The UN Women Regional Office for the Americas and the Caribbean joins the condemnation of the atrocious case of gang rape of a minor girl in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The brutality of the act was extreme, and the degradation of the victim continued through the perpetrators’ sharing of images and recordings on the Internet of this deplorable act. This crime follows closely upon another alleged rape in Bom Jesus, in the state of Piauí, Brazil, where five men are still under investigation.
These events have caused the strongest of condemnation and shock of the international community. A wide range of public entities, civil society organisations, United Nations agencies, mass media, as well as cultural leaders and artists have pronounced their outrage. The UN Women Regional Office for the Americas and the Caribbean joins this fervent condemnation and urges authorities to strictly enforce the law against the perpetrators and protect the integrity and dignity of the victims.
Social tolerance of violence against women and girls across the Americas and the Caribbean is systematic, and this violence can be physical, psychological and economic, and occurs in both public and private spaces. This violence takes place in a continuum and is heightened during natural disasters and armed conflict, -affecting the lives of both women and men with devastating consequences for society as a whole.
WHO data shows that:
Forced and unwanted sexual initiation occurs at early ages for many girls in Latin America and the Caribbean: A significant number of young women informed in all surveys that their first sexual experience was ‘forced’. The surveys also show that husbands, partners and boyfriends were mentioned as perpetrators with the highest frequency.
Being exposed to violence during childhood increases the risk of other forms of violence at later stages in life and has significantly negative intergenerational effects: Being exposed to violence during childhood can have negative long-term and intergenerational effects. Prevalence of violence perpetrated by a husband/partner was considerably higher (in general twice as high) among women that informed having been physically abused during their childhood, in comparison to the women who had not experienced this. The proportion of women informing that their father (or stepfather) hit their mothers (or stepmother) varied widely between countries, from an eighth (12.6%) in Haiti 2005/6 to almost half (49.3%) in Bolivia in 2003. In seven of the 13 countries, a quarter or more of the interviewed women informed having been exposed to this form of domestic violence.
Impunity for crimes against women and girls and the high social tolerance of violence against them have positioned Latin America and the Caribbean as the region with the most homicides of women: According to the Geneva Convention, in its 2011 report, of the 2.5 countries with the highest levels of femicides/ feminicides, more than 50% are Latin American or Caribbean. Estimates show that in Brazil every 6 hours a woman is killed by a known perpetrator. In Colombia, every six days a woman dies at the hands of her current or former intimate partner. In Mexico, a recent study of the trends of the last 25 years, carried out by the National Women’s Institute (INMUJERES) and UN Women, shows that despite some decreases in homicides of women, these are largely perpetrated by a current or former intimate partner.
Many might think that the claims of women and progress during recent years mean that these systematic human rights violations are things of the past, but let’s not forget that at a global level, 35% of women killings are committed by an intimate partner compared to 5% of men according to preliminary results of a WHO study.
These estimates should be perceived as modest since there is no comparative information between countries, which fuels the culture of impunity. As explained by the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its causes and consequences, gender-related killings of women, more than being a new form, is the most extreme form of violence against women. These are not isolated events that occur suddenly or unexpectedly, but constitute the ultimate act in a continuum of violence. Witnessing the systematic violence in Brazil and the rest of Latin America, the correlation between gender-related crimes against women, including rape, and the high regional and national rates of femicide/feminicide stands clear.
In light of this, UN Women calls for action to guarantee due access to support and protection services for victims, ensuring that these incorporate a gender perspective and preserve the security, dignity and privacy of the victims, impeding further exposure to risk situations and revictimisation.
Furthermore, we encourage a profound and urgent reflection regarding the culture of impunity and tolerance of aggressions, the cultural values and negative masculinity models that underpin these incidents, that reproduce and endorse acts of aggression, domination and violence against women and girls.