The report highlights the need for urgent implementation of plans and policies that guarantee the dignified life of women and girls in Venezuela
Caracas, September 18th 2019. – The human rights crisis in Venezuela has increased the gender gap in an alarming manner, placing women and girls in a grave situation of vulnerability. The Equivalencias en Accion coalition with their “Mujeres al Limite 2019” report demands authorities and various political and civil actors to make an immediate effort to implement plans and public policies that effectively address the negative impact created by the complex humanitarian emergency as part of the economic, political, and social recovery of the nation.
The combination of an absence of effective public policies on sexual and reproductive health, the collapse of the public health system, and the lack of contraceptive methods, has generated a serious setback in the rights and sexual and reproductive health of Venezuelan women, worryingly contributing to the increase in maternal mortality, adolescent pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, and unsafe abortions associated with unwanted pregnancies.
“Mujeres al Limite 2019” reports that between 2012 and 2016, there has been a steady increase in maternal deaths in the country, increasing by 66% according to official figures. There are also reports from health professionals who are realizing that patients’ pregnancies are becoming complicated with infections, high blood pressure or hemorrhages, and that medical centers do not have the medications or supplies to treat them.
Sexual and reproductive health in emergency
According to the investigation, in four hospital institutions it was found that for every 4 deliveries there was an abortion during the period between August-December 2018. A total of 2,246 abortions were recorded, which represents 15 daily abortions on average. Experts consulted confirm that this is due to nutritional deficiencies and lack of prenatal care in the case of spontaneous abortions and in the case of induced abortions, it is associated with an absence of family planning policies and a severe shortage of contraceptive methods.
The investigation indicates that in 2018, according to Caritas figures, 21% of pregnant women in parishes in 7 Venezuelan states had acute malnutrition, of which 24% were adolescents under the age of 19. This reflects how the precarious socio-economic conditions in which the majority of the Venezuelan population finds themselves in determines their access to food, including pregnant women and how it has generated serious consequences for them and their unborn children.
In matters of sexual and reproductive health, due to the seriousness of the current context in the nation, it is worrying that surgical sterilizations are offered to women as the only solution to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies, most of them being promoted by officials in several regions of the country. Cases of malpractice and at least one death associated with these surgical sterilizations are known.
The report also accounts for the serious shortage of contraceptive methods in Venezuela, which is around 90%, and that the few that are available are unaffordable for a population that earns one of the lowest minimum wages in the region – 2.5 dollars a month.
The Equivalences in Action coalition warns that due to the absence of responses and the refusal of authorities to recognize the existence of the complex humanitarian emergency, many Venezuelan women have decided to cross the border into Colombia or Brazil to give birth and receive quality medical care in other countries of the region. According to Migration Colombia, between April and June 2018, 8,209 pregnant Venezuelan women were registered, 6,304 (76.7%) of them without prenatal control, and according to a report by the Secretariat of the Presidency of Brazil, 10% of births in the border state of Roraima between January 2017 and March 2018 correspond to Venezuelan women.
Problems that grow with the crisis
A chapter of the investigation is dedicated to explaining that there is a growing trend in female-headed households and a clear sexual division of labor that limits, excludes, and expels women from the public and formal labor market that maintains the gap in matters of care between women and men. For women, their responsibility for care has diminished their opportunities to enter the labor market and achieve economic autonomy.
Violence against women persists and although the number of cases received annually by the bodies receiving complaints, the defendants, and those who go to trial is unknown, according to figures from the Cotejo.info portal cited by the report, there were 448 femicides in Venezuela in 2018, an increase of 10.89% in the rate of femicide with respect to 2017. 35 of every 100 femicides occurred to women whose age ranged between 25 and 45 years, and 27 out of 100 occurred to women under 25.
The precariousness of living conditions has exacerbated a culture that encourages the sexual exploitation of women and girls. Equivalences in Action points out that in 2018, sexual exploitation was reported by indigenous girls and adolescents of the Wayuú ethnic group in the Zulia state, by girls and adolescents in La Guaira, Vargas state, and cites the identification of a trafficking network of Venezuelan women, adolescents and girls operating in the Táchira State in the border region with the Norte de Santander department of Colombia, with victims being trafficked to Brazil and Colombia.
Indigenous women continue to be marginalized and subject to State neglect. According to data from the Wanaaleru Amazon Women’s Organization cited by the “Mujeres al Limite 2019” report, violence against these women and girls for reasons associated with mining activity is focused on the construction of villages where bars, prostitution houses, and sales of food controlled and managed by the mining workers themselves, who end up doing business for sexual exploitation purposes that result in high rates of femicide and territorial violence. The report indicates that girls and adolescents in this area are subject to sexual exchanges or the buying of slaves for grams of gold.
Finally, the Equivalencias en Accion coalition – formed by Venezuelan NGOs AVESA, CEPAZ, Freya, and Asociación Civil Mujeres en Linea – indicate the urgent necessity to fully open the doors for humanitarian space and guarantee life with dignity for women and girls in Venezuela, generating effective policies where their rights are not seen as first world problems.