Dominican Republic

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Introduction

Occupying the western part of the island of Hispaniola, the Dominican Republic is the second largest Caribbean nation. The country’s post-colonial history has been turbulent including a violent dictatorship and an invasion by the United States, but since the re-establishment of democracy in the 1960s, the country has emerged as a relatively stable democratic State. Human trafficking, including for child labour and sexual exploitation, has been a violation of children’s rights persistently raised by international human rights bodies.

Geography

The Dominican Republic is a nation in the Caribbean Sea that occupies two thirds of the island of Hispaniola, which it shares with Haiti. The island is the second largest of the Antilles by landmass after Cuba. A unique topographical feature is that the Dominican Republic is home to the largest lake in the Caribbean, Lake Enriquillo, which is also the lowest point of any ocean island on Earth, falling 39 metres (129 feet) below sea level. The capital city is Santo Domingo, which was also the first permanent European settlement in the Americas.

Population and Language

In 2010, the country's population stood at 9,445,281[1]. Given the large number of Haitian immigrants that have settled with their families, even before the 2009 Earthquake, the Dominican Republic, with the assistance of the United Nations Population Fund Agency and The European Union[2], has carried out the first census on immigrants in 2012. Its results were published on April 2013.

Spanish is the official language.

Politics

After centuries of foreign rule from as early as 1492 to 1924 when the first military intervention of the United States, a troubled path to democracy followed. From 1939 to 1961, Rafael Trujillo, a military man, imposed a lengthy and bloody dictatorship. Although not always in power, Trujillo and his family, run the country. The population, had to prove its loyalty or perish, a faith common to Trujillo´s opponents. After his assassination, the country faced another US military intervention, and elections were resumed. By the end of the 90s decade, the country seemed to enter into a more peaceful period that extends to the present time, signalled by presidential elections and constitutional reforms.

Nowadays, the Dominican Republic is organised into a national district and 31 provinces, as well 155 municipalities and 231 municipal districts. According to article 4 of the Constitution, the government is based on a three pillar power (legislative, executive and Judicial) “under a civil, republican, democratic and representative” system. The President is in charge of the Executive Power, for a four-year period. After obtaining 51.21 per cent of the votes in the May 2012 elections Danilo Medina took office on 16 August 2012.

Economy

Although historically a poor country, for the last decade the Dominican Republican has boasted one of the fastest growing economies of the Latin American and Caribbean region. According to a joint report from International Monetary Fund and International Labour Organization, this solid growth allowed the country to escape the 2009 crisis but has failed to translate into a reduction of its levels of poverty. Investment is still needed in areas such as education, health and social protection, as well as boosting the labour market which has seen a rise in unemployment levels since 2010. Its major economic activities are tourism, sugar processing, ferronickel, gold mining, textiles, cement and tobacco.

Media and Civil Society

Civil society organisations work on issues ranging from social development, human rights, to policy reforms.

Although beginning to strengthen their income generation mechanisms, most civil society organisations still depend substantially on foreign funding. On this matter, the CSOs strong lobby succeeded in the national congress rejection of a government proposal to impose and reduce fiscal benefits, essential for the organisations sustainability.

Human Rights and Children's Rights

Violence against both women and children is one the most pressing issues in the Dominican Republic. According to the Republic´s Attorney General, from January 2005 to December 2012, 1,580 women have been victims of femicide, and 66,177 reports have been filed in the Violence Against Women Units. With regards to children, in 82 per cent of the households, corporal and/or psychological punishment is used as discipline. Although punishable by law, violence is also perpetrated in schools. Teachers blackmailing children into sex is also a common practice. In 2009, and within the efforts to end the corporal punishment of children, the United Nations Human Rights Committee recommended the State to prohibit physical punishment to children.

High scores of Haitian immigrants living in The Dominican Republic for several generations now, still face continuous struggles to have access to registration, healthcare, education, and respect for labour rights. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and several CSOs have pushed the Dominican state to take action and put an end to the perilous situation. The official response emitted by the foreign affairs minister was to remind it was not in the Commission´s power to impose measures on the Inter-American system country members.

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