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New Law Can Send Me To Jail

July 26th, 2007

I have been pondering about blogging this for a while now… partly to get a handle on how I feel, partly because I expect some interesting comments.

Not long ago, President Óscar Arias Sánchez signed into law (“Ley de penalización de violencia contra las mujeres”) a truly controversial measure that provides tougher and longer sentences for the murder of women than of men.

While that in itself seems odd to me, the kicker is it also makes it a crime to insult a woman. Here I am not just speaking of a woman on the street or in the workplace. I am referring to any woman… even a wife or daughter. The law punishes men who are physically and/or psychologically abusive of women, especially a wife, live-in partner or girlfriend.

Theoretically, the law was designed to place some limits on the famous Latino “macho” behavior prevalent here and in many Latin countries.  Good luck!  Like a law is going to change a culture!

Like most, I have been in a lot of relationships in my life, but I have never struck a woman (other than my sister Pam when I was 11 and she deserved it) though I am sure that I have said things that were just wrong while in the heat of battle. The women also certainly did not remain mum during these conflicts. Couples fight, at least just about all the couples I know. This law certainly places some interesting new rules on the average couple in Costa Rica.

The new law provides sentences of from six months to two years in prison for a male who ridicules or frightens his female companion. It also provides protection against something called “psychological aggression.” That is defined as saying pretty much anything negative to your partner that would cause her distress. WOW!  How is THAT determined?

A comment like “you seem to be gaining a little weight” or the like, is now cause for imprisonment! Say that to a woman in menopause (like my wife), and it would be the man (me) who would be dodging a knife!

Kidding aside, I often call my wife Gordita… a (true) term of endearment but literally translates to “little fat girl”. Does that make me eligible for the slammer? Guess so!  She also calls me Gordito, a far more accurate word when used for me as my wife is quite thin whereas I have problems seeing my feet without tilting forward a bit.

The new penalty for actually killing the female companion is 20 to 35 years. The penalty for a “typical” murder, (read that as killing a man I guess), is 12 to 18 years. Huh? Good to know my life is worth about half of any woman’s life. (Please, no comment from my ex-wife). The current law sets outs the same sentence in the case of murder of a wife or live-in partner but only in the case where there are one or more children created from the union.

So I guess it is best to kill her before you have babies?

I am certainly not against women here, but am I the only one who thinks this is just nuts??

The bill was passed 45 in favor and 3 against after having been in the asemblea for 7 or 8 years. It never got close to passing before, but seemed to have 9 lives as it would always be resurrected after some particularly nasty domestic violence resulting in the death of the female. We even have a new word! Femicide!

Jails here are already badly overcrowded, crime is on the increase and now this?

I cannot see how this law can possibly withstand the sure-to-come appeal to Sala IV, the constitutional court of Costa Rica, but I am getting very concerned that CR is now on its way to being as dumb as the USA in making biased unreasonable laws based on PC and various “causes”.

5 Responses to “New Law Can Send Me To Jail”

  1. Saratica on July 26, 2007 2:00 pm

    I think CR is on its way to copying the US in many many ways. A politician can never go wrong the PC route… everyone loves to be loved.

    And any man who calls me gordita will be shot immediately.

    Pura vida, TG. Now sweating my gordita butt off in Puerto Viejo…

  2. Tim on July 28, 2007 7:19 am

    Jeez I hope not. The USA is in such terrible shape right now, I cannot imagine anyone wishing to emulate it… and for sure I am not talking about Iraq or George Bush here. I am talking about the whole magilla.

    As for you flacita…. Well you certainly point out clearly the difference in the Latina vs Gringa cultures. 🙂

  3. Chileno on August 13, 2007 10:37 pm

    In Chile they’re pushing through femicide provisions that sound similar to what you write about. It could be more populism from a female president who has utterly failed on promoting women’s issues so far. It does sound like something that started in the US, although I’m very ignorant on the whole evolution of the law or what’s going on with femicide in the US.

    I think the premise is interesting, and important.
    I think the OJ Simpson trial brought that into stark relief – while in the US the lynching of a black body is practically archetypal, and so it probably made sense for the jury to acquit based on probable police racism a la Mark Fuhrman, the violence toward Nicole was harder to understand. OJ even joked about abusing her, but there was a disconnect between his abuse and the bloody pictures the prosecutors showed the jury.

    It’s something John Lennon talked about, “Woman is the Nigger of the World”. And so creating cultural awareness of the plight women face, making it a sort of “hate crime” to kill a woman, seems to be trying to deal with that.

    Does femicide happen more in hispanic populations than in non-hispanic? I wouldn’t assume that. Nor am I sure people should be very surprised by a woman president in Chile, and femicide laws in Costa Rica. Like many other parts of the world, women are shat upon in the hispanic world, but at the same time this intensely Catholic culture places the virgin Mary on a pedestool, and the mother seems to have a very significant role in society.

    What about Eric Voltz? In that case it seems anti-Americanism played a much stronger role than machismo. The whole town rallied around the killed girl her mother, and the female judge fast-tracked him into prison. (I’m not saying he isn’t suspect, but the trial was totally bunk, and he at least deserves a fair trial).

    >>>The USA is in such terrible shape right now

    Please don’t be silly. For all it’s problems (and I’ll be the first to list them), the US is light years ahead of any Latin American nation in terms of functionality, corruption and the rights of the individual, and you know it. Of course the US gov’t screws its citizens over relentlessly, but the difference is that people actually do have legal recourse, and things work. At least, much better than in any Latin American country. I’m not saying this to claim US superiority, I’m just saying that US citizens have a lot more rights, and that simple fact needs be recognized, not confused by your personal bias.

  4. JT on October 28, 2007 9:13 pm

    It is sad to see CR, and the rest of the world, not just copy the worst parts of the U.S., but to try and out do the U.S. by making idiotic laws tougher. It makes me think of a little dog chasing big cars, believing it is scaring them away. Pathetic.

    If Ticas abuse this, like women in the U.S. have, just remember: acción reacción.

  5. Ken on January 11, 2009 4:41 pm

    This is my first time blogging and I do make mistakes as I go along. I had said that you cannot understand the subjugation of the Latin female. She is the boss of the daily activity and family life, however she has been subject to the whim of the male partner. There has been no recourse other than having brothers or father that will take care of the situation. I have discussed this law with some women and it is a start to stop the subjugation. However, it couls also, if reported, result in the male leaving and the consequence is no financial support. It is not the end but the beginning of some type of safety for women in CR. Arias has tried to bring about some civility for a woman’s right to have recourse to abuse.