4. Restricted physical integrity

  • The Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) score of the region of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) in the “Restricted physical integrity” dimension is 22,1 denoting a low level of discrimination, in line with the global average. However, the LAC sub-regions’ scores vary, ranging from 18 in South America to 24 in Central America, and to 27 in the Caribbean.

  • While the “Violence against women” indicator emerges as an important issue in the Caribbean and South America, with scores of 38 and 34, respectively (denoting medium levels of discrimination in social institutions), the “Reproductive autonomy” indicator stands out as an area of concern in Central America, with a score of 52 – highlighting a high level of discrimination –, due to restrictive laws on abortion.

  • Intersectional discrimination that minority, impoverished, rural and young women suffer makes these women more vulnerable to violence and reproductive health issues.

Female genital mutilation and missing women are not considered areas of concern in LAC countries.

  • There is no statistical indication that the practice of female genital mutilation is common in the LAC region.

  • All LAC countries display a natural sex ratio at birth, demonstrating an apparent absence of systematic undervaluation of female children.

Violence against women and reproductive autonomy constitute the most salient issues in the LAC region.

  • No LAC country provides women with comprehensive legal protection from all forms of violence, despite some progress made since around 2017.

  • Laws that prevent the termination of an unintended pregnancy continue to threaten women’s health and reproductive autonomy. In the LAC region, four countries2 entirely ban and criminalise abortion.

  • On average, 11% of women of reproductive age who are married or in de facto unions report having an unmet need for family planning, slightly above the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average of 10%. This is the result of the lack of information about and access to modern contraceptives, and of inadequate healthcare infrastructure.

Social norms related to women’s physical integrity continue to justify harmful practices in the LAC region.

  • In the LAC region, 11% of women believe that a husband is justified in hitting or beating his wife under certain circumstances.

  • Domestic violence against women is becoming progressively less tolerated. Between 2014 and 2018, on average, the percentage of women who declared that domestic violence was acceptable under certain circumstances declined from 15% to 11%.

Women’s control over their own bodies plays an important role in increasing their agency and empowerment. In the LAC region, various factors restrict women’s right to physical integrity, including the numerous forms of violence against women and the legal frameworks that limit women’s reproductive autonomy. Restrictions on physical integrity prevent women from pursuing their goals in public and private spheres such as education and employment. As such, respect for, and protection of, women’s physical integrity constitutes a vital precondition for achieving gender equality (MESECVI and OAS, n.d.[1]); (The World Bank, 2018[2]); (United Nations, 1979[3]). In order to tackle this issue, the SIGI considers four major areas that concern women’s physical integrity (Box 4.1).

In the LAC region, violence against women and reproductive autonomy are the most salient issues. Legal frameworks and practices perpetuate discrimination against women in these areas. The legal frameworks in many LAC countries constrain women’s physical integrity, and the prevalence of unmet needs for family planning, as well as of domestic violence, reveals that more work is needed in order to pass new legislation, implement existing laws and work with the justice system to improve women’s equality. This chapter provides an in-depth analysis of the factors contributing to the LAC region’s results in the “Restricted physical integrity” dimension, highlighting the social norms and practices that are either contributing to a positive transformation or resulting in harmful and negative outcomes for women.

The LAC region has a low level of discrimination in the “Restricted physical integrity” dimension, with a score of 22, in line with the global average. Yet, at the sub-regional level, average scores are 18 in South America and 24 in Central America, both of which are categorised as low levels of discrimination, but 27 in the Caribbean, which is categorised as a medium level of discrimination. Uruguay is the region’s top performer in the “Restricted physical integrity” dimension, with a score of 11, stemming primarily from a strong legal framework protecting women’s reproductive autonomy, broad access to family planning services and a relatively low rate of violence against women. For instance, 15% of Uruguayan women who have been in a relationship have suffered intimate partner violence at least once in their lifetime, but only 1% of Uruguayan women declared that spousal violence is acceptable under certain circumstances.

