Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is a crime, but evidentiary requirements, either in the form of clear physical injury or the testimony of a witness, often presented difficulties in prosecuting such crimes. The penalties for rape ranged from six months’ up to 20 years’ imprisonment. There were no reports of police or judicial reluctance to act on rape cases; however, women’s rights advocates claimed that police, hospital, and court attitudes toward sexual violence survivors sometimes revictimized the individual.
The Rape Victims’ Association reported more than 2,900 rape cases in Buenos Aires City and Buenos Aires Province during the year. The NGO estimated that 80 percent of those cases involved victims under the age of 18. The NGO noted that these figures did not include rapes reported directly to the municipal, provincial, and national governments. Many rapes go unreported due to fear of further violence, retribution, and social stigma.
The law prohibits domestic violence, including spousal abuse, although it defines violence against women as a misdemeanor, and complaints are addressed in civil rather than criminal courts. Family court judges have the right to bar a perpetrator from a victim’s home or workplace. The law, however, prescribes penalties for domestic violence only when it involves crimes against sexual integrity, in which case the penalty can be as much as 20 years’ imprisonment. According to local NGOs, lack of police and judicial vigilance often led to a lack of protection for victims.
Domestic violence against women was a problem. In 2009 Amnesty International reported that a woman died every three days as a result of domestic violence. The civil society organization La Casa del Encuentro reported that 282 women died during the year as a result of domestic or gender-based violence, an increase of 8 percent from 2010 figures. Approximately one third of these cases occurred in Buenos Aires Province. Of these killings, 56 percent involved a husband, boyfriend, or ex-boyfriend; in at least 31 cases, the woman had filed a complaint against the aggressor for domestic violence.
The Supreme Court’s Office of Domestic Violence provided around-the-clock protection and resources to victims of domestic violence. The office received approximately 600 cases of domestic violence each month, an estimated 60 percent of which involved violence against women. Approximately 54 percent of cases involved situations in which the victim’s life was at risk. The office also carried out risk assessments necessary to obtain a restraining order.
The Ministry of Justice continued to operate mobile units to assist victims of sexual and domestic violence in the city of Buenos Aires. A free hotline servicing the city and the province of Buenos Aires offered consultations and received complaints.
Public and private institutions offered prevention programs and provided support and treatment for abused women. The Buenos Aires municipal government operated a small shelter for battered women; however, few other shelters existed.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment in the public sector is prohibited under laws that impose disciplinary or corrective measures. In some jurisdictions, such as Buenos Aires City, sexual harassment may lead to the abuser’s dismissal, whereas in others, such as Santa Fe Province, the maximum penalty is five days in prison.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals generally had the right to decide freely the number, spacing, and timing of children, and had the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Access to information on contraception, and skilled attendance at delivery and in postpartum care were widely available. The law requires the government to provide free contraceptives; however, Human Rights Watch reported in April that birth control materials often were unavailable due to the government’s “failure to purchase and distribute” them in practice. Women and men had equal access to diagnostic services and treatment for sexually transmitted infections.
Discrimination: Although women enjoyed equal rights under the law, including property rights, they continued to face economic discrimination and held a disproportionately high number of lower-paying jobs. Women also held significantly fewer executive positions in the private sector than men, according to several studies. Studies estimated that women earned approximately 40 percent less than men for similar or equal work, and only 58 percent participated in the labor force, compared with 82 percent of men.
The Supreme Court’s Office of Women trains judges, secretaries, and clerks to deal with court cases related to women; it also seeks to ensure equal access for women to positions in the court system.