BOLIVIA – On June 30th, following five years of collaboration with its partners, IJM Bolivia signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the National Ministry of Justice. This represents a significant milestone in the fight to protect women and children from physical and sexual violence.
This Memorandum of Understanding will advance collaboration between IJM Bolivia, the Representative of the Justice Access System (SAJ) and the Attorney´s Public Registry (RPA).
One of the main contributions that IJM brings is its ability to train attorneys on essential elements for ethical work with women and children who have suffered physical or sexual violence. This approach, known as Trauma Informed Care (TIC), is still new among many public officials, attorneys, and healthcare providers in Bolivia, but its benefits are multiple.
Within the legal sphere, when attorneys or public officials treat a victim or survivor of violence with a TIC approach, they provide compassionate care to a person who is still suffering the effects of abuse and who in most cases, does not know how to seek or access protection and justice within the justice system.
Treating a person who reports violence with dignity and support significantly enhances the likelihood of their legal case progressing through the Bolivian courts. Alejandra Cámara, IJM Bolivia’s Director, explains that “a 2018 study shows that when three key legal actors support the victim during the legal process, the case has a much higher probability of success, or at least, of advancing and arriving at a verdict.” When individuals feel heard and guided through the system, their commitment to pursuing justice grows.
Another benefit of using a Trauma Informed Care approach is that public institutions improve their ability to collect and store legal data. A direct result is a higher number of legal cases reaching a verdict, which in turn reduces impunity. When aggressors face consequences for their actions, citizens begin to trust more in the system’s ability to protect them. This virtuous cycle encourages society to report incidents of violence while deterring potential aggressors. Simply put, when the law and the justice system work, violence decreases.
Through this Memorandum of Understanding, IJM Bolivia will also be able to transfer its successful PROBOS project to the Ministry of Justice.
PROBOS is an IJM-trained multidisciplinary group of professional lawyers, psychologists and social workers who provide victims of violence with pro-bono legal representation and psychosocial support. According to the Justice Ministry, “[t]his agreement, among others, will improve our institutional response and provide training initiatives to address cases of sexual violence against children and women”.
“The possibility of joining efforts with the Justice Ministry to improve the techniques available to all the people that want to carry out legal cases in my country is a dream come true.” expressed Alejandra Cámara, IJM Country Director.
UN studies indicate that 7 out of 10 Bolivian women have been victims of sexual violence, and yet only .04% of those cases have arrived at a verdict. Since 2018, IJM Bolivia and its trained volunteers have achieved 57 convictions, which includes an astounding 13 criminal convictions in just three months in the first quarter of 2023.