The Supreme Court (CSJ) decided on May 23 to ask the single chamber legislature reform Law 779, which has been in force since June 2012.

The vice president of the CSJ, Rafael Solís, said the Supreme Court believes it is essential to modify Article 46, which prohibits mediation between women and their assailants for the crimes defined in the law. By changing this it is partially admitting a series of appeals lodged against the law, which included calling for it to be ruled unconstitutional.

...The law stipulates that the state and its institutions have a duty to guarantee the physical, psychic, moral, sexual, patrimonial and economic integrity of women. It also punishes any kind of gender-based discrimination, including femicide (gender-based murders of women).

Solís said the CSJ judges decided by consensus that the law should establish mechanisms for mediation between victims and assailants as an alternative form of conflict resolution, in cases where the alleged crimes carry sentences of less than five years in prison.

Mediation is a legal mechanism in the Nicaraguan justice system for conflict resolution in private law, but not in crimes of public law such as those covered by Law 779. In fact, in family law, mediation is only used in cases of property rights, divorce or separation.

...Women’s rights groups repudiate the reform, saying that to require mediation between victim and assailant “revictimises women.”

Juana Jiménez of the Movimiento Autónomo de Mujeres (MAM – Autonomous Women’s Movement) said femicide statistics for 2012 show why mediation should not be required: 13 out of the 85 women murdered because they were female had entered into mediation with their assailants, after reporting them to the authorities.

“Experience shows that far from solving the problem, mediation only gives men an opportunity to organise their revenge, kill the woman and then flee,” she told IPS.

Amnesty International (AI) issued a press release in support of the law. “The violence perpetrated against women and children is what breaks up families, not legislation designed to help victims escape from violence and hold abusers to account,” said Esther Major, AI’s researcher on Nicaragua.

According to figures from the special police units for women, an average of 97 men per day were reported to the authorities for abusing women in Nicaragua in the first quarter of the year, an increase of 30.7 percent compared to the same period in 2012.

Between Jun. 21, 2012, when the law came into force, and Apr. 28, 2013, 6,482 cases were prosecuted under the law, including 17 femicides. A total of 5,726 alleged assailants were arrested, 1,050 of whom were freed because they were deemed to have only committed misdemeanours.

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