Latin America and the Caribbean

The region of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) is one of the top performers in the 2014 edition of the SIGI. All countries demonstrate very low to medium levels of discrimination. The region owes its strong performance to comprehensive legislative frameworks that ensure gender equality in economic and political rights, and it aims to eliminate gender-based violence. Progress toward gender equality is stunted, however, by ongoing weak implementation of laws in the SIGI sub-indices of discriminatory family code, restricted physical integrity and restricted civil liberties.

Across the region, the economic rights and civil liberties of women are protected. Out of the 22 LAC countries covered, 10 show no discrimination in laws and practices on access to land, 19 on non-land assets, 14 on financial services and 11 on inheritance rights. Yet strong national performance can hide discrimination against women from indigenous and ethnic minorities: difficulties in obtaining national identification papers hinder their ability to fully claim their economic rights, including access to social services (e.g. Peru). Average regional political participation of women is 23%, with significant diversity: from less than 10% in Brazil to 49% in Cuba. However, many countries lack electoral quotas at the national and sub-national levels (e.g. Haiti and Panama).

In the area of discriminatory family code, laws on marriage and parental authority continue to limit women’s decision making within the family and perpetuate traditional gender norms and roles. Early marriage is still legal in many countries, although rates are declining (16% in the region). The legal age of marriage is 12 in Honduras and 15 with parental authority in many other countries (e.g. the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Panama, the Plurinational State of Bolivia, and Trinidad and Tobago). In many countries, men are still recognised as holding full parental authority.

Reducing violence against women is high on the political agenda, with region-wide efforts to implement national legislation and commitments to the Belém do Pará Convention. Over the past few years, several countries have introduced or strengthened laws against femicide and gender-based violence (e.g. the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Nicaragua and Peru). Violence against women remains highly prevalent nevertheless: e.g. 64% of women in the Plurinational State of Bolivia and 46% in Ecuador report having experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. Reports across many countries on poor responsiveness of legal systems and the police lead to low levels of reporting and female confidence in the justice system (e.g. Paraguay). Across the region, 14.1% of women accept that violence is justified under certain circumstances.