Bolivia

Population Size:

11,513,100 [1], 50.2% male and 49.8% female.

Number of People Experiencing Domestic Abuse Each Year:

58.5% of women reported having experienced physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime, while 27.1% reported such in the last 12 months.[2]

No research on male victims or other gender identities.

Cost of Domestic Abuse to the Economy Each Year:

2015: Violence against women cost Bolivia’s economy USD $2.1 billion, the equivalent of 6.46% of GDP.[3]

Estimated % Change due to COVID-19:

Incidents have increased. In the period between 31st March 2020 and 12th April 2020, Bolivia’s public prosecutor's office recorded 545 cases of domestic violence.[4] The government is providing food aid valued at USD $57 to mothers with low incomes and financial aid worth $80 to low-income families with primary school children.[5] Whilst the provision of this aid does not specifically address the rise in domestic abuse, it could alleviate the additional financial pressures caused to already vulnerable groups during the pandemic.

Current Law and Policy:

Bolivia has introduced policies and legislation to tackle widespread domestic violence in the country. However, implementation has been weak and 2019 saw the highest toll of gender killings in the country in 6 years. Bolivia has made real social progress over the last ten years. Women now make up 49% of the representatives in legislative bodies and their right to land is protected by the Constitution, regardless of their marital status. 88% of the population also has access to drinking water and the rate of extreme poverty is half that of 2009. However, the government has not been so successful when it comes to addressing domestic violence in the country. 

Social attitudes and a deeply ingrained “machismo” culture have led to domestic violence being widely accepted across Bolivia. The government has instigated various measures to address the issue, such as the National Action Plan for Human Rights (2015 - 2020) and the National Plan for Equality of Opportunities - “Women Constructing Bolivia For Living Well”. Moreover, a Gender Division has been set up in the Ministry of Justice and activities have been launched to ensure women are made aware both of the legislation protecting their rights and enforcement mechanisms pertaining to such. The Department of Equality within the Ministry of Justice also has an Office for the Prevention of All Forms of Violence Against Women, which oversees the protection of womens’ rights in Bolivia. Lastly, in March 2015, the intersectorial Council for a Life Free from Violence was set up. The Council is comprised of agencies and governmental bodies that are seeking to work together on women’s issues and strengthen the protection of women’s rights.


In 2013, the Integral Law to Guarantee Women a Life Free from Violence (or ‘Law 348’) was passed. Law 348 established 16 different types of violence against women and called for the establishment of shelters for abused women as well as special prosecutors and courts for gender-based crimes. Law 348 recognised the paramount importance of securing the physical, psychological and sexual safety of victims of domestic abuse and, thus, a range of security measures were enacted. In addition to the above, Law 348 prohibited the concept of ‘reconciliation’ in the context of domestic abuse from being suggested by those dealing with complaints concerning such.

Despite this comprehensive legislation, very few complaints relating to gender-based violence have resulted in prosecutions in Bolivia; where they have, conviction rates are low. Women are reluctant to report violence due to the fear of losing their children and/or income as they may be financial dependent on the perpetrator. Corruption in the police force and judiciary is also widespread and many women have expressed their doubts as to whether any complaint they made would be dealt with justly. In November 2015, a UN Population Fund study found that in many rural areas of Bolivia, rape and sexual assault claims do not enter the formal judicial process and simply result in the courts issuing a fine of USD $73. Moreover, although Law 348 mandated the setting up special courts to deal with gender-based violence, there are reports that their operation is being hampered by corruption. Bolivia has itself admitted that its justice system is weak and, in 2016, it held a Justice Summit to discuss methods by which to bolster its justice system. 


In July 2019, Bolivia declared gender killings, i.e. ‘femicides’, to be a “national priority”.[6] Following a string of high-profile cases, the government announced a ten point “emergency plan” to tackle the issue. In addition,a commission was established to look at increasing government spending on gender violence and prevention, as well as to evaluate the success of various initiatives. Other “emergency” measures included obligatory training courses for civil servants and public sector employees on gender violence and prevention, as well as training for school and university teachers about the psychological, sexual and physical violence that women face. 


Frontline Services:

 

Sources


[1] The World Bank, (1).

[2] UN Women, “Global Database on Violence Against Women – Bolivia”, (evaw-global-database.unwomen.org).

[3] Care International, (88). 13.

[4] RPP Noticias, “The Bolivian Region with the Most Cases of COVID-19 is also reporting the Highest Numbers of Domestic Violence”, (rpp.pe, 14 April 2020).

[5] UN OHCHR, “COVID-19 and Women’s Human Rights: Guidance”, (ohchr.org, 15 April 2020).

[6] A. Moloney, “Bolivia Declares Gender Killings a National Priority”, (reuters.com, 17 July 2019).


Further Reading


[1] C. Bastidas, “Policy on Domestic Violence in Bolivia: An Intersectional Study on Visibility and Inclusion”, (2018), Lund University Master of Science in International Development and Management Paper.

[2] Refworld, “2016 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – Bolivia”, (refworld.org, 3 March 2017).

[3] HRW, “Bolivia – Events of 2017”, (hrw.org).

[4] L. Farthing, “Despite Legal Protections, Violence Against Women in Spiking in Bolivia”, (worldpoliticsreview.com, 16 December 2016).

[5] UN OHCHR, “Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women Considers the Reports of Bolivia”, (ohchr.org, 14 July 2015).