Violence against women in Venezuela

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Paola Ramírez, a female student killed during the 2017 Venezuelan protests

Violence against women in Venezuela is a prominent problem within Venezuelan society.[1] The level of impunity regarding woman-directed violence is high in the country, with many offenders not being prosecuted.[2] In 2014, only 0.7% of the official complaints of violence towards women resulted in trials.[2] There is a United Nations database on Violence against women in Venezuela.



External video
The strict beauty standards Venezuelan women experience, resulting in insecurity and surgeries on YouTube

According to some experts, due to the rise of the beauty pageant industry, Venezuelan women have become highly regarded as objects of beauty and sexuality.[3] Esther Pineda, a Venezuelan women's studies expert, stated that the popularity of Miss Venezuela and other pageants in Venezuela reveals how the country is "deeply sexist".[4] Despite controversies facing Miss Venezuela, the Me Too movement has not carried any significance in Venezuela.[4] According to Pineda, in Venezuela “[p]hysical beauty is seen as a value. ... And it’s given more importance than any other attribute".[4]

The National Coordinator for Culture and Gender at the Venezuelan Ministry for Women and Gender Equality, Maria Eugenia Acero Colomines, said in 2017 that "the stereotypes which the media impose on [them,] the beauty pageants" have "trapped" women. She says that education is key, that women need "to be aware of [their] laws and rights" so that they can "liberate themselves mentally from the mountain of chains" that society has put on them. She also said that this education needed to be given to men, as well, so they "do not repeat patterns of mistreatment, abuse and ridicule towards women".[5]

Miss Venezuela[edit]

Miss Venezuela contestants are often subject to prostitution and sexual exploitation. Young contestants are passed to powerful individuals in Venezuelan society for sexual favors. In a poverty-filled country, vulnerable women turn to wealthy individuals for funds. With participation often costing tens of thousands of United States dollars, these participants perform sexual favors for their wardrobe, cosmetic surgery, photo shoots and for sponsorships in order to "create the illusion of 'perfect' beauty" that is held in esteem in Venezuelan culture. Some contestants allegedly involved in such acts include Miss Venezuela 1989 participant Patricia Velásquez and Miss Venezuela 2006 runner-up Claudia Suárez.[6][7][8][9][10][11]

As the crisis in Bolivarian Venezuela worsened, Venezuelan women have relied on the pageant to find a way out of the poverty-stricken country.[12]

Crisis in Venezuela[edit]

Lilian Tintori and Brazilian senators showing a photo of Geraldine Moreno, who died after being shot in the face multiple times by Bolivarian National Guardsmen with birdshot.[13]

Mejía has said that the current crisis in Venezuela has contributed to increases not only in the direct physical violence towards women in the nation, but also to indirect violence. This indirect violence appears in multiple ways for multiple reasons. Healthcare in Venezuela is, as Mejía describes, a "luxury", and women are increasingly unable to care for children without this support - because of this, "[m]ore and more Venezuelan women are even opting to be sterilized". Mejía also says that the poor economy and migrant crisis means women are being forced into selling sex and, from this, "are vulnerable to sex trafficking". She determined that "The crisis has made Venezuela’s women much more vulnerable than men, more vulnerable to poverty, to neglect by the state, and especially to violence".[14]

One 2018 report in Caracas Chronicles also suggested that a contributor to violence against women in the nation is that "there are more important things to solve right now".[15] It added that the chavista-Maduro government prioritised investigating crimes that "threaten" the government, and instead let other criminals "go to town".[15]


263 Venezuelan women were killed in the January–June 2015 period. Firearms were the cause of death for 70% of women. Locations where women were killed included 49% in public and 42% within a home.

The Venezuelan government does not provide reliable statistics regarding violence against women in the country.[2] However, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women stated in 2014 that violence directed towards women was "widespread and on the rise" in Venezuela.[2]

Through 2017, there was still government "hesistancy to release health data on maternal and infant mortality rates, which [...] are increasingly dire", and with it also being noted that Venezuela "has an increasingly dismal transparency record when it comes to public information on the rates of violence and abuse". The Venezuelan Women's and Human Rights expert Luz Patricia Mejía stated that this all "makes it difficult, if not impossible, to create accurate national figures."[14]

A periodic review by the UN in 2011 did note that "[c]ourts specializing in [...] preventing violence against women" in the country "had resolved 134,492 issues since 2008". Though, it explained that 85% of these issues were resolved by "conciliation mechanisms that included oral procedures and mandatory mediation", or therapy.[16]

In 2016, it was reported that 50% of Venezuelan women experience domestic violence.[17] However, the government has no official statistics.


