The Human Rights Commission of Belize issued a press release today stating that it joins the family of Marisela Gonzalez and other members of the public in their resounding calls for justice in the violent and tragic death of Marisela Gonzalez. The release went on to say that, “Violence against women is universal and cuts across socioeconomic and educational backgrounds. While domestic violence is overwhelming condemned in rhetoric, and prohibited under the laws of Belize, violence against women in the country remains disturbingly widespread.
There is an urgent need for proper training of frontline responders in gender-based violence and gender sensitivity. Victims often complain about the unresponsiveness of police officers to complaints about breaches of their protection orders. Rural and low-income women face particular difficulties in accessing formal protection mechanisms. Furthermore, harmful social norms further entrench the subjugation of women in the household, leaving women particularly vulnerable to intimate partner violence.
It is clear that violence against women exists on a continuum that involves individual, institutional and societal factors. As a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women, Belize is duty-bound to adopt a holistic approach and respond to all forms of violence against women and girls by implementing legislation, policies, programs, and services that respond to the particular needs of women and girls. The Government is also obligated to act with due diligence to prevent, investigate, and punish any act of violence against women.
The Commission, thus, echoes the calls of the family of Ms. Gonzalez and the public at large and implores the Government of Belize to act with due diligence to investigate, prosecute and sanction all of the persons involved in the death of Marisela Gonzales."
The Commission also urges the Government to enhance its efforts to combat domestic violence by-
- a) Providing the necessary support to frontline responders to properly implement the Domestic Violence Act and related national policies; and
- b) Supporting the proposal of the Police Department to change the location and setting of the Domestic Violence Unit.
Lastly, the Commission further urges the Government to amend the Domestic Violence Act to:-
- Provide for emergency orders to enable persons to obtain protection on an urgent basis through telephone or other electronic means;
- Provide for sanctions for officers who fail to diligently respond to complaints about domestic violence and breaches of the protection orders; and
- Remove “the need to preserve and protect the institution of marriage and to give protection and assistance to the family as a natural and fundamental unit of society” as a relevant consideration when determining whether to grant an order under the Act.