Violence Against Women in Latam

UNITED NATIONS – High-level officials and representatives of civil societies across the globe stressed the importance of eradicating violence against women at the United Nations headquarters in New York on 25th November, as they commemorated the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the UN, said that more than 80% of governments worldwide passed laws to eliminate this “global disgrace”.

Yet, the UN pointed out that than more than one third of women on the planet have suffered physical or sexual violence in the course of their life.

“Violence against women and girls is a global pandemic that destroys lives and communities and hinders development,” said Ban.

The World’s Most Unequal Region

South America is one of the most dangerous and unequal places for women.

A 2014 report by the World Health Organization titled ‘Violence Against Women in Latin America and the Caribbean’ reported that between 41% and 82% of Latin American women experienced acute physical injury, namely miscarriages, broken bones, and bruises, because they were abused by their partner.

The 156-page report surveyed more than 180,000 women in 12 countries of Latin America.

Additionally, a 2014 report by UNIFEM found that gender-based violence has significantly increased in the region because of the rapid growth of many of its cities, which has fostered injustice and social exclusion.

In São Paulo, for instance, a woman is subjected to abuse every 15 seconds. In Chile, more than 50% of women between 15 and 49 were victims of their partners’ violence.

Patriarchal Societies

During the UN conference, Dr Gustavo Jalkh, President of the Judicial Council of Ecuador, pointed to the role of machismo in Latin America’s patriarchal societies.

Machismo creates the unacceptable abuse in the domination of women,” he said. “Men’s fear is the root of violence against women,” yet, “men no longer need to be afraid”.

He noted that Ecuador was the second most equal country in the region. In 2013, the country created a social unit to take care of victims of gender-based violence.

“As long as violence against women exists, these judicial units will be essential,” explained Dr Jalkh. “Without dignity there is no justice,” he said.

In addition, he warned against the many voices against gender equality in the region and highlighted the need to further raise awareness of this crucial issue.

A Global Problem

Despite the fact that violence against women is most prevalent in some regions, namely Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa, “the prevalence of violence against women committed domestically or by the state remains too high in every corner of the world,” said Lana Nusseibeh, Permanent Representative of the United Arab Emirates to the UN.

“Whatever the progress we make at the national level, it is, sadly, a global problem requiring a global answer,” she added.

Nusseibeh stressed the need to engage the state to build equality so that ”a culture of respect and equality becomes the norm rather than the exception.”

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, said that “no country, no culture, no woman – young or old – is immune to this human rights violation.”

She emphasised the need to strengthen the women’s movement with the inclusion of political parties, the media, religious and traditional leaders, and the private sector, as well as men.

‘The elephant in the room is that the majority of the people here are still women,” noted Ayla Göksel, CEO of Mother Child Education Foundation, a NGO in Turkey. “This is a half-done job,” she said.

UN officials also highlighted the important role men can plan by launching the ‘He For She’ campaign earlier this year. This solidarity movement aims to gather men’s support for gender equality.

“I take a stand, do you?” asked Dr Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of the UN Population Fund.


This article was published in the Argentina Independent on November 26, 2014. Click here.

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