Barriers to Progress for Gender Equality
By Steffica Warwick
|Photo by Zeyn Afuang on Unsplash|
TO PROGRESS FOR GENDER EQUALITY IN LATIN AMERICA
lack of education about safe sex and consent serves to exacerbate the problems
of rape and sexual assault.
One barrier to progress lies in the
education of both males and females in Latin America. In spite of the
oversexualisation of females in the media, and the prevalence of sexual
assault, sex education in most countries in the region fails to give adequate
teachings about practicing safe and respectful sex.
Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico
and Uruguay are the countries which have come closest to the concept of
comprehensive sex education. However, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador,
Guatemala, the Dominican Republic and Peru tend to place emphasis on abstinence
and birth control methods, paying particular attention to spiritual aspects of
sexuality, the importance of the family, and the need to delay the start of
sexual activity. But many Latin Americans start having sex at a young age.
A 2010 survey revealed that one in four Latin
Americans are sexually active before the age of sixteen.
And the consequences can be dire. A
lack of education about safe sex and consent serves to exacerbate the problems
of rape and sexual assault. It can lead to unwanted pregnancies; Latin America
is the second highest region in the world for teenage pregnancies (next to
sub-Saharan Africa), with 38% of girls becoming pregnant before the age of 20.
In the first half of 2012, 1448 young girls between the ages of 10 and 14 gave
birth in Guatemala. And in Bolivia, the teen pregnancy rate increased by 25%
between 2008 and 2011.
of education can also leave young people exposed to sexually transmitted
diseases. United Nations data shows that approximately 68,000 adolescents are
infected with HIV/AIDS. Contrary to traditional thinking among teachers in
Latin America, that talking about sexual relations will encourage children to
engage in them, the data shows that young people will engage in sexual
relations anyway. Emphasis, then, should be placed on safety and consent, and
to tackle the existence of rape culture.
School can also serve to perpetuate
myths about gender roles. Lewis and Styco’s writing highlights how boys are
taught in school to grow up to be tough and self-sufficient. They are taught
not to show emotion, to complain, and are not expected to receive affection
apart from via other females, such as their mother. The same can be said for
girls, who are conditioned from an early age to expect to enter the domestic
sphere, and not to match their male peers in terms of ambition.
Misinformation about gender and
biology are also widespread in the region. According to one study, young people
surveyed believed that violence has a biological connection with masculinity,
and is to be expected. Participants of the survey also said that males were
biologically incapable of controlling their passions, including sexual desire,
anger and jealousy. For Latin Americans, the belief is that all males are
intrinsically disposed to be this way.
On the outside world, some onlookers
of Latin American culture have also described natives to the region of
intrinsically being this way.
The most prominent pioneer of
spreading the myth that Latin Americans are biologically disposed to sexual
aggression is U.S. President Donald Trump, who frequently referred to Mexicans
as criminals and rapists throughout his campaign.
Thus it can be seen that educational
reforms need to be implemented both inside and outside of Latin America, to
dispel any myths about Latino biology and change the expectations of behaviour
of males growing up.
Another significant barrier to
progress is levels of poverty. One in five Latin Americans lives in chronic
poverty. But poverty is not equally distributed in the region; at around 10% of
the population, Uruguay, Argentina and Chile, have the lowest rates of chronic
poverty. In Santa Catarina, southern Brazil, chronic poverty stands at around
5%. This is lower than the national average of 20% and close to that of
Uruguay, the best performing country in Latin America.
But in Ceara, a northern region of
Brazil, around 40% of the population is chronically poor, comparable to
Honduras, which has one of the highest incidences in the region. In fact,
broadly speaking, the northern areas of Latin America have much higher levels
of poverty than in the south, with the NTCA having the highest level of poverty
throughout rural and urban areas.
It is impossible to omit poverty from
the discussion of violence and male to female relations, particularly in a
region such as Latin America with its strict code of conduct around gender
performance. Indeed, there is a lot of academic literature which demonstrates
the correlation between poverty and violence, particularly against women.
One article by Bron B Ingoldsby on
the Latin American family and machismo describes how men with lower incomes
―suffer from job insecurity and compensate for their feelings by exaggerating
their masculinity and subordinating women. As masculinity is a performance and
not an inherent trait, it must be constantly proved and upheld. The Latino
macho man is the head of the house. He is the provider and dominant figure.
When he cannot be, he may turn to other forms of dominance such as domestic
violence to assert his masculinity and preserve his pride.
Poverty is a huge contributor to the
existence and longevity of gangs. As unemployment is a shameful position, any
kind of money-earning position is preferable to having no job. In an interview
with one gang member by the World Peace Foundation, one man said;
You‘ve got to be able to support the
family, your kid an‘ all that. You need to have a job in a business or
something like that so the community doesn‘t see you like a tramp, an
undesirable who does nothin’, that‘s shit. It would be cool to have a good job.
idleness and frustration of not having a ‘good job’ can lead to interpersonal
conflict and domestic violence. Other studies have shown that as well as high
unemployment, alcohol abuse, stress levels, and the unwillingness of a wife to
have sex with her husband are also related to increased domestic violence
For women, high unemployment leads to greater economic dependency on
men, which in turn led to an increase in domestic violence. For communities,
the more assets they can acquire, the less vulnerable they are.
This article is extracted from the Research paper titled 'Silent Voices: Violence against the female body as a consequence of machismo' by Steffica Warwick, which is 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:
- The psychological effect of mass sexual harassment on girls in Egypt (P.24) by Heba Elasiouty.
- Safety concerns in relation to social media: Growing up female in an increasingly digital world (P.45) by Karin Temperley.
- Psychosocial challenges faced by parents raising children with physical disabilities in Oshana region (P.68) by Misumbi Shikaputo.
- Gender-based violence and subsequent safety challenges experienced by Rohingya women (P.119) by Shucheesmita Simonti.
- LGBT policies and overall safety in Brazil (P.141) by Alinne Lopes Gomes.
- Silent voices‘: Violence against the female body as consequence of machismo culture (P.177) by Steffica Warwick.
- America‘s Public Policy on Sexuality: The Repression of Girls in Vulnerable Populations (P.208) by Dr. Christina Sisti.
The Safety Report Data Analysis is titled: 'Core Issues Affecting Safety of Girls. Results and Outcomes based on Zambia, Egypt, USA, Tanzania, South Sudan, and Namibia.'
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.