Amnesty International USA
Domestic Violence as Torture

End Domestic Violence. End Torture

In the past, violence against women, particularly violence occurring in the home or between intimate partners, was viewed as a private matter, not as an issue of civil or political rights. Now however, by applying these legally accepted definitions of torture to the violence that women face everyday around the world, the international community has explicitly recognized violence against women as a human rights violation involving state responsibility

Violence in the home is a global epidemic. Without exception, women's greatest risk of violence is from someone she knows. Domestic violence is a violation of a woman's rights to physical integrity, to liberty, and all too often, to her right to life, itself. And when a government fails to provide effective protection from such abuse, domestic violence is torture

"No one should be subjected to torture"

*Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) states that "no one should be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment". In their General Comment 20 on this article, the Human Rights Committee, the monitoring body established by the Covenant, clarifies that "it is the duty of the State party to afford everyone protection through legislation and other measures as may be necessary against the acts prohibited in Article 7, whether inflicted by people in their official capacity, outside their official capacity or in a private capacity". When states fail to provide such protections, they hold responsibility for the abuse. Such failure on the part of the state is clear in the case of Rodi Alvarado.

From the moment Rodi Alvorada Pe��arried a Guatemalan army officer at the age of 16, she was subjected to intense abuse, and all her efforts to get help were unsuccessful. Her husband raped her repeatedly, attempted to forcibly abort their second child by kicking her in the spine, dislocated her jaw, tried to cut her hands off with a machete, kicked her in the vagina, and used her head to break windows. He terrified her by bragging about using his power to kill innocent civilians with impunity. Even though many of the attacks took place in public, the police failed to help her in any way. After she made a complaint, her husband ignored three citations without consequence. Furthermore, the courts refused to grant her a divorce without her husband's permission.

Amnesty International considers domestic violence torture; torture for which the state is accountable when such acts are of the nature envisioned by the international standards of torture and when the state has failed to fulfill its obligation to provide women effective protection.


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