New Penal Code sparks protests by human rights groups in the Dominican Republic
Ayer fue un día que sin duda pasará a la historia... 🔥💚— rd3causales (@rd3causales) May 24, 2021
Por ahora solo nos queda darles las gracias💚, por salir con valentía #Palacalleel23 e invitarles a continuar reclamando y trabajando desde todos los espacios en los que tienen presencia. #LasCausalesVan pic.twitter.com/qMkrrGpkfN
On 23rd May 2021, thousands of people marched in Santo Domingo to demand the decriminalisation of abortion when the mother’s life is in danger, in unviable pregnancies and in cases of rape or incest. As previously reported on the CIVICUS Monitor, feminist groups and reproductive rights advocates intensified their campaign for changes in the country’s punitive pregnancy termination law in March 2021. For over two months, women’s rights defenders set up a camp outside the National Palace to show support for the “3 causales” (“3 grounds”) for legal abortion.
During the demonstration in May 2021, protesters called for the modification of the draft Penal Code, then in discussion at the Chamber of Deputies, which would allow pregnancy termination only when the mother’s life is at risk. On 30th June 2021, a proposal to also recognise two further grounds for legal abortion, as advocated by feminist groups, was defeated. The draft Penal Code approved by Deputies includes prison terms of up to two years for illegal abortions, with harsher criminal penalties for medical staff performing the procedure.
Reacting to the approval of the draft Penal Code, Amnesty International’s Americas director, Erika Guevara Rosas, said:
“With this vote, the majority of deputies in the Dominican Republic have demonstrated that the life and health of women and girls in the country are not part of their legislative priorities. We express our solidarity with the women and girls who continue to demand loudly that their lives and health be taken seriously by the authorities. The fight for their rights will not stop.”
The text of the Penal Code is now under discussion in the Senate. Feminist and LGBTQIA+ groups continued to protest against the legislation, organising demonstrations in front of Congress in July and August 2021.
LGBTQIA+ groups protest against Penal Code
🇩🇴🏳️🌈 Los LGBT de la República Dominicana desde hoy dejamos el miedo y por tal razón marchamos al Congreso Nacional por un Código Penal que castigue la discriminación por orientación sexual e identidad de género. #LGBT pic.twitter.com/EL71NIkqt9— Voluntariado GLBT Dominicano (@VoluntariadoGLB) July 12, 2021
Integrantes del movimiento reconocido fueron recibidos en el día de hoy en el #PalacioNacional por el personal del Viceministerio de Atención Ciudadana, para abordar las debilidades en la aplicación de la ley 169-14.#Reconocido pic.twitter.com/4CAH6IXX0s— reconoci.do (@reconoci_do) June 24, 2021
On 25th June 2021, Dominicans of Haitian descent advocating for the recognition of their citizenship rights were received by government authorities to discuss issues in the implementation of the Naturalisation Law 169/14. The advocates are part of Reconoci.do, a movement which defends the rights of Dominicans deprived of citizenship because of their Haitian ancestry and the immigration status of their parents.
The country’s statelessness crisis emerged in 2013, when a ruling by the Dominican Republic’s top court stripped the nationality of anyone born after 1929 to undocumented foreign parents. In practice, this disproportionately affected thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent, a significant minority which has historically faced profound exclusion and racism. Undocumented persons in the country are unable to enrol in school, apply for formal employment, access healthcare or the justice system.
The Naturalisation Law 169/14, enacted in 2014, introduced registration proceedings for those affected by the ruling, but its implementation has been inadequate. According to Reconoci.do, the law has become an instrument of segregation that perpetuates vulnerability and human rights violations. The movement said 8,755 people had filed applications for naturalisation and had yet to receive a response. In 2020, the UN Refugee Agency asserted that thousands of people in the country still remain without a nationality.
In their meeting with authorities of the Vice-Ministry of Technology, Transparency and Citizenship Attention, Reconoci.do members handed out letters written by young Dominicans affected by the statelessness crisis to President Abinader. They call for the creation of public policies to promote integral development of all Dominicans and to provide reparations to the persons whose lives were impacted by denationalisation.
On 2nd July 2021, members of LGBTQIA+ groups rallied in front of the National Congress to protest the lack of protection in the country’s new draft Penal Code. The Chamber of Deputies approved changes to the original bill which excluded criminal liability for discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender. Sexual orientation of victims was also excluded from the aggravating factors in cases of homicide, torture and other brutal crimes. At the rally, a spokesperson read a statement that said:
“The new Penal Code, which excludes discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, not only makes us invisible, but also encourages further discrimination, because it gives full permission to do so without a regime of consequences.”
Another march was held on 11th July 2021, with LGBTQIA+ defenders advocating against the Code’s approval by the Senate, where it is under analysis. In July 2021, civil society organisations also filed a preventive protection action in the Superior Administrative Court against the draft Penal Code for its omission.
Nationalists protest irrigation channel on river bordering Haiti
In June and July 2021, members of ultranationalist groups Antigua Orden Dominicana (Old Dominican Order) and No tenemos miedo RD (We are not afraid RD) protested against the construction of an irrigation channel on the Masacre river and demanded the closure of the Bilateral Dominican-Haitian Mixed Commission, established in 1996 to promote cooperation between the neighbouring countries. On 3rd June 2021, demonstrators with these groups marched in Dajabón, in the region where the river runs. A similar protest took place on 4th July 2021 in Santo Domingo, with demonstrators calling for the removal of Foreign Affairs Minister Roberto Álvarez.
Government authorities from Haiti and the Dominican Republic have said the irrigation channel in development by the Haitian government will not divert water from the Masacre’s riverbed. Studies by experts also show that the project would not cause damage to the local agricultural ecosystem. Yet controversy around the project led Dominican President Luis Abinader to publicly request the suspension of its construction in June 2021.
Relations between the two countries have historically been difficult, leading to challenges in transborder cooperation. In February 2021, the Dominican Republic had announced plans to build a fence along its border with Haiti to curb illegal immigration, drug trafficking and movement of stolen goods. On 7th July 2021, following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse of Haiti, the Dominican Republic briefly closed its border with the neighbouring country and reinforced surveillance in the area.
Dominicans of Haitian descent advocate for their citizenship
Feminist protests continue
Civic Space Developments