  • In the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic is the LAC sub-region’s top performer in this dimension with a score of 18, ranking 56th globally (Figure 4.1 and Figure 4.2). The Dominican Republic’s government has undertaken multiple steps to protect women’s physical integrity. For instance, El Plan Nacional de Igualdad y Equidad de Género 2020-2030 (the National Gender Equality and Equity Plan 2020-2030 [PLANEG III]) recognises the importance of eradicating all forms of violence against women through every stage of their lives. The plan outlines programmes to be conducted (along with a dedicated system to monitor and follow up on their execution) in order to continue the work of reducing violence against women and deconstructing stereotypes encouraging it (Gobierno de la República Dominicana, 2019[5]). The government has also carried out various training and awareness-raising campaigns on sexual and reproductive health and rights, breastfeeding, and women’s health (CEPAL, 2019[6]). Among the three remaining countries in this LAC sub-region with scores in the “Restricted physical integrity” dimension, Jamaica also achieves a low level of discrimination, with a score of 25, followed by Trinidad and Tobago (27) and Haiti (37), which lag behind with medium levels of discrimination.

  • In Central America, Mexico is the LAC sub-region’s top performer in this dimension with a score of 16 (denoting a low level of discrimination), ranking 47th globally. In 2019, the Mexican government launched the Plan Emergente para Garantizar la Integridad, la Seguridad y la Vida de las Mujeres y las Niñas en México (Emerging Plan to Guarantee the Integrity, Safety and Life of Women and Girls in Mexico) (Gobierno de México, 2019[7]). One of the main objectives of the national plan is to adopt a package of essential services for survivors and victims of violence, which includes services in the areas of protection and safety, health, law enforcement, and economic empowerment in order to decrease risks and vulnerabilities for survivors and victims of violence. In addition to this, the federal government started using the Mecanismo de Alerta de Violencia de Género contra las Mujeres (Alert Mechanism for Gender Violence against Women [AVGM]) in 2015. Gender alerts are activated by the government whenever and wherever there are laws or policies in place that limit women’s equal access to justice. Gender alerts urge the relevant local, state or federal authorities: to take immediate action to combat violence against women; to revise discriminatory legislation; to guarantee that victims receive legal, medical and psychological assistance; and to speed up investigations of unsolved cases (OECD Development Centre, 2019[8]). Like Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Honduras have scores classifying them as having low levels of discrimination. Meanwhile, Nicaragua, with a score of 26, and El Salvador, with a score of 27, exhibit medium levels of discrimination in this dimension.

  • In South America, Uruguay is the top performer at both the LAC sub-regional and regional levels in the “Restricted physical integrity” dimension, with a score of 11 denoting a low level of discrimination, and ranking 23rd globally. In 2017, Uruguay’s adoption of the Ley Integral de Violencia Basada en Género y hacia las Mujeres (Comprehensive Law on Violence against Women) facilitated the launch of a national Observatory on Gender-Based Violence against Women. The observatory was established by an inter-institutional commission composed of the most relevant public institutions and the Uruguayan Network against Domestic and Sexual Violence. In 2019, the Presidency of the Republic launched a public awareness campaign against gender-based violence, aimed at transforming harmful attitudes and behaviours (CEPAL, 2019[6]). Among the remaining seven countries in South America with scores in the “Restricted physical integrity” dimension, six3 have low levels of discrimination (ranging from 15 in Brazil and Colombia, to 22 in Paraguay), while Peru (27) has a medium level of discrimination.

Violence against women is not only a violation of women’s fundamental human rights and dignity, but it also reinforces women’s subordination to men. Violence against women represents a cost for societies and economies, as well as for individual rights and well-being. In Peru, for example, the economic cost of intimate partner violence against women for private businesses was estimated to reach 4% of gross domestic product (GDP) (Brendel, Gürtner and Valera Loza, n.d.[9]). The LAC region has made steadfast commitments to stem and eradicate violence against women: the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women (Convention of Belém do Pará,1994) and Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Target 5.2 call on countries to “eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls” (United Nations, 2016[10]). Moreover, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) recognises gender-based violence as an “obstacle to the participation of women, on equal terms with men, in the political, social, economic and cultural life” (United Nations, 1979[3]).

