Across Latin America, the incredibly high levels of violence against women have long been denounced by non-governmental organizations and the media. Ignoring this phenomenon would be dangerous, as this form of violence can help lay the groundwork for criminal behavior, perhaps especially in the next generation of youths.
Women from across Latin America are taking part in worldwide protests against female oppression on this year’s International Women’s Day, March 8. As people march, the regional press has been publishing astonishing statistics that place the gravity of female victimization into context.
Argentina’s La Nación, for example, reports that one woman is killed because of her gender every 29 hours, while 50 sexual attacks occur per day. In Brazil, nearly a third of women over 16 years of age have suffered from physical or verbal abuse in the past year, Folha de São Paulo reported. And over 30 percent of Mexican women in a recent survey said that they had been physically attacked by their former partner.
In Latin America, between one-fifth and two-fifths of “ever-partnered women” have been victims of partner violence, with the greatest prevalence being in the Andean region, according to a 2013 study by the World Health Organization (WHO). Furthermore, seven out of the ten countries with the world’s highest female murder rate are in Latin America, a 2015 report found.
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While gender-related violence is often associated with the home, this phenomenon has also been linked to the prevalence of criminality among youths. Various studies have established a link between a child’s experience of spousal abuse and them later becoming violent offenders, with the caveat that a multitude of factors are involved in youths developing violent traits.
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One of the suggested causes is that growing up in an environment of domestic abuse fosters a “belief that violence is an appropriate means of settling conflict,” one such study reads.
But these detrimental effects on children are not limited to physical aggression. Research from 2009 on young adolescents found that psychological abuse between parents or guardians contributed to the development of violence in children, more so than the type of neighborhood the youths lived in, playing violent video games and even witnessing physical abuse against their parents.
Furthermore, children who witness spousal abuse are also likely to be victims of violence themselves. And, similarly, these youths are more likely to later engage in crime and antisocial behavior.
This ”violence begets violence” theory can become dangerously cyclical, as witnessing or experiencing abuse as a child could worsen the risk of people perpetrating domestic violence themselves later in life.
Contributing to this cyclicality in Latin America is the fact that organized crime itself fuels aggression against women. Indeed, it could be said that many of the chauvinistic tendencies that lead to domestic violence also facilitate the forced participation of women in organized crime.
In places where females are oppressed, male-dominated power structures are often replicated within criminal organizations. This can lead to women being coerced into carrying out illegal — and dangerous — criminal activities, such as dealing drugs or becoming drug mules.