Of all the countries in South America, Bolivia has the highest rate of inter-partner violence, with over 50% of women having reported physical or sexual violence at the hands of their husbands. Now, a change in the law is seeking to keep the perpetrators of such violence away from public office.
Earlier this week it was announced that men who wish to run for public office must produce a document proving that they have no criminal record of gendered violence, nor that they have ever been violent towards any other member of their family, including parents and children.
Ensuring that those who make decisions for the country are not prone to domestic violence is a remarkable step, but people are skeptical. This is not the first attempt Bolivia has made to protect women from violent partners through changes to the law, and the last attempt did not pan out as well as was hoped. In 2013 President Evo Morales implemented Law 348, which was designed to stop domestic violence by punishing abusers with harsher sentences. This was also the first law to make femicide – the deliberate killing of women by men – a distinct crime, and in this case punishable by up to thirty years in prison.
While this sounds great on paper, Monica Novillo, a campaigner for women’s rights, says that law 348 has been ineffective in combating gendered violence. “The law is not being implemented properly,” she told teleSUR, “We are demanding that the government assign a greater budget that’s needed to bring in more staff to help the victims of violence.”
In remains to be seen whether this new practice of requiring those who run for public office – both elected and appointed – to be free of criminal charges relating to domestic violence will be effective, but Bolivia is clearly taking steps in the right direction.