No country in the LAC region, or even the world, has enacted laws to protect women from all forms of violence through a comprehensive approach. A comprehensive approach means that women are protected from all forms of gender-based violence, including various forms of domestic violence (physical, sexual, psychological and economic) and sexual harassment (at work, in educational and sporting facilities, in public spaces, and online), and that there are legally codified provisions for the investigation, prosecution and punishment of these crimes, as well as protection and support services for survivors (Box 4.2). The existence of legal loopholes enables violence against women to continue, resulting in the LAC region’s average score of 33 in the “Violence against women” indicator, which exceeds the OECD average of 29, but is well below the global average of 40. In the LAC region, 16 countries4 have a score of 75 in this indicator, which shows that existing legislation protects women from some forms of violence, but not all. On the positive side, 8 countries5 have a score of 25, denoting a low level of discrimination (Figure 4.3).

Twenty-two LAC countries6 have laws that provide legal protection from sexual harassment; however, these laws are limited in multiple respects. First, six7 of these countries do not prescribe criminal penalties for sexual harassment. Second, except for Bolivia, most do not protect women from sexual harassment in all areas of public life, including in the workplace, educational institutions, sports facilities, public spaces and online. Five countries8 have passed new legislation in order to close these gaps, including Panama, where Law 7 of 2018 prohibits sexual harassment in all environments and requires employers, public institutions and schools to implement policies that prevent and sanction sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination, such as racism and sexism (Gobierno de Panamá, n.d.[12]).

Legislation against domestic violence has improved, but still does not cover all forms that this abuse can take. In 20 LAC countries,9 legal frameworks protect women from physical, sexual, psychological and economic domestic abuse, but in 3 countries,10 domestic violence is not subject to criminal penalties. Economic abuse is the least covered form of domestic violence, as nine countries11 do not include this form of abuse in their legislation. Furthermore, five countries12 have legal exceptions in the form of customary, religious or traditional practices or laws that reduce penalties for domestic violence. In Mexico, for instance, indigenous communities often count with traditional systems of sanctioning domestic violence cases. Community and indigenous leaders get involved in cases of domestic violence and decide on the consequences – for example, whether or not the woman can separate from her husband (OECD Development Centre, 2019[8]). As the implementation of legal frameworks remains the biggest challenge in the LAC region, all countries except Barbados, Belize and Cuba have national action plans which are intended to outline implementation with various objectives.13

Paraguay and Peru have led the way since 2017 by making numerous changes to their legal frameworks to include and criminalise more types of violence against women. In Peru, Legislative Decree 1410 (2018) modifying Law 27942 outlined criminal penalties for sexual harassment with aggravating circumstances covering educational, employment and training relationships. Furthermore, the decree specifically states that penalties are applicable in cases where information technologies were used, and thus covers cyber harassment (Gobierno del Perú, 2018[14]). In Paraguay, Law 5777 expanded the legal definition of violence against women by including economic, sexual, labour, political and cyber violence, among others, in its legal code (Gobierno de Paraguay, 2016[15]).

LAC governments have progressively turned their attention to femicide. Since around 2010, femicide – the murder of a single woman or multiple women due to their gender – has become an increasingly common form of gender-based violence. According to data from the Gender Equality Observatory for Latin America and the Caribbean, in 2018, 3 529 women in the LAC region were victims of femicide (ECLAC, 2018[16]). In order to punish this crime, 18 countries14 have passed or amended laws to sanction femicide by classifying it as a crime (ECLAC, 2018[17]) (Figure 4.4). Furthermore, some countries are using or considering the use of technology to prevent femicides (Box 4.3). Evidence demonstrates the importance of intervening in situations of domestic violence before they lead to femicide. It is important to recognise that femicide is typically not the first type of violence a victim has experienced, but rather the culmination of various violent acts. Data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) show that intimate partners perpetrate most femicides, followed by other family members, and that femicides are often preceded by prior incidences of domestic violence specifically (UNODC, 2013[18]).

