From reading the laws of the land, one would think that women in Costa Rica are pretty well protected against violence, once not only permitted but encouraged by the old machismo of society.
Not so, say marchers Sunday on the International Day vs. Violence Against Women who put the court system directly in the sights for allegedly winking at violence when a case is denounced.
Sylvia Mesa of the Feminist Network vs. Violence Against Women says that prosecutors are not listening and the courts have no clear procedures or criteria to handle such complaints.
“Of all cases of accusation, 70% do not make it to formal accusation (in court) because the prosecutors demand absolute proof,” charged Mesa. As most legal workers know, absolute proof is had to obtain in family disputes — a classic “she says, he says” situation.
Mesa also blasted the alliance of the government with conservative groups in such cases as the fertilization in vitro controversy. The fertilization technique has been foiled in this country by both Evangelicals and the Roman Catholic hierarchy which lag behind more liberal public opinion.
The march Sunday, beginning at La Merced Park and marching along Av. Central to the Park of Social Guarantees, contained a sprinkling of males to show their solidarity. But it was Women’s Day Sunday.
“I came because, as women, we must support this cause,” Virginia Navarro of Cartago told La Nacion, “We must not let them mistreat us any more.” Showing the snowballing effect of women’s awareness and the trend in the upcoming generation, she had her teenage daughter with her.
Commentary: The anti-violence laws against women include even verbal violence which places the nation at the forefront of the movement. Some men scoffed at this clause when the lawmakers debated it, claiming that nothing protects the men.
Of course, the women are right in one aspect — no law, no matter how just and well-intended, is worth even quoting if it is not enforced. This was the thrust of the march this year and a number signs carried in it, some so large they needed several women to support them.
To accuse the “state” of being an aggressor was perhaps extreme. But Costa Rican women are making a point while they have people’s attention — as long as they have generations of machismo down helpless on the mat, they might as well place their foot on its windpipe.
After covering the courts in the United States, this reporter must admit that Ms. Mesa may well be right. Many prosecutors are lazy, refusing to take on a case unless it is “slam dunk,” with every “i” dotted and “t” crossed. Others are just timid and refuse to take pick in hand to scale Mt. Justice. Some may be closet machistas.