Feminists demand sex probe in Bolivia

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La Paz, Bolivia - Women's groups on Wednesday demanded a criminal sexual assault investigation for a provincial lawmaker who was caught by security video having what appears to be forced sex with a female legislative employee so drunk she may have been unconscious.

The lawmaker, Domingo Alcibia, was arrested on Tuesday, a week after the scandal broke, and prosecutors said he would be charged with abuse of power but not with rape because the woman, a janitor, had not filed charges against him.

“We are demanding that the prosecutor's office investigate the incident and if it is necessary we will be the ones to file a rape complaint,” Patricia Branez of the Centre for Women's Information and Development told reporters on Wednesday.

A small group of feminists has been picketing the prosecutor's office in Sucre, the capital of Chuquisaca province, to press the demand. The woman, who has not been identified, has left the city, authorities say.

Justice Minister Cecilia Ayllon said last week that no one can be charged with rape unless the victim files formal charges.

Alcibia, a member of President Evo Morales' governing MAS bloc, has denied that he sexually assaulted the woman. He faces up to eight years in prison if convicted on the abuse of power charge. But many Bolivians believe he got favourable treatment because of his political affiliation.

“The government has broken the principle of equality of all citizens before the law by creating first- and second-class citizens,” Waldo Albarracion, a former national ombudsman and university professor, told the AP.

He accused Morales' leftist government of leveraging Bolivia's legal system against political opponents but of being lenient with its own activists.

Morales, an ethnic Aymara and Bolivia's first indigenous president, has condemned Alcibia's behaviour but has also accused opponents of using the incident to try to stigmatise his party.

Both Alcibia and the woman he is alleged to have mistreated are Quechua, the other dominant ethnicity in Bolivia's highlands.

The video was taken by a security camera after a holiday party on December 20, and was broadcast on local television and posted online last week.

It shows the woman being brought into the room in the provincial legislature. She cannot stand up and is placed in a chair, apparently unconscious.

Alcibia enters the room and turns off the lights, lowering the already blurry video quality. He places the woman on the floor, unfastens his belt and appears to have sex with her.

The lights come back on a few minutes later and Alcibia jumps off the woman and pulls up his pants. - Sapa-AP


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