Various factors – such as drug and alcohol abuse, as well as firearms regulations – increase women’s risk of experiencing violence, especially domestic violence and femicide. Drug and alcohol consumption plays an important role in the prevalence of domestic violence, with more than 50% of women in Ecuador in 2004 and nearly 30% of women in Guatemala in 200809 who experienced domestic violence reporting their partner’s use of drugs and alcohol as a contributing factor (Bott et al., 2014[26]). Furthermore, studies have found that the risk of femicide increases significantly when the aggressor has access to a firearm (Campbell et al., 2003[27]). This is a particular problem in the LAC region, where the percentage of homicides committed using firearms is higher than the global average of 41%, reaching 59% in South America and 73% in Central America (Instinto de Vida, 2017[28]).

Among the multiple forms that violence can take, sexual violence is pervasive in the LAC region, and some countries’ legal frameworks do not protect against some forms of sexual violence. The LAC region features the highest rate15 of “non-couples related sexual violence” and “the second-highest rate of violence by partners or ex-partners” (Essayag, 2017[29]). This is despite the fact that all but five LAC countries16 have domestic violence legislation that covers sexual abuse, and all LAC countries have laws that classify rape as a criminal offence. However, four LAC countries17 fail to protect married women from marital rape.

Estimates of the prevalence of all forms of violence against women likely underrepresent the actual situation. While the prevalence of all forms of violence against women varies, evidence shows that it remains underreported (Heinemann and Verner, 2006[30]); (St. Bernard, 2002[31]). In particular, stigmatisation and social norms that consider domestic violence to be a private matter contribute to the underreporting of violence against women. Furthermore, a lack of confidence in the justice system may be an aggravating factor (see Chapter 6). Nevertheless, data show that the prevalence of reported domestic violence is decreasing. In the LAC region, the percentage of ever-partnered women who suffered violence from an intimate partner at least once in their lifetime decreased from 36% in 2014 to 27% in 2018. In some countries, the decline has been considerable. For example, the percentage decreased by 29 percentage points in Chile and by 15 percentage points in Jamaica. Challenges remain, however, as between 2014 and 2019, the prevalence of domestic violence increased in three LAC countries.18

Violence against women does not affect all women in the same ways, and it is influenced by other factors – such as race and ethnicity – that can make some women, especially afro-descendant and indigenous women, more vulnerable to violence and its adverse impacts. In Ecuador, indigenous and Afro-Ecuadorian women are most likely to face violence. Similarly, in Colombia, afro-descendant girls aged 10-14 years represented the highest number of victims of violence between 2012 and 2013 (ECLAC, 2018[32]). Evidence shows that women of African descent are more likely to experience violence, especially sexual violence, at an early age. Furthermore, while the incidence of femicide among white women decreased in Brazil by nearly 10 percentage points between 2003 and 2013, it increased by more than 54 percentage points for Brazilian black women in the same period (ECLAC, 2018[32]). These worrying figures reflect how deeply rooted racism and patriarchy are in some societies where national laws do not take an intersectional approach that acknowledges overlapping gender and racial hierarchies (ECLAC, 2018[32]).

Early marriage has also been associated with a greater incidence of domestic violence, and studies have shown that child marriage constitutes a risk factor for domestic violence (Taylor et al., 2019[33]) (UNICEF, n.d.[34]). As a result, women who are married before the age of 15 years are more likely to experience domestic violence at least once in their lifetime, compared with women who are married later in life (Figure 4.5). The reasons for this association are complex, but are likely related to the fact that women who marry as children are more likely to be poor, less educated, and influenced by traditional gender norms than those who marry later in life (Kidman, 2017[35]). Furthermore, in some LAC countries, legal frameworks restrict women’s right to divorce their partners, preventing women from leaving abusive relationships and amplifying their risk of experiencing persistent violence at home (see Chapter 3).

