Dominican Republic: Closing the credit gap for women entrepreneurs
Many legal protections, but not all marital law is in alignment
Though there is general equality, certain marital arrangements do impose restrictions on women.
Under the Dominican Republic's Constitution, men and women enjoy equal rights, as articulated in Article 39, which enshrines a "Right to Equality." The fourth clause of this Article explicitly states that:
"Men and women are equal before the law. Any act is prohibited whose purpose or effect diminishes or annuls the recognition, enjoyment or exercise in conditions of equality of the fundamental rights of women and men. The necessary measures to guarantee the eradication of inequality and gender discrimination will be promoted."
Additional Constitutional Articles bolster this commitment. Article 263, which outlines rights that may never be suspended, even in a State of Defense, includes a right to personal integrity that specifically invokes—and seeks to foreclose—violence against women. Other rights guaranteed by the Constitution that contribute to general equality of opportunity include the right to work and the right to human dignity.
Moreover, certain Articles single out women as a population meriting special protections. Article 55, which covers Rights of the Family, includes a clause conferring special protections surrounding maternity, regardless of the civil status of the woman in question. A separate clause recognizes housework as a valuable economic activity to be taken into account in public and social policy planning. Such specific provisions lend force to the general statement contained in Article 8 of the Constitution: that the State's essential function is to protect a person's rights, as well as respect for that person's dignity, in an equal, equitable and progressive manner, irrespective of gender. Given this robust Constitutional framework, on legal matters where gender is not specifically invoked, many laws are presumed to be gender-neutral.
The Dominican Republic's Labor Code (Código de Trabajo de la República Dominicana) also broadly addresses women's empowerment. Under Article 231 of the Labor Code, women are granted the same rights and obligations as men with respect to labor legislation, subject only to exceptions—benefiting women—surrounding maternity. Moreover, under Article 18 of the Labor Code, "every married woman shall have full capacity to enter into a contract of employment, receive the agreed remuneration and exercise all the rights and perform all the actions permitted by the law to an employee[…]." Finally, both the Constitution and Labor Code contain provisions establishing equal opportunity. In addition to the Equality Clause of the Constitution and Article 231 of the Labor Code (both mentioned above), Article 194 of the Labor Code states that "there shall be equal pay for equal work carried out in conditions of identical skill and length of services, no matter who carries out the work."
There emerges, then, a broadly encouraging picture of the law as it relates to financial inclusion. However, there are some restrictions imposed under certain marital arrangements. Certain restrictions apply equally to both spouses: For instance, pursuant to Article 19 of the Commercial Companies Law, spouses can only incorporate with each other, with stock companies and with limited liability companies. Though Article 213 of the Civil Code establishes, in broad terms, that a married woman has the same civil capacity as an unmarried woman, the law also enshrines some outlying exceptions, which are as follows:
Article 108 of the Civil Code states that the domicile of a married woman is the domicile appointed by her husband.
Article 1990 of the Civil Code: "Women and emancipated minors can be chosen for agents; but the principal has no redress […] against the married woman who has accepted the mandate without her husband's authorization, except according to the rules established in the title of the marriage contract and the respective rights of the spouses."
Article 2254 of the Civil Code: "The statute of limitations runs against the married woman, even if she is not under a separation as to property by marriage contract, or judicially, with respect to the assets managed by her husband, except for her recourse against him."
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