COVID-19, Violence Against Women, And Femicide In Latin America

Restrictions on staying at home, as well as other measures that limit the free transit of people, have caused an increase in gender-based violence in Latin America. For millions of women around the globe, the measures that force them to stay at home to protect them against COVID-19 are otherwise dangerous because many have had to face isolation with those perpetrators who regularly abuse them. Unfortunately, COVID-19 and mandatory quarantine have increased the number of cases of gender-based violence that thousands of women and girls face all over the world.

Regarding violence against women in Ecuador, at least 41 cases have been registered daily at different judicial units. The figures confirmed that Guayas was the most affected province. Through the telephone line enabled to report cases of gender-based violence, from March 12th to May 20th, the province of Guayas recorded 6,321 calls for help. At a national level, there were around 17,964 cases recorded – about 257 per day.

Likewise, between March 16th and May 15th, the institution known as Consejo de la Judicatura has dealt with 2,469 cases of violence against women nationwide and 41 hearings on average were held every day. Of that number, 2,032 corresponded to delictos flagrantes, meaning the aggressors were arrested. The other 437 cases were related to calls for protection measures for non-flagrant acts. In April, the website of the Prosecutor’s Office was enabled to report cases online.

Another extremely worrisome issue is the number of femicides in the country during the quarantine. Ecuador has already had a dozen femicides during the quarantine. Paula and Andrea, two girls aged 4 years and 14 months old respectively, were killed by their stepparents. Paula was from Venezuela and came to Ecuador a year ago with her mother. She was beaten to death on March 30th. The girl vomited on a bus while traveling with her stepfather. He took her to the bathroom of a gas station in Tabacundo to clean her up, where the girl died. According to the legal autopsy, she had several broken ribs. Andrea’s case occurred in Manabí. The baby’s stepfather raped her, leaving her for dead after abusing her. Violence against women has increased drastically across Ecuador in the past few months, and these are only some of numerous cases.

In Argentina, the figures related to the number of women killed as a consequence of the quarantine measures are also extremely worrying. The number of femicides reached a ten-year high, with more than 50 femicides over the past few months. It should be noted that the data in Argentina follows a global trend of increasing gender-based violence in lockdown conditions. These conditions have left women trapped at home with their abusers and unable to seek help elsewhere.

Likewise, after the first eight weeks of lockdown in Peru, 12 femicides and 226 rapes were registered, of which 132 were minors. Almost a thousand women were also murdered in Mexico in the first three months of 2020, according to government data, showing an increase in violence. COVID-19 lockdowns put them at greater risk, as they were often isolated and unprotected before their murderers or rapists. Virus containment measures against are highlighting that the domestic environment is precisely where much of the violence against women occurs, much of the time within the family sphere itself. The aggressor tends to be very close to the family or even a part of it, especially when it comes to rape cases. Nevertheless, something important to note is that the government of Peru established a decree at the end of April. This gave judges the power to grant urgent protection measures, such as removal of the aggressor from the home, without the need to hold hearings during this health emergency.

According to the United Nations, at least twelve women are murdered every day in Latin America due to their gender. The region is home to 14 of the 25 countries with the highest rates of femicide in the world. And it is important to keep in mind that the vast majority of murders are not prosecuted. Psychologists, activists, and police agree that compulsory lockdown puts women at risk and complaints of gender violence have multiplied. Before the pandemic, domestic violence was already a major concern for women in Latin America. With the advance of COVID-19, the numbers of femicides and abuse continue to grow.

Desirée Viteri Almeida
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