Gender norms affect people’s willingness to consider domestic violence acceptable. In some places in the LAC region, the interplay between the social constructs of machismo and marianismo shape both men’s and women’s behaviour and beliefs about their gender roles and violence (Kimelblatt, 2017[36]). While machismo is a form of hyper-masculinity which valorises dominance and violence, marianismo valorises a submissive hyper-femininity, prizing women’s ability to endure the suffering inflicted on them (Nuñez et al., 2016[37]). Acceptance of marianismo as the standard for women’s beliefs and behaviours may lead women to accept domestic violence as justifiable. On average, nearly 11% of women in the LAC region consider that a husband can be justified in hitting or beating his wife under certain circumstances (e.g. if she burns food, argues with him, goes out without telling him, neglects the children, or refuses to engage in sexual intercourse with him).19 However, this average percentage hides variation within the LAC region; for example, only 1% of women in Uruguay hold this belief, compared with 59% of women in Haiti. While the acceptance and presentation of marianismo and machismo clearly vary throughout the LAC region, in the countries where these roles are accepted, they act as a significant barrier to eliminating violence against women (Hanser, 2001[38]). Unsurprisingly, a higher prevalence of attitudes that accept violence as legitimate is associated with a higher prevalence of domestic violence (Figure 4.6).

Female genital mutilation includes “all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injuries to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons” (WHO, 2018[40]). This traditional practice is recognised internationally as a violation of women’s and girls’ human rights, and can be both fatal and a cause of adverse outcomes for women’s and girl’s health and well-being. SDG Target 5.3 explicitly aims to “eliminate all harmful practices, such as female genital mutilation” (United Nations, 2016[10]).

The “Female genital mutilation” indicator combines the scores of two variables: the prevalence of female genital mutilation, and attitudes towards female genital mutilation. Even though legal frameworks are not considered for the calculation of this indicator, it is worth noting that only one country in the LAC region, Trinidad and Tobago, has a legal framework that defines female genital mutilation as a harmful practice in its criminal law.

It is probably because of this lack of data that every country in the LAC region scores 0 in this indicator. The data on the practice of female genital mutilation suffer from considerable gaps. Tracking information for SDG indicator 5.3.2, which measures the “proportion of girls and women aged 15-49 years who have undergone female genital mutilation”, is currently available for only 28 countries, 26 of which are in Africa and none of which are in the LAC region, despite evidence suggesting that female genital mutilation may be practised in the LAC region (UNICEF, 2013[41]).

Cases of female genital mutilation are identified when it is too late. Before 2007, it was unknown that female genital mutilation was practised among the Emberá indigenous group in Colombia, but that year its continued practice was revealed when a newborn Emberá girl died due to complications caused by the procedure. Nevertheless, as this group does not universally practise female genital mutilation, the revelation came as a surprise to many, both within and outside the community (Moloney, 2015[42]). This element of secrecy prevents accurate accounting for the actual prevalence of female genital mutilation (Box 4.4).

“Missing women” was a concept first introduced in the late 1980s by Amartya Sen, who hypothesised that more than 100 million women were missing due to excessive female mortality. This phenomenon is the result of a systematic undervaluation of female children and results from neglect and higher female-infant mortality (Sen, 1992[44]).

All LAC countries exhibit a natural sex ratio at birth. The natural sex ratio at birth is 105, meaning that it is natural that for every 100 girls born there would be 105 boys born; however, when this ratio exceeds 105, this signals a potential son preference, as there are more boys between the ages of 0 and 4 years than one would expect (WHO, n.d.[45]). Nevertheless, scientific studies show that even the natural sex ratio at birth varies across time and place, and a range of between 105 and 107 is considered natural (Hesketh and Xing, 2006[46]). For this reason, despite the fact that there are more boys between the ages of 0 and 4 years in Cuba (105.6), Bahamas (105.4) and Jamaica (105.4) than one might expect, there is no evidence to suggest that this is the result of a systematic undervaluation of female children, as the ratio does not exceed 107.

