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Widespread violence against women
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Most female victims of physical violence do not seek help or report crimes because of shame or fear of reprisal.

Fifty three percent of women in Bolivia claim to have been victims of some kind of physical or sexual violence at the hands of domestic partners, maintains a recent study of the Pan American Health Organization, or PAHO.

The study “Violence Against Women in Latin America and the Caribbean: A Comparative Analysis of Population-Based Data from 12 Countries,” released on Jan. 17, revealed that between 17 percent and 53 percent of the 180,000 women who were interviewed in Bolivia, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Paraguay and Peru reported having suffered from physical or sexual violence at the hands of their partners.

The study also indicates that between 41 percent and 82 percent of women who have been victims of physical violence had injuries ranging from cuts and bruises to broken bones, miscarriages, and burns. Despite of this, says the study, between 28 percent and 64 percent did not seek help, report to the authorities, or told anyone because of shame.

Colombia is the country with the second-highest violence against women rate, with 39.7 percent, followed by Peru (39.5 percent), Ecuador (32.4 percent), Nicaragua (29.3 percent), Guatemala (27.6 percent), El Salvador (26.3 percent), Paraguay (20.4 percent), Jamaica (19.6 percent), Haiti (19.3 percent), and the Dominican Republic (17 percent).

Likewise, the study found that the majority of women that were beaten during childhood were also victims of violence as adults.

Mirta Roses Periago, PAHO’s director, declared that “n addition to violating basic human rights, violence against women has serious consequences for the health of women and their children and impacts heavily on health services and health workers in the region."

Bolivia, the country most affected by violence against women, had more than 440,000 reports of some level of intra-family violence between 2007 and 2012. Of this total, 23,000 were investigated by the legal system. Only in 96 of these cases there were convictions.

The PAHO states that the goal of the study is to raise awareness about violence against women in Latin America, the Caribbean and all over the world, as it is a health and public problem as well as a violation of human rights. By facilitating comparative data on prevalence, risk factors, consequences and attitudes on violence against women, the PAHO seeks to strengthen mechanisms in primary care, improve the quality of access to prevention and response programs for victims, and improve also the quality of the information needed to design appropriate policies and programs.

“It is our hope that this report will motivate decision-makers to invest more resources in implementing evidence-based strategies that will prevent violence against women from ever taking place,” said Alessandra Guedes, co-author of the report.
—Latinamerica Press.

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