Guest blogger: Diuris Betances, researcher for the Civil Society Unit of the Dominican Political Observatory (OPD), an initiative of Fundación Global Democracia y Desarrollo (Funglode).
Discrimination against women is a social problem. It must be analyzed in light of the economic, social, political and cultural inequalities that exist between men and women. Within these inequalities, there is a correlation between the disparity of resources in the private as well as the public sphere. For this reason, an analysis of discrimination against women is inseparable from the political arena in which it operates. The study prepared by the Dominican Political Observatory (OPD) of Funglode, entitled “Elimination of Violence Against Women” (and contained in the GFDD/Funglode publication Status of Women: Studies and Reflections in the Dominican Republic and Latin America) observes Dominican women in four crucial areas: education, labor market, political participation and violence in its most extreme manifestation: femicide.
The study considers the history behind the legal framework that provides equal conditions to Dominican women through governmental actions and civil society, as contained in laws, codes, treaties and international conventions.
In the area of education, the Dominican Republic is governed by Law No. 66-97, which calls for a comprehensive, high quality and ongoing education system, that should be provided under equal conditions, with equal opportunities. By virtue of these efforts, results began to show that in 2002 the Gender Parity Index (GPI) on the primary school level had achieved target 1. During the following years, between 2003-2011, this relationship deteriorated, falling below the target, indicating that for every 100 boys enrolled at the primary school level there were only 96 girls – slightly below the target.
However, at the secondary school level, the parity index is above the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) target. In higher education, the difference in favor of females is much higher. These figures show that despite setbacks at the primary level, the country is set to meet MDG 3 by 2015.
As far as their participation in the labor market is concerned, Dominican women are still struggling to match the status with men, with figures showing 42% of women working in paid jobs as opposed to 68% in the case of men. This means that the higher educational level achieved by women has not resulted in access to more and better jobs. And, even though women have advanced toward parity with men in educational areas, gaps in employment levels still persist, to the detriment of women. According to 2013 data from the United Nations, this level of female participation in the workforce is below the average of 44% estimated in 2011 for Latin America and the Caribbean.
Meanwhile, participation of women in policy-making spheres has increased in recent years. This is observed in the adherence to national and international laws and treaties resulting in the enactment of Law No. 275-97. The law required for the first time that political parties set aside a certain percentage of candidacies for female nominees. The Law stated that a minimum of 25% of elected positions had to be filled by women. On March 30, 2000, this law was replaced by Law No. 12-00, which increased that number to 33.33%. Furthermore, Law No. 13-00 stipulated that political parties must include at least one woman on the ballot for delegate or deputy-delegate in each municipality. This indicates that when a party puts forward a candidate for delegate, it must present a female candidate for deputy delegate and vice-versa.
As such, there are currently 4 female ministers in the 22 existing ministries. In the National Congress, there are 39 female deputies out of 190 and 4 female senators filling the 32 Senate seats. In local governments, there are currently 15 women delegates, 382 town councilwomen. This data is evidence of poor representation of women in these positions despite legislative progress in the area of gender equality.
There are statistics in the country that show a growing number of female victims every year. However, it is important to highlight the efforts being made by civil society organizations and the government to reduce the number of femicides in the country. There is a comprehensive effort underway to raise awareness of these problems and eliminate all types of violence against women. These efforts are the result of continuous work, including preventive education, public ad campaigns, timely assistance and prevention programs in the communities.
It is important to strengthen inter-institutional coordination to identify the indicators necessary to measure and analyze data on violence and femicide. A consistent lack of data consistency coupled with inconsistencies in measurement of this data constitutes an obstacle to analyzing the dimension of the problem in the country.
Political participation of women in government bodies strengthens the rule of law relevant for the quality of democracy. The area occupied in decision- making represents a step toward gender equality. In this regard, women’s groups, pro-feminism organizations and human rights organizations play an important role in developing and implementing initiatives that contribute to the eradication of problems that remain unsolved.
Meanwhile, the State is facing a great challenge that calls for the design of effective policies that seek to eliminate patterns of discrimination and violence against women. With this in mind, it is important to take into account the cultural implications of fulfilling these plans, which will ensure long term change and elimination of the country’s prevailing sexist and patriarchal culture.
To find out more about this issue please visit http://www.globalfoundationdd.org/fulltext.asp?t=a&id=9009
For a video presentation on this topic given by Ms. Diuris Betances at a United Nations side event organized by GFDD and Funglode on April 18 during CSW59 please visit https://youtu.be/AbF18TiXlrE