Reproductive autonomy is restricted by insufficient accessibility of family planning tools, as well as by legal frameworks that restrict women’s access to reproductive healthcare such as abortion. Restricted reproductive autonomy can lead to higher rates of maternal mortality and hampers women’s and girls’ control over their bodies. The necessity of “universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services” is included in SDG Target 3.7; moreover, SDG Target 5.6 recognises the importance of “sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights” (United Nations, 2016[10]).

Access to family planning remains a critical issue that hampers women’s and girls’ reproductive autonomy. In the LAC region, there are an estimated 14 million unintended pregnancies each year (Guttmacher Institute, 2018[47]). These unintended pregnancies could have been prevented, but due to inadequate programmes and services, in 2017, more than 24 million women of reproductive age in the region reported that they had an unmet need for modern contraception (Guttmacher Institute, 2018[47]). In 2019, on average, 11.3% of in-union women of reproductive age (15-49 years) reported having an unmet need for family planning, similar to the global average of 12%. Yet, the regional average in this indicator hides tremendous variation at the country level, as percentages range from 6% in Peru to 38% in Haiti (Figure 4.7). Furthermore, poor women and women living in rural areas often face greater difficulties in accessing reproductive health services, as poverty and remote locations compound their already limited resources. Additional barriers include lack of knowledge about contraceptive methods and sources of supply, as well as incorrect perceptions about the health risks of modern contraceptive methods.

Progress is slow in providing women with the right to terminate a pregnancy. While El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras and Nicaragua prohibit abortion under all circumstances, only three countries – Cuba, Guyana and Uruguay – provide women with the right to voluntarily end a pregnancy within a stated gestation period. In the remaining 22 LAC countries, there are nationally sanctioned justifications that enable women to have an abortion (Table 4.1). The most commonly legally accepted justification for an abortion is a serious threat to the woman’s life, which has to be certified by a doctor, or sometimes by two doctors. Due to diverse legal frameworks, scores for the “Reproductive autonomy” indicator range from 4 in Uruguay and Cuba, to 74 in Haiti. Despite the slow rate of change, social movements in the LAC region have made headway in opening up public debate about abortion, which remains a polarising issue (Box 4.5).

Prohibition and criminalisation of abortion make it one of the leading causes of maternal mortality and poor health outcomes in the LAC region. Evidence shows that making abortion illegal does not prevent the practice, but rather pushes women to seek the procedure in ways that threaten their health and well-being (Berer, 2017[48]); (Guttmacher Institute, 2018[47]). The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the case-fatality rate for unsafe abortions in the LAC region is 30 per 100 000 (WHO, 2012[49]). Furthermore, in countries where the procedure is criminalised, many women avoid seeking post-abortion care that may save their lives (Zamberlin, Romero and Ramos, 2012[50]). Globally, it is estimated that 7 million women are admitted to hospitals due to unsafe abortions every year in developing countries; in the LAC region, this figure is estimated to be 760 000 (Guttmacher Institute, 2018[47]); (WHO, 2019[51]).

Laws prohibiting abortion disproportionately affect society’s most vulnerable women. On the one hand, evidence shows that young women from working-class and poor families are the most likely to become pregnant as adolescents (Casas Isaza et al., 2014[57]). On the other hand, there are financial and logistical barriers that make terminating an unintended pregnancy a service only available for the wealthier members of society. Accessing a legal abortion for women living in countries where there are significant restrictions20 requires travelling abroad (Kulczycki, 2011[58]). In countries such as Mexico, where States decide on abortion policy, women must travel to the capital, Mexico City – where the procedure is legal until the 12th week of gestation – to terminate their pregnancies (Senderowicz, Sanhueza and Langer, 2018[59]).

