Beatriz Borges, Cepaz’s executive director pointed out during the panel about “Women and girls in forgotten conflicts”, organized in the framework of the 67th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), that Venezuela is not officially at war, but since 2015 it has been going through a complex humanitarian emergency that has serious consequences for the entire population and affects women, and girls in a differentiated manner.
A complex humanitarian emergency is a humanitarian crisis where there is a dramatic disruption in the political, economic and social orders, resulting from internal, external conflicts, or natural disasters. This situation severely undermines the capacity of society to survive and of national authorities to respond, and requires a coordinated international multisectoral response, as it has the effects of an armed conflict.
In Venezuela, the complex humanitarian emergency is based on a political disruption, because, although the country is not officially at war, the situation has serious consequences, as it weakens the possibility of survival and causes suffering among the population. All issues affecting the Venezuelan population are not gender neutral and women are deeply impacted.
Borges mentioned some figures that reflect the magnitude of the consequences of the serious crisis that Venezuela is going through. These data are part of the report “Being a Woman in Venezuela: Community Diagnosis and Proposals for Humanitarian Action”, presented by the NGO Alianza Con Ellas. This study not only gathers information on the differentiated impact that the humanitarian emergency has on women, adolescents and girls, but also presents some proposals to mitigate these repercussions.
The director of Cepaz indicated that due to high costs and low income, one in four women do not have access to disposable menstrual hygiene products. Menstrual poverty is a reality for thousands of adolescents and women in Venezuela.
In addition, their health is affected by the serious deterioration of health services (17%) and by the lack of resources (60%), which prevent women from accessing adequate care and treatment for chronic diseases. Thirty-two percent of the women surveyed indicated that they or a member of their family suffers from a chronic health condition, such as hypertension, diabetes, hypo/hyperthyroidism, and renal insufficiency. Thirty-two percent responded that they had not received the necessary medications for their treatment, mainly because of the cost of the medications (68%).
Prioritizing Food over Health
This situation is aggravated by the fact that women tend to prioritize food expenses over health expenses. In spite of this, 8 out of 10 women believe that the amount of food they manage to buy for their households is insufficient (47.79%), although 6 out of 10 responded that almost the entire family budget is spent on food. Seventy-six percent of the women surveyed said that at least one person in their household is malnourished.
To alleviate this situation, women resort to various strategies: buying on credit (36%), spending savings (55%), borrowing food or help from others (40%), borrowing money (43%), reducing portion sizes (65%), reducing the number of meals per day (44%), or reducing health, education, or other expenses (40%).
Regarding forced departure from the country, women mentioned that they initiate the process of human mobility mainly to get or change jobs and improve their income (32%), achieve family reunification or have access to medicines and health services (16%). Those who have not yet embarked on the migration path, but intend to move (1 in 10 women interviewed), 64% indicated that they would go to another country to improve their income (25%), have access to medicines or health services and/or access to public services (24%), get or change jobs (16%) and reunite with family members (11%).
Gender Violence on the Rise
Borges added that violence against women continues to increase in Venezuela. In 2021, 7% of the women interviewed reported having been victims of family violence. The most common types of violence were: psychological (87%), physical (59%), symbolic (25%), economic (24%) and sexual (10%). In 64% of the cases, this violence was committed by partners or ex-partners. Only 31% of the women who reported being victims of violence reported the case. Sixty percent reported it to a public institution or office. Thirty percent told friends or neighbors and 10% went to social organizations. The main reasons for not reporting were that the acts were not considered serious (37%), fear of reprisals (36%), distrust of institutions (14%) and because the services for reporting are inaccessible to victims (9%).
Of the people who identified themselves as members of the LGBTI community, 31% indicated that they have some chronic health condition. Of this group, 39% said that they do not have medical attention and 25% said that they do not have access to the necessary medications for treatment.
Almost half (48%) of the LGBTI people surveyed reported having suffered some episode of abuse or violence by third parties. 48% of lesbian women surveyed reported having experienced some type of abuse or violence by a police officer. Nineteen percent of binary people have been subjected to abuse or violence by co-workers. Within the family group, psychological (38%), symbolic (27%) and physical (22%) violence are the most common. Seventy-three percent admitted that they did not file a complaint due to lack of access to the corresponding authorities (19%); fear of reprisals (17%); distrust (15%) or because the abuse or violence was not considered serious (44%).
The human rights defender concluded by presenting some proposals made by Alianza Con Ellas, such as the periodic publication of official figures on the crisis disaggregated by sex; the prioritization in the location and allocation of funds to projects with a gender focus and to organizations that work in the field. Another recommendation is to favor comprehensive health care for women with communicable and non-communicable conditions, as well as chronic and high-cost conditions.
It also mentioned the development of emergency policies for the care of women in situations of mobility with a focus on protection and rights; combating discrimination, violence and gender stereotypes; promoting capacity building for women’s economic independence; and the development of inclusive food policies with special attention to pregnant women, children and adolescents.