Machismo: Violence Against Female Body

By Steffica Warwick

Image Credit: Germain Greer, Quote Fancy

"We are convinced that gender equality is the foundation of sustainable peace and development and that gender-based violence needs to be addressed head-on as part of the efforts to build peace." - Isabella Lovin

'Silent Voices: Violence Against the Female Body as a Consequence of Machismo Culture in Latin America' links violent acts, in particular sexual violence, committed against females to the region's culture of machismo. 
'Silent voices' refers to the idea that girls in gangs and females who have been trafficked are on the fringe of society, and not often heard. It also makes reference to the tradition of silence around sexism in Latin America, and the stigma against reporting instances of sexual abuse. 
Machismo is discussed as one facet of the patriarchy, in which women are seen as passive and subservient to men, who are dominant figures both in the home and in society. The culture of machismo is a threat to the safety of both genders, but the essay focuses solely on the effect for females. It will explore the cyclical and multifaceted nature of how ideas are circulated, and reinforcing factors such as poverty and the media.


 Latin America has a relatively high rate of rape and sexual assault compared to some other parts of the world, such as Western Europe. The Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) and World Health Organisation (WHO) report that one in three Latin American women are sexually assaulted in their lifetime. 

However, it is difficult to get a clear picture of exactly which regions fair the worst in terms of rape and sexual assault. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) collects statistics about rape from every country around the world, but many countries do not report figures of rape or assault to the UNODC at all. Even if the figures were reported, they would not be truly representative. In Belize, a report from United Nations Women (UN Women) revealed that rape suspects often bribe the authorities to keep the case quiet. 

In Nicaragua, which is estimated to have some of the highest rates of rape and sexual assault, victims face hostility from the authorities if they report the crime. 

Furthermore, many countries differ in their definition of rape and sexual assault. Rape during marriage has not been part of the legal definition of rape in several countries until the late nineties, and it only became an illegal practice in Mexico as late as 2005. There is also equivocation in whether to account for the number of times a person has been raped if they have been raped multiple times, or to simply count that as one rape. 

Even without the full and accurate figures it is still evident that rape and sexual assault is still a thriving problem in Latin America that has not been solved.


Coupled with the culture of violence at work in Latin America, there is also a culture of silence which serves to preserve spaces where abuses take place. For example, the family home is a space which is considered private and intimate in Latin America. When abuse takes place, more often than not, it will be kept within the confines of the family. 

Females who are victim to gang violence and trafficking are silenced by the circles which oppress them. To speak up against crimes committed could lead to further abuse, or death. There are also social taboos which act as silencers. Men and boys feel unable to speak out against the violence of their peers, or the oppression they may feel for having to embody the character of a macho man. Shame is also a factor, particularly in feelings of inadequacy for being unable to live up to the expectations of their gender.

For females, shame may spring from feelings of guilt at having been sexually abused, and fear about how authorities will treat them if they speak up, with authorities also being responsible for silencing victims' claims. 

A factor which underpins all the above is normalisation, which at the most promotes an unquestioning respect for traditional values, and at the least a sense of apathy and resignation in the face of change.

(Article extracted by Dr. Christina Sisti)

This article is extracted from the Research paper titled 'Silent Voices: Violence against the female body as a consequence of machismo'  in Chapter 4 of the Safety Report by SAFIGI Outreach Foundation 'Safety First for Girls'.

The Safety Report by SAFIGI is a two-fold Open research on 'Core Issues Affecting Safety of Girls in the Developing World.' The first part of the Safety Report is a Research Paper. The second part is a detailed Data Analysis. 

The Safety Report Research paper is titled: 'Core Issues Affecting Safety of Girls in the Developing World.' The paper starts with an abstract before focusing on subjects in the key regions of Africa, Asia, and the Americas. A total of 7 Research papers make up the safety Report (sans the introduction and conclusion), including:

  1. The psychological effect of mass sexual harassment on girls in Egypt (P.24) by Heba Elasiouty.
  2. Safety concerns in relation to social media: Growing up female in an increasingly digital world (P.45) by Karin Temperley.
  3. Psychosocial challenges faced by parents raising children with physical disabilities in Oshana region (P.68) by Misumbi Shikaputo.
  4. Gender-based violence and subsequent safety challenges experienced by Rohingya women (P.119) by Shucheesmita Simonti.
  5. LGBT policies and overall safety in Brazil (P.141) by Alinne Lopes Gomes.
  6. Silent voices‘: Violence against the female body as consequence of machismo culture (P.177)  by Steffica Warwick.
  7. America‘s Public Policy on Sexuality: The Repression of Girls in Vulnerable Populations (P.208) by Dr. Christina Sisti.

SAFIGI Outreach Foundation Ltd, a volunteer-based and youth led NGO registered in Zambia, implemented the Safety Report in order to understand the multifaceted concept of safety and how it applies to the female gender in diverse settings. And therefore, further prove safety is intrinsic, and that vices in society stem from an intimate level of the human being before its manifestation. This way, when we create safety solutions, whether it be in a developing nation, conflict zone, refugee camp, or patriarchal society, the problem is resolved from a deeply rooted cause. Such that, we treat the disease itself and not mere symptoms.

This study is as a result of collaborative effort pursued in the spirit of volunteerism via UN Online Volunteers.


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