jerusalem

Take a tour through East and West Jerusalem to see the difference in quality of life for Israelis and Palestinians.

Stories from the sex trade

Dutch sex workers, pimps and johns share their stories.

Inside the world of India's booming fertility industry

As the stigma associated with being childless persists, some elderly women in India risk it all to become mothers.