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CNDH’s opinion on draft bill # 103.13 on violence against women

The National Human Rights Council (CNDH) issued on May 30th, 2016 an advisory opinion on draft bill #103.13 on violence against women. The CNDH reviewed the bill and proposed concrete recommendations and provisions to better protect women from violence, provide for reparation for the victims, and prevent, investigate and punish all acts of violence against women and girls.

The opinion includes recommendations and proposals to harmonize the draft bill with the constitution and international human rights law, mainly the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), and the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women. It takes into account the general comments and final observations of UN treaty bodies and UN independent experts and groups relating to the fight of violence against women.  

The CNDH recommends defining violence against women as “a gender-based discrimination”. The definition must include “all acts of gender-based violence that (may) cause physical, sexual, psychological or economic damage to women”. This also includes the threat to use violence, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether in public or private places.

The CNDH recommends implementing the “due diligence” standard to prevent, investigate and punish acts of violence against women and girls. 

The Council’s opinion defines rape as “any act of sexual penetration, regardless of its nature and by whatever means, committed against another person using violence, restraint, threats, or surprise.” This legal definition opens the way to include marital rape in the scope of this crime.

Sexual harassment, for the CNDH, is “a sexual verbal, non-verbal, or physical behavior” that creates an objective intimidating, hostile, or humiliating situation.

The Council recommends strengthening the provisions relating to the prohibition of contact with the victim as a legal security measure. This measure must include prohibiting perpetrators of acts of violence against women from going to the victim’s house, living in a defined area around the victim’s house, going to the places that the victim usually goes to or intentionally creating circumstances to meet with her.

The CNDH introduces in its opinion the concept of stalking as a criminal activity and not a form of sexual harassment. Stalking is a pattern of harassing or threatening behaviors that includes repeated and deliberate harassment, like sending unsolicited or unwanted letters, emails or presents, following or spying on the victim, etc.

The CNDH recommends repealing articles 20 and 21 of the Family Code under which child marriage can be authorized. It specifically recommends no exception whatsoever to the provisions of article 19 of the family Code. This article stipulates that men and women acquire the capacity to marry when they are of sound mind and have completed eighteen years old.

The CNDH calls on the government to come up with a national plan to prevent violence against women. This plan should include measures and actions to be taken by the public authorities to fight against gender-based stereotypes and prejudices and against the practices that are based on women’s presumed inferiority.

The draft bill was referred to the CNDH for opinion by the Speaker of the House of Representatives (parliament) on April 21, 2016.

The CNDH had already published a memorandum on an earlier version of draft bill on violence against women in 2013.

Fighting violence against women and girls (summary - French)