Gender violence, the other pandemic that we must combat in Latin America and the Caribbean

This page in:
Mujer cocinando en Perú. Foto: ©Victor Idrogo / Banco Mundial
Woman cooking in Peru. Photo: ©Victor Idrogo / World Bank.

Of the many negative impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic has had, one of the most serious and surely the most hidden is the drastic increase in gender-based violence in Latin America and the Caribbean .  It has been described - I think fairly - as a silent pandemic.  The numbers that the region shows are really worrying, and the physical and emotional consequences for those who suffer it remain in many cases like open wounds for life.  

The lockdown due to quarantines, social distancing and the closure of schools and offices, all very necessary measures to contain the spread of the virus, have nevertheless left millions of women and girls in a situation of greater isolation, financial dependence and vulnerability.  In the last year, access to health services, shelters and legal support centers was restricted, and the capacity to respond to emergencies was affected.  In other words, the risk factors increased and the possibilities of assistance decreased.

The region is today the second globally in sexual violence perpetrated by men who are not the victim's partner.  Of the 25 countries with the highest numbers of femicides, 14 are in our region.  It is a daily tragedy, in which nine women are murdered every day.  Furthermore, according to data collected by the United Nations, in Argentina, Mexico, Colombia and other countries in the region, domestic violence against women increased this year between 30% and 50%. It is a sad setback.  

We must keep these numbers very present at all times.  And very especially in the 16 days of activism that we observe every year starting on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.  It is a reality that should call us to action.  We cannot tolerate it, whatever our place. We can all contribute to change.  It is our daughters, mothers, sisters, colleagues and friends who are at risk. 

The World Bank has made gender-based violence a priority issue on its support agenda for the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.   Solving this problem is crucial to guarantee the full participation of women in our societies and to build the human capital necessary for sustainable development. Depending on the case, the responses include remote counseling services, training for health workers to identify and refer cases, support to improve the registration of situations of violence, and communication campaigns, among many other initiatives.  

In Uruguay, for example, we support the capacity for telephone assistance, victim protection, case monitoring, and monitoring of possible aggressors, as part of a collaboration program with the government.  Minors can also ask for help on line when facing domestic violence situations. In Chile we assisted in the creation of an integrated platform for survivors of gender violence; and in Peru in the development of an application for the protection of victims with community support and information on shelters and care services.  

Similarly, in Central America we accompany the efforts of governments to improve prevention and the design of policies aimed at mitigating risks and assisting victims of violence.  And we do the same in other countries.  In the Caribbean, we contribute to the training of teachers, so that through education they actively combat gender stereotypes and violence against women.   

These are just a few examples among many.  However, it is not enough.  The increase in gender-based violence in recent months indicates that we must do more.  On the combined effort that we can all make depends the possibility that millions of women in the region have access to a dignified life, free from violence and fully integrated into the economy of their countries and the world of work. 

This last point is key. Estimates indicate that in employment terms, the pandemic mainly affected women with informal jobs and in the service sector .  In other words, it widened the inequality gap with men.  

We must close that gap as soon as possible, because economic empowerment and the creation of human capital among women and girls not only open up opportunities for them, but are vital for their financial independence  and - it is worth remembering these days - contribute to reducing violence of gender. 



Carlos Felipe Jaramillo

World Bank Vice President for Latin America and the Caribbean

Join the Conversation

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly
Remaining characters: 1000