Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
Although there is a lack of concrete statistics relating to domestic violence, it is estimated that one in five women are victims of domestic violence in El Salvador. A small percentage of these instances ever gets reported to authorities and fewer still receive sufficient support from legal and social services to adequately address the needs of the victim and stop the recurrence of violence. The prevalence of domestic violence and the lack of corresponding statistics points out that domestic violence remains largely hidden by gender role stereotypes and taboos that help keep it out of the public sphere of legal action and accountability. Sparked by the 1993 International Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, which recognized violence against women as a human rights violation, international efforts during the last decade have succeeded in pushing for international agreements and corresponding national legislation to combat domestic violence. Through an effort led by América herself, the Salvadoran government passed legislation in December 1996 to authorize judicial functionaries and family judges to intervene in domestic violence cases. However, as in many countries with new legislation against domestic violence, the laws in El Salvador are seldom applied. The growth of citizen organizations and international efforts to prevent domestic violence have led to a slow increase in the number of victims of domestic violence coming forward to seek legal and health services to address their needs. The metropolitan area of San Salvador has registered a significant increase in the number of reported cases of domestic violence. Since 1998, reported cases increased 130 percent and women's organizations in the country estimate an average of twenty women per day are seeking alternatives in order to resolve domestic violence situations. With the increase in reported cases, there is a higher demand for resolving situations of domestic violence in the public sphere under the new laws. However, there has been a lack of education and training about the content and application of the new law for both authorities and the general public. Without sufficient training for lawyers, police officers, and judges to meet this need, the laws are poorly applied or not applied at all. The result of this breach of justice is the double victimization of women, who are victims of both physical violence and the justice system. The immediate danger to the women denouncing violence is recurrence, and often escalation, of violence by abusers when legal and social services fail to protect them. The other dangerous result is a growing distrust of judicial institutions and other public institutions that inhibits women from seeking help for domestic violence situations and reinforces the hidden nature of the abuse.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
América helps victims of domestic violence seek legal action to end their abuse by transforming an ineffective justice system into a responsive solution for protecting women. Drawing on her experience in the feminist movement and law circles, América is bridging the gap between women's groups and the law to create a system, independent of government or political institutions, to monitor and follow through on cases of domestic violence. Her approach has three components: strengthening the efforts of citizen organizations to better assist victims of domestic violence; training judges, lawyers, and judicial functionaries; and identifying and denouncing the failure of the justice system to uphold and apply the law. As the first step, América teaches women's organizations how to access the necessary resources to seek legal action for their cases. She then trains them how to monitor judicial rulings for the application of anti-domestic violence laws that are largely ignored. Finally, she provides them with strategies for follow up on cases, including publicly denunciating failures of the judicial system to uphold the law. To ensure a positive transformation of the judicial system, América is coordinating with judicial ministries to train judicial functionaries, lawyers, and judges how to recognize the needs of domestic violence victims, to identify instances where their own practices or the judicial system has failed, and to apply anti-domestic violence law in a timely and equitable way. Rather than simply encouraging women to come forward to seek justice against domestic violence, América is giving women the tools to ensure that justice is achieved. Through public pressure on lawyers and judges, citizens are able to hold the judicial system accountable for applying the law. Through denunciations, citizen groups are generating jurisprudence regarding domestic violence cases, influencing the way lawyers and judges invoke and apply the law. Together with ongoing training for judges, police officers, and lawyers, the process leads to setting precedents that contribute to increased respect for domestic violence law and credibility of the justice system overall.