Civil SocietyHuman rightsLife conditionsWomen

Women’s, feminist and human rights organisations propose #8ActionsForWomen

Caracas, 8 March 2022

This year, on the occasion of the International Women’s Day, the United Nations has proposed the theme “Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow” to recognise the important and necessary contributions of women, adolescent girls and girls in building a more sustainable future for all people.

The 2030 Agenda for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals includes gender equality and the empowerment of all women, adolescents and girls as Goal 5. To achieve this, States must put an end to all forms of discrimination against women through the implementation of laws, public policies and actions based on the principles of equity and complementary initiatives that are socio-culturally and linguistically relevant and use an intercultural and intersectional gender approach. In the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, the State enshrines equality as one of its highest values and does not allow discrimination with the aim of achieving a democratic, participatory, multi-ethnic and multicultural society. However, actions and political will are required to put this into practice.

Gender equality is today an ephemeral concept in Venezuela, a reality that is fading in the face of deepening gender gaps caused by the economic, social, political and humanitarian crisis that the country has been suffering for several years. This situation has been exacerbated by the impact of COVID 19, which exposes women, adolescents and girls to increased risk and discrimination.

It is impossible to speak of gender equality in Venezuela today, when:

  • 2.52 million women, adolescents and girls are classified as vulnerable population4 who do not have the means to ensure their survival. They require a prompt institutional and community response to prevent, mitigate and respond to protection risks. Women, adolescent girls and girls represent 56% of the target population of the Humanitarian Response Plan by 2021.
  • The number of femicides has more than doubled in the last 5 years, from 122 in 2016 to 290 in 2021. Femicides are the tip of the iceberg of violence against women that occurs in the country, not just in the form of domestic violence, but also in the context of violence at the community level, discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation, commercial sexual exploitation, trafficking and smuggling of women, adolescents and girls and different forms of sexual violence.
  • Human trafficking is the second cause of disappearances of girls, adolescents and women in Venezuela and represents an extreme form of gender-based violence that is invisible due to the very nature of the crime and that disproportionately affects the female population. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime confirms that there is a correlation between the contraction of the gross domestic product (GDP) and the increase in trafficking flows originating in Venezuela to countries in South America, Central America and Western, Southern, Central and South-eastern Europe. In the first half of 2021, only 147 Venezuelan women who were victims of trafficking were reported to have been rescued.
  • Access to justice for women who have suffered from violence is not guaranteed. 91.5% of complaints of violence against women in the country are archived or dismissed. The number of reports of violence against women has also decreased drastically in the last 6 years. This is due to failures with the reception of complaints and women’s mistrust of the institutional justice system, which is incapable of providing security, protection, effective legal protection and reparation.
  • Violence against women violates fundamental individual and collective rights. For example, 97.7% of women with disabilities have been victims of physical violence while 79.5% have suffered sexual violence, generating negative consequences in their personal lives and affecting their individual rights. Among indigenous communities, where women are the guarantors of life, existence and permanence of the original cultures, holders of ancestral knowledge and transmitters of values, principles and mother tongues, violence against this population affects them personally, represents a threat to their cultural continuity and hinders the conservation and protection of mother earth and life on the planet.
  • Indigenous women in Venezuela do not have the special protection they require due to the intersectionality of different forms of vulnerability: because they are women; because they are indigenous; because they live in poverty; and because of their cosmovision. Their human rights are not guaranteed, specifically the right to a dignified life, to a life free of violence, to food and to health. 10 out of 100 indigenous women live with HIV and do not have medicines to care for endemic diseases and reduce mortality rate. Obstetric violence and spiritual violence are increasing among this population, which is losing its ancestral customs. Commercial sexual exploitation is a serious reality in the states of Bolivar, Amazonas and Delta Amacuro, where the stereotype of the sexual inferiority of women prevails. They also experience political violence.
  • Venezuela does not have gender identity or sexual orientation laws that provide protection for LBTIQ+ women, nor comprehensive laws that enable women survivors to defend themselves against discrimination or access justice for hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Venezuelan women’s right to health is violated because they do not have access to information, prevention, diagnosis and timely treatment programs for chronic health conditions such as cancer, hypertension and HIV.
  • Women workers are often paid 17.7% less than men to the same job. They face challenges with obtaining employment because of their status as women and possible motherhood and they do not enjoy harassment-free workplaces.
  • Women from low-income sectors and the most vulnerable populations suffer from time poverty in addition to economic poverty. These women spend between 13 and 16 hours a day on care work and have no time for paid employment. The utility services, energy and transportation crises in the country make this burden of care even heavier. Women who accompany their children in public hospitals do unpaid work and cannot access any support from the Venezuelan State. They are not recognised for their work as non-professional carers, an activity that represents a significant saving for the health system. There are no public care policies in the country. Care work overload for women multiply the feminisation of poverty and makes them more vulnerable to violence.
  • Venezuelan public education is in crisis. There is a shortage of teachers – mostly women – estimated at 24.9%, and of this total, 40% is due to forced migration. Student dropout rates at elementary and middle school levels have reached 15% in the last three years. In addition, there has been a generalised deterioration in services (water, electricity, internet) and infrastructure, an increase in barriers in terms of obtaining educational materials and difficulties with accessing the schools themselves due to the transport crisis. The extreme poverty of the population and the significant technological gaps limit access to e-learning. All of these factors have negative consequences on the educational process, general wellbeing and mental health of children and adolescents. In the case of girls and adolescents, additional barriers exist related to care burdens and menstrual poverty.
  • Women’s sexual and reproductive rights are violated in Venezuela. Less than half of women aged 15-49 and just 37.9% of sexually active adolescents use contraceptive methods. The low prevalence rate is due to lack of access to contraceptives as more than 50% of women cannot afford to buy them due to their high cost. This results in unwanted pregnancies, high-risk adolescent pregnancies, unsafe abortions and ultimately a loss of physical autonomy for women.

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