Gender violence is a global phenomenon that affects women of all ages and social classes, in periods of both peace and conflict. Violence against women is reproduced in every social context and through generations, taking different forms over time. It deeply affects the way women and girls function within society, the ways in which they relate to State institutions and their prospects in life.
Latin America and the Caribbean head the list of places with the highest rates of violence in the world, as indicated before. Gender violence in the region is chronic and has traumatic implications for the victims’ mental health and for the relatives of the victims, such as the victims’ children, who witness acts of brutality and cruelty. In Latin America women are victims of femicide, disappearances, forced displacement, domestic violence and police abuse, among other forms of lethal violence. Women also suffer attacks that, even when they are non-lethal, damage, hurt and debilitate them.
The chronic poverty, crime and lack of opportunities in the so-called Northern Triangle of Central America (namely, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador) and in Mexico force thousands of women to migrate to the northern countries in search of a better life. Many of these women travel with their children. Most of the studies on the criminal phenomena encountered in this area focus on the drug trafficking and gang dynamics. As stated in the introduction, despite having a place on the national agendas, violence against women is still considered a marginal issue in studies on the violence and crisis of security provision in the region. As a result of inadequate diagnoses violence against women is often oversimplified, as is its impact on the victims.
The extreme impunity that has characterised the crime of violence committed against women in Latin America reveals the deficient public policies on the security provision for women who are at risk of suffering physical, mental and/or sexual harm. In settings characterised by conflict, institutions may develop complex negotiations and/or may coexist with the illegal criminal groups operating in the area (e.g. drug cartels and gangs).