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Gender inequalities in family laws are rampant

by Garland M Baker on June 22, 2009

The inequities in Costa Rica’s family laws are in large part the fault of men. This is especially true in cases of domestic violence where men now have little or no rights. Women are now in control in this country, and they know it. Some find expeditious ways of making their male companions suffer.

Cases of violence by women on men are usually not reported to the authorities because of fear by men to be labeled as weak. In Costa Rican culture — as in many other cultures — admitting to being victimized by a woman means a man has lost his maleness, his superiority over women.

The fact that men do not protect themselves via this law has created a trap for them as well. By not reporting abusive females, men have set the precedent that women are victims and men are abusers by default, which has in turn given a legal advantage to women.

Due to an increase of family legislation in Costa Rica aimed to protect women, Ticas are now taking advantage of the sexism in the legal system, which allows them to get away with and profit from cruel lies about their male counterparts.

On another front, many women in Costa Rica have a multitude of children to live off the child support. Men believe having children is what they should be doing with their manhood and do not take contraceptive precautions Therefore, men end up trapping themselves into child support payments many have a very difficult time paying.

Here is a summary of Costa Rica’s family, financial support and domestic violence laws past and present:

Before the new domestic violence laws, the family code set forth some ways for a spouse to boot out a companion and to protect children. However, only in extreme cases was a spouse forced from the household. In a divorce, women were given priority with the home because of the cultural establishment of the woman as a domestic worker and the man as the breadwinner. Usually, there is no such thing as a permanent alimony except in cases where a spouse is up in years or handicapped in some way. So this is the reason, in a marriage — and out of marriage — women usually strive to have children because they know having children is the best way to get the most money from a husband or boyfriend in a divorce or separation.

The financial support law is strict in Costa Rica. Not only are parents and children mutually liable for financial support (in the case of elderly parents and adult, financially stable children), so are adult siblings to minor or disabled siblings, grandparents to grandchildren and vice versa. Therefore, an elderly expat who marries a Tica and has children or adopts her children, if he fails to support the children, his adult American children (if any) from previous marriages may have to pick up the tab for their father. However, it is easier said than done, since in order for the latter to happen, the suing mother would have to provide sound proof that she cannot provide a dime for the child and that they are literally starving.

The law against domestic violence punishes any physical, sexual, verbal and psychological violence among family members of any gender. As a rule, it has only been enforced by women who report abuse by their husbands or boyfriends.

To make it worse, it turns out that most of the judges in family courts are women, and some do not even request or accept physical or psychological evidence of the alleged abuse before they rule in favor of the woman. In fact, the law states that after all testimony and evidence have been analyzed in court, if there is still room to believe the occurrence of violence, the judge must lean towards the victim’s testimony. This in legal terms is called “In dubio, pro victima,” or “when in doubt, favor the victim.”

The bite to the domestic violence law is its protective measures. A woman can go in front of a judge and within a few hours get an order to toss her husband, boyfriend or lover out on the streets. In addition, the alleged abuser is then given a restraining order that prevents him from going into his house or have any contact with the presumed victim or their children.

Child support can be requested at the domestic violence hearing or by filing a separate case with the family court. Once they notify the man about the case, he has three business days to pay the provisional amount set by court under penalty of going to prison. In a divorce process, the judge, upon request, can also set child support and alimony for the woman.

Women in court — especially domestic violence cases — are totally and utterly given everything on a silver platter. No questions asked. Law officers say false abuse cases happen daily, and they cannot question them or fail to enforce the order to evict because protective measures are mandatory and immediate, regardless of any suspicious circumstances.

After applying protective measures, both the alleged abuser and victim are called for a hearing to which witnesses are also called. In false accusation cases, women can still easily get away by lying during the hearing. They just need two witnesses willing to lie for them. They know that even if the lies are noticeable, the system still leans towards them and “In dubio, pro victima” rules the game. There have been countless instances in which the whole court can see the alleged victim is lying and the judge still rules in the alleged victim’s favor. Even if the defense appeals the case, it can take years.

Expats have fallen victims to false domestic violence claims. As expected, as in the case of an elderly U.S. expat thrown from his house, the hearing did not go very well and the court ruled in favor of the alleged victims and their false story, even after the defense called the female housemaid to testify in favor of the innocent, elderly and disabled expat. Now he is at the verge of declaring bankruptcy, has no place to live and is on the verge of having a criminal record in Costa Rica.

After the domestic violence law was created, other female-oriented laws followed. The responsible fatherhood law empowers women whose children have been abandoned by their father to request a blood test to confirm the relationship and a child support amount.

Another legal tool for women is the sexual harassment law. Even though the law protects both genders, it is used mostly by women. This law, however, is not as lenient towards women as the violence law is, since the complainant has to provide sound proof that incriminates the accused man and plenty of witnesses to support the claim.

The latest addition to the female legal combo is the anti-discrimination law for women, which states that women should be treated as equal and not denied the same privileges men enjoy in any cultural sphere. The ironic aspect about this law is that even though it advocates the removal of any oppressive preconception about the female gender, it should also advocate for eliminating and condemning the favoritism and leniency towards women in courts, especially when the defense provides irrefutable evidence that shows the woman is lying.

Women have the upper hand in Costa Rica when it comes to family matters. Men are probably the culprits in this case because most men do not stand up for their rights as women do, thus tipping the scales against them.

The fact today is that the laws are so stacked against men here that the prudent male should never get married, live in the same place as the significant other or have children without full understanding of the legal consequences.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Brian Moore July 6, 2009 at 6:33 am

I would like a complimentary reprint of your article on wills printed in today’s AM Costa Rica.
I find your information very helpful.


Brian Moore


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