A Multidimensional Approach to Address Violence Against Women and Girls and Femicide/Feminicide in Latin America and the Caribbean

Posted December 21, 2021

In Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), femicide/feminicide continues to be a problem that affects thousands of women and girls every year.

Violence against women and girls, including its most fatal expression, gender-based violent death, femicide/feminicide, is a serious social and multi-causal problem with fatal consequences for women, girls, and gender identities, with negative impacts for communities and States. Despite the progress made in the region, impunity, as well as political and social tolerance, are still high, and the victims or survivors, especially those in vulnerable situations, continue to face difficulties in accessing justice and quality care services.

In Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), femicide/feminicide continues to be a problem that affects thousands of women and girls every year. According to 2020 data from the Gender Equality Observatory of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in Latin America, the three highest rates of femicide/feminicide are registered in Honduras (4.7 per 100,000 women), the Dominican Republic (2.4 per 100,000 women) and El Salvador (2.1 per 100,000 women) despite a decrease in these figures compared to the previous year.

At UNDP we have deepened our knowledge in other areas and dimensions in which structural poverty, inequality, the daily use of weapons, the dynamics of organized crime, chronic violence, and the absence and/or weakness of institutional responses, among other aspects, reinforce violent processes that have a differentiated impact on the lives of women, girls and adolescents and gender identities in their territories as well as in their experiences of human mobility.

We share six key multidimensional findings for the analysis of this epidemic based on studies on femicides/feminicides in contexts of high social vulnerability in Latin America prepared by UNDP together with implementing partners and experts in the field within the framework of the Spotlight Initiative Regional Programme.

1.      Relationships between VAWG and femicide/feminicide with human mobility processes. Poverty, violence, and insecurity drive women and girls out of their countries of origin and expose them to gender-based violence, increasing their vulnerability to criminal activities and limiting their access to justice systems. In these circumstances, women have less access to support networks, especially if they live in poverty, come from rural areas, and have lower levels of education. They are exposed to sexual violence, xenophobia, cultural and linguistic isolation, etc.

2.      The relationship between violence against women and girls and femicide/feminicide, social violence, and organized crime. Chronic violence and organized crime generate situations of danger in which women suffer to a greater degree different forms of gender-based violence. Human trafficking, sexual violence, forced labor, extortion, and express kidnapping are common forms of gender violence on the road due to the impunity of criminal groups and the lack of state protection.

3.      Relationships between violence against women and girls and femicide/feminicide and multidimensional inequalities. The living conditions of women and girls with intersectional disadvantages have further deteriorated as a result of multidimensional poverty and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic that deepened poverty and structural inequality and added to the increase in gender violence, the weakening of protection networks, with the counterpart of the strengthening of criminal power, the increase in precarious labor and care work, among other challenges.

4.      The relationship between legislation on violence against women and girls and femicide/feminicide and the justice systems. In recent decades, the legislation of 17 countries in the region has been reformed to respond to gender-based violence and to incorporate the concept of femicide/feminicide. However, despite the progress made, it is necessary to review the role of the justice system in cases of femicide/feminicide. The justice sector must be strengthened and adopt a gender, intersectional and multicultural approach with an emphasis on protecting human rights.

5.      The relationship between trafficking and the disappearance of women and girls and femicide/feminicide. Trafficking and the disappearance of women and girls share with femicide/feminicide the fact that they are extreme expressions of gender-based violence due to their causal relationships, risk factors, concurrence, and connection. Human trafficking, being a continuous and dangerous crime, can use the disappearance of women and girls and even femicide/feminicide as an action or means for its ends.

6. How the available data on gender-based violence, including femicide/feminicide, is recorded and analyzed influences the improvement of public policies and the lives of women and girls. Data on violence against women and girls and femicide/feminicide are not merely numbers: they reflect lives, stories, and problems that are not reduced to an individual dimension. The region needs to improve the quality and availability of data on gender violence; achieve coherence between regulatory frameworks, institutional architecture, and measurement, and strengthen state capacities for their homologation, traceability, and comparability.

The UNDP calls for a renewed commitment at the national, regional, and international level to prevent and eliminate the various forms of violence against women and girls, including femicide/feminicide, in both the public and private spheres, and to redefine the hegemonic masculinities that have done so much damages.