Young Latin Americans see violence against women as normal: survey

BOGOTA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Two in every five teenage boys in eight countries in Latin America and the Caribbean believe a drunk woman is to be blamed for getting raped, even if she is unconscious, according to a survey released on Wednesday.

The survey by aid agency Oxfam, interviewed 4,731 men and women aged 15 to 25 in Bolivia, Cuba, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, and showed violence against women is seen as normal.

The results of the survey, which asked young people about their relationships and gender roles, were “alarming” and “surprising”, and are driven by Latin America’s widespread macho culture, said Damaris Ruiz, a women’s rights expert at Oxfam.

The results show that “machismo is accepted and tolerated by many young people in the region,” Ruiz, Oxfam’s regional coordinator for women’s rights, said in a statement.

“The normalization of this everyday sexism often ends with the worst consequences for women and girls. Proof of this is found in the 1,831 women who were murdered in 2016 simply because they were women,” she said.

More than half of the young men and women surveyed said a woman would not leave a violent relationship because her boyfriend was threatening to kill her, while half of the women aged 15 to 25 polled regarded domestic violence as normal.

Sixty-five percent of teenage boys aged 15 to 19 surveyed said they thought that when a woman says no to having sex she actually means yes and is just playing hard to get, while 45 percent of teenage girls polled shared this view.

Most of those surveyed said that women are also to blame for violence, including sexual assault, because of the way they dress.

Seven out of 10 teenage boys aged 15 to 19 believed that a “decent woman should not dress provocatively” or be out on the streets alone late at night.

Domestic violence is largely viewed as a private problem that should be dealt with behind closed doors, with nearly 90 percent of young women and men saying they would not interfere if a male friend hit their girlfriend.

“Women get used to being beaten and defend their it is best not to get involved,” one man in Bolivia was quoted as saying in Oxfam’s report.

While millions of people across South America have taken to the streets to protest against the high levels of gender violence in recent years, two-thirds of respondents said it was largely up to the government to combat violence against women.

“The urgent challenge is to raise awareness of the fact that young people themselves can play a key role in transforming the belief systems and gender norms that fuel male violence,” Oxfam said in its report.