In 2007, the country enacted Ley Organica Sobre el Derecho de las Mujeres a una Vida Libre de Violencia (Organic Law on the Right of Women to a Life Free of Violence).[18] However, the Venezuelan government rarely investigates cases of violence against women, with a woman that was raped and tortured, Linda Loaiza [es], being ignored by 59 different judges and having court hearings delayed 38 times over the span of seventeen years.[2] The government also disregarded the American Convention on Human Rights in 2012, allowing them to ignore the jurisdiction of this, and related, bodies.[19] The 2007 Organic Law was updated in 2014 to include provisions for femicide, after campaigns in the country.[20]

The Organization of American States hosts an in-house agency, MESECVI, "for the promotion and protection of women’s rights and gender equality". Its current technical director, the Venezuelan Luz Patricia Mejía, has said that "there is not yet a culture of justice for women". Mejía used to serve as a rapporteur for Women’s Rights at, and as Commissioner and President of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights.[14]

A report initiated in Spain determined that, though "[c]ompared to other countries in the region, Venezuela has one of the more advanced legislations, being one of few to have broadened the focus of gender-based violence legislation to the areas of migration, trafficking and conflict and crisis situations", it is still a fact that "only 5 percent of the lawsuits filed by women in Venezuela end in sentences that favor their rights".[14]

A United Nations report in 2014 noted "with concern" that though there had been "the establishment of the National Commission for Gender Justice", "many women have no effective access to justice, in the absence of effective strategies aimed at facilitating such access". Similarly to Mejía's belief above, the UN were "deeply concerned" about "the persistence of patriarchal attitudes and deep-rooted stereotypes" in Venezuelan society and culture. This culminated with the report's greatest concern: that despite laws implemented to protect women, "violence against women and girls is widespread and on the rise".[19]

"Peace Begins at Home"[edit]

After the murder of activist Sheila Silva in October 2017, when she was attacked and then thrown from her eleventh-floor apartment by her partner, the Vice-Minister for the Protection of Women's Rights, Rebeca Madriz, started a movement that lasted until the beginning of December that year. The movement included an anti-domestic violence campaign called "Peace Begins at Home: No More Violence against Women", often shortened. Madriz confirmed in November 2017 that "gender-based and domestic violence continues to be a serious issue in Venezuelan society despite laws". The movement hoped to target this through having "various public landmarks lit up in violet light by night" in an effort to prompt discussion about issues of women's rights.[20]

During this movement, Jorge Rodríguez vowed to encourage the Constituent National Assembly "to write the protection of women’s rights into the new constitutional draft". Silva had been on Rodríguez' mayoral campaign team.[20]

Sheila Silva's partner, Ángel José Mosqueda, was the first person in Venezuela to stand trial for first-degree femicide.[20]

International recommendations[edit]

The 2011 UN review notes that Bangladesh "asked about initiatives to fight against gender violence" in Venezuela, with Thailand recommending that Venezuela "[i]mplement the [...] 'Bangkok Rules'", Vietnam that they "[a]ttach more importance to the protection of social vulnerable groups, including women". Canada, Myanmar, Cambodia, Angola and Sri Lanka recommended that Venezuela continue to pursue expanding women's rights and protections. Indonesia specifically called on the country to "[i]ntensify efforts to promote and protect women's rights, particularly in regard to gender based violence", and Slovenia said that they should "[t]ake all the necessary measures to eliminate violence against women, also by ensuring that perpetrators of such violence are prosecuted and punished, as well as by abolishing the stereotypical attitudes and patriarchal patterns of behaviour that undermine women's human rights".[16]


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c d e Zuñiga, Mariana (2018-02-06). "American court opens historic hearing into Venezuela rape and torture case". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-08-15.
  3. ^ Benavides, O. Hugo. "Venezuela". Advameg, Inc. Retrieved 21 October 2013.
  4. ^ a b c "In beleaguered Venezuela, young women use beauty pageants to escape poverty". NBC News. Retrieved 2018-07-07.
  5. ^ "Venezuela's Women's Ministry: Working to Reverse Damage Done by Capitalist Patriarchy". Venezeulanalysis. Retrieved 2018-08-22.
  6. ^ "Patricia Velásquez confiesa que se prostituyó para ingresar al Miss Venezuela". Diario La Prensa (in Spanish). Retrieved 2018-03-17.
  7. ^ "¿Cuánto vale una Miss Venezuela?". Climax. 2015-10-14. Retrieved 2018-03-17.
  8. ^ Lozano, Daniel (15 March 2018). "Miss Venezuela, envuelto en una trama de prostitución que involucra al chavismo". La Nación (in Spanish). Retrieved 2018-03-17.
  9. ^ Mozo, Ana Carolina Griffin, Reynaldo (12 November 2017). "Miss Venezuela Pageant: Saints and Beauty Make Toxic Mix". Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project. Retrieved 2018-03-17.
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ "In beleaguered Venezuela, young women use beauty pageants to escape poverty". NBC News. Retrieved 2018-07-07.
  13. ^ "Geraldine Moreno: Venezuelan Soldiers Mangled Her Face". PanAm Post. 11 February 2015. Retrieved 11 September 2015.
  14. ^ a b c d "Women in Venezuela suffer greater human rights violations". Humanosphere. Retrieved 2018-08-21.
  15. ^ a b "Happy 23rd Birthday, from Crimes and Violence Against Women". Caracas Chronicles. Retrieved 2018-08-22.
  16. ^ a b "Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of)" (PDF). United Nations General Assembly Human Rights Council Nineteenth session. Retrieved 2018-08-22.
  17. ^ "50% de las mujeres venezolanas ha sido víctima de violence doméstica". Prensalternativa. Retrieved 2018-08-22.
  18. ^
  19. ^ a b "Concluding observations on the combined seventh and eighth periodic reports of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela" (PDF). United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Retrieved 2018-08-22.
  20. ^ a b c d "Venezuelan Women's Movements Demand Justice for Femicide of Activist". Venezuelanalysis. Retrieved 2018-08-22.

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