Chile’s Nation Women Service (SERNAM) confirmed it is attempting to persuade the country’s Family Tribunals to assume a more proactive role in protecting women from abusive husbands. In a recent case which attracted national attention, Katherine Casas was brutally murdered by her former husband after unsuccessfully trying to obtain assistance from the Family Court system.
Family Tribunals were established in 2005 to mediate family conflicts and essentially were geared to meet the needs of low-income Chileans who lack the means to get involved in legal actions. Casas had told the Family Court her husband told her he would take a knife and slit my throat, but all that was done was setting a court date for further discussion. Under current legislation, it is difficult to convict a sexual aggressor without physical evidence of a woman’s physical struggle against him.
It is clear the Chilean police, like many Latin American constabularies, pay scant attention to men who physically abuse their wives and girl friends. It is viewed as simply his right to display machismo and beat up on women. Until there are changes in these cultural attitudes, little will be done to safeguard the right and physical safety of Chilean women.