Our Perspectives

The nightmare of violence against women, seen up close


  There must be increased public awareness and political will and resources for preventing and ending all forms of violence against women and girls in all parts of the world. Photo: Gaëlle Bruneau.

Nothing raises awareness of violence against women more than experiencing this nightmare first-hand. We always think these things happen to others, but the data indicate such situations are common, albeit in different forms and degrees of cruelty.

According to data from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), one in four women in the region experiences some violence from her partner. This is also the leading cause of death worldwide for women ages 15 to 49 -- ahead of cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women, “Convention of Belem do Pará.” How much progress has been made since then?

Less than one third of countries in the region (28 percent) have a specific national plan to respond to this issue, and most (78 percent) approach it tangentially in other plans or security policies. This has been shown by the analysis we carried out in 32 countries in the region, which led to the study States' Commitment: plans and policies to eradicate violence against women in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The result of the study shows there is no clear response by the states to violence against women. This study identifies eight critical issues that hinder better results in public action, such as the fragmentation of the institutional response, weak coordination and technical skills, and lack of coherence between legal instruments and policies. Due to the magnitude of the problem, states must improve their institutional approach, making it more holistic and comprehensive, with greater resources.

The issue of information, or rather disinformation, also deserves special attention. We still use general or old data and outlooks that indicate troubling scenarios, but we do not have good, continuous and comparable data that cover different aspects of the issue. Only 62.5 percent of the countries in the region have generated information systems to measure violence against women. This is unheard of, because we know that “if it cannot be measured, it does not exist." This is a way to keep ignoring violence against women.

Today, more than ever, the issue is present on the public agenda -- but that does not mean this is sufficient or that it is included in the best way. There has also been progress in creating a more favourable legal and institutional framework, although there are still problems in its implementation. Indeed, 11 countries in the region have adopted laws that go beyond domestic or family violence. In addition, there is increasing social stigma against these situations, yet many people still approach the issue as a natural and private matter.

The celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Belem do Pará Convention, the defining of the new Post-2015 Development Agenda, and the Beijing +20 review provide an opportunity to give this issue the attention it deserves. This would place it at the centre of the agenda, thus realizing the commitments in action and resources, and ending this cruel violation of the human rights of women.


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