April 04, 2006

Does having a woman president make a difference?

In Chile, the answer appears to be Yes.

After President Michelle Bachelet took office last month, one of her first actions was to acknowledge that the physical and mental damage caused by domestic violence is a public health problem, and to make the Chile's public health service responsible for treating this damage. A government study is now in progress to identify the part of Chile's population that needs these services and then create a treatment plan focusing on the most serious cases. The full domestic violence treatment program will go into effect some time next year.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet

President Michelle Bachelet.
[Photo: © 2006 Presidency of the Republic of Chile]

The director of the National Health Fund (FONASA), Hernán Monasterio, explained when he made the announcement that this year a study would be carried out of the population potentially in need of these services, and a treatment plan would be drawn up, including follow-up and rehabilitation for the most serious cases. Implementation of the full programme will begin in 2007.

"Gender-based violence is a public health problem, because it affects not only the health of the woman and her family, but also the whole community," Dr. Marisa Matamala [of the Pan American Health Organization] told IPS....

Meanwhile, FONASA [National Health Fund] is investigating ways and means of treating physical injuries caused by aggression, such as scarring, disfigurement, loss of teeth, and bone and joint injuries, which require specialised care.

Health Minister María Soledad Barría drew attention to the importance of the government initiative, pointing out that in Chile one woman a week, on average, dies as a result of violence by her partner, former partner, or other family member. Last year 56 women were killed in domestic disputes in this South American country of nearly 16 million people....

According to figures from the Ministry of the Interior, women were the victims in 88 percent of the cases of family violence in 2005. In 95 percent of the cases, psychological violence or minor injuries were involved. The group most affected by serious physical injuries was children.

IPS News has much more about the Chilean government's new moves to combat domestic violence here.

More: In looking into this story, I found that there's a very informative and well-designed English-language website for the Chilean presidency. Check it out here.

Posted by Magpie at April 4, 2006 02:50 AM | Women | Technorati links |