Young girls (aged 9-14 years) face tremendous health risks in carrying pregnancies to term. The LAC region has one of the highest rates of adolescent pregnancy in the world, at 66.5 births per 1 000 girls aged 15-19 years, compared with the global rate of 46 births per 1 000 girls aged 15-19 years (PAHO, 2018[60]). In the absence of the right to legal abortions, these young girls must carry their pregnancies to term, facing many health risks. Maternal mortality remains one of the top causes of death among female adolescents and youth aged 15-24 years in the LAC region (PAHO, 2018[60]). Adolescents under the age of 15 years face more problems during labour and, as a result, the majority require caesarean sections. Further research shows that adolescent pregnancies more often result in complications such as infections, pre-eclampsia, eclampsia, preterm labour, and more (Casas Isaza et al., 2014[57]).

Within the “Restricted physical integrity” dimension, progress has undeniably been made since 2014, but significant barriers to protecting women’s and girl’s rights in this regard remain. Legal frameworks restricting women’s physical integrity continue to exacerbate the vulnerability of women in the LAC region. Even as violence against women has gained increased attention from policy makers, legislation remains insufficient, especially regarding sexual harassment. While most LAC countries have sexual harassment laws which cover the workplace, more needs to be done to protect women in public spaces and online. Seven countries21 do not provide legal protection from sexual harassment, and among those that do, six22 do not prescribe criminal penalties.

Legislation alone is not enough to eradicate violence against women, as gender norms lead some men and women to see various forms of this type of violence as acceptable. For example, the relatively high percentage of people in the LAC region who justify domestic violence enables the practice to continue. Moreover, practices such as child marriage, drug and alcohol abuse, and firearms ownership increase women’s risk of experiencing violence at home and in public.

Laws limiting the circumstances in which women can legally seek an abortion, and criminal penalties associated with performing this procedure, restrict women’s reproductive autonomy. In the absence of full and free rights to make decisions about their own bodies, LAC women, especially the most vulnerable and marginalised, find their health and well-being at risk. Evidence shows that even when abortion is not legal, women and girls continue to attempt the dangerous procedure, often suffering adverse health outcomes as a result. Marginalised women are especially disadvantaged, as they are often not able to access healthcare facilities. In addition to the implementation of the necessary legal reforms, access to modern contraceptives, age-appropriate sexual education, and improved healthcare infrastructure could help reduce the high rate of unintended pregnancies in the LAC region.


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← 1. SIGI scores range from 0 to 100, with 0 indicating no discrimination and 100 indicating absolute discrimination.

← 2. El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras and Nicaragua.

← 3. Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Paraguay.

← 4. Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Barbados, Belize, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, and Uruguay.

← 5. Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and Venezuela.

← 6. Argentina, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.

← 7. Argentina, Barbados, Belize, Costa Rica, Guyana and Uruguay.

← 8. Chile, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay and Peru.

← 9. Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Trinidad and Tobago, and Uruguay.

← 10. Argentina, Cuba and Haiti.

← 11. Chile, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Jamaica, Peru and Venezuela.

← 12. Belize, Ecuador, El Salvador, Jamaica and Mexico.

← 13. Antigua and Barbuda’s plan was valid over the period 2013-18.

← 14. Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.

← 15. We acknowledge the existence of multiple biases, underreporting and data limitations related to statistics on sexual violence.

← 16. Chile, Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica and Peru.

← 17. Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Cuba and Haiti.

← 18. Brazil (increased by 3 percentage points), Dominican Republic (increased by 3 percentage points) and Haiti (increased by 0.8 percentage points).

← 19. Data are unavailable for Venezuela.

← 20. Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Belize, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela.

← 21. Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago.

← 22. Argentina, Barbados, Belize, Costa Rica, Guyana and Uruguay.

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