The laws are on the books to protect Ecuadorian women and girls from violence, women’s rights advocates say. The problem is that the country’s legal system is not enforcing them.
Insisting that her government wants to raise the consciousness of the legal system to fight gender violence, British Ambassador to Ecuador Katherine Ward opened a four-day seminar Tuesday in Cuenca by saying that the effort requires a change in cultural attitudes. “Violence against women is a worldwide problem but resistance to enforcing the laws that could stop it are greater in Latin American countries, including Ecuador,” she said. “We believe that overcoming this resistance can be accomplished through educating and training legal professionals.”
The Cuenca seminar, titled The Criminal Justice Response to Gender Violence in Ecuador, is the first of two being sponsored by the British embassy in cooperation with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. The second will be held in Guayaquil in March.
“We are fighting against the ingrained machismo attitude in this country that says violence against women and girls is acceptable and that teaches women, from childhood, that they must accept abuse,” said María Dolores Miño, director of the Observatory for Rights and Justice. “The first objective in accomplishing this must be changing the attitudes of those who work in the legal system — police officers, prosecutors, public defenders, judges and prison officials. We must do this so the law be enforced.”
Miño is one of the presenters in the seminar workshops to train police and court system personnel about their responsibility in enforcing the laws. Among seminar sessions are ones that review existing laws, the psychology of gender violence, reporting of violent incidents, investigation process and procedures, interaction between victims with law enforcement and methods of changing community attitudes.
According to Leonardo Amoroso, Azuay Province chief prosecutor, six out of 10 Ecuadorian women will be victims of violence during their lives, with one in four suffering rape. “This is a plague that must be cured and we must understand that finding a solution begins in the home,” he said. “Sixty-nine percent of gender violence happens within the family and this is why we must change cultural attitudes.”