According to the report “States’ Commitment: Plans and policies to eradicate violence against women in Latin America and the Caribbean,” presented by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and UN Women in Panama on Nov. 22, there are “critical knots” in the formulation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of public policies to eradicate violence.

These “knots” include: lack of political willingness and support; lack of consistency between legal instruments and public policies that address violence against women; insufficient financial resources; weak inter-institutional, inter-sector, and inter-jurisdictional connections; uncoordinated institutional responses; high rate of employment turnover; weak technical capabilities and weak institutional cultures; and initial conjectures about plans and public policy results. 

More than 1,800 women in the region were killed in 2013 because of gender violence, according to data from the United Nations (UN). On Nov. 25, International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the UN called people to participate in the campaign “UNiTE to End Violence Against Women” by wearing an orange piece of clothing during 16 days to make visible the other thousands of cases hidden due to fear.

The Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, launched the global campaign UNiTE to end violence against women in 2008.  Through it, Ban highlights the need for efforts “to promote a change in attitudes towards egalitarian, non-violent societies that incorporate men as part of the solution and not just the problem.” 

Numbers talk

Numbers from UNDP, cited by UN Women, point to Bolivia as the country in the region with the highest percentage of women victims of physical or sexual violence (52 percent). Following Bolivia are Colombia and Peru with 39 percent each and Ecuador with 31 percent.

Between January and October 2013, 656 women were assassinated in Guatemala and 203 in El Salvador.

Freddy Justiniano, UNDP Regional Center Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, headquartered in Panama City, stated that the objective of the report is “to share knowledge with the countries of the region and contribute to improve the plan implementation rates.”

Meanwhile, the report recommends “transforming [how] violence against women is addressed into government policies that support national plans and send a message to society of zero tolerance of violence against women.”

Gladys Acosta, representative of UN Women-Ecuador, characterized as “alarming” the gender violence numbers analyzed by the UNDP and UN Women report. She pointed out that while the majority of countries have implemented public policies in this respect, there still is an “institutional weakness” to facing and eradicating violence against women.

“Laws on their own don’t change things”, said Acosta during a presentation of the report in Ecuador. “But legal improvements allow for better management of policies to face discrimination and gender violence.”