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LATIN AMERICA / THE CARIBBEAN
In brief
Latinamerica Press
3/19/2017
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Latin America/The Caribbean, Bolivia, Chile, Guatemala

In the context of International Women’s Day, on Mar. 8, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) called for the creation of quality jobs where the skills, level of education and productivity of women are recognized. According to ECLAC, 78 percent of women hold low productivity jobs, which translate to worse wages, minimum social security coverage, and less contact with new technology and innovation. Also, the unemployment rate is higher for women, with 8.6 percent in 2015, two points higher than for men. “The labor indicators for Latin America and the Caribbean continue to show large gender gaps between men and women with regard to access to opportunities and rights. The inequalities are rooted in a social system that reproduces stereotypes and preserves a sexual division of labor that limits women’s labor integration,” explained ECLAC’s Executive Secretary, Alicia Bárcena.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) highlighted on Mar. 8 the need to empower women and to invest in activities that increase their productivity. The FAO termed as worrisome the situation of peasant women in Latin America and the Caribbean where 40 percent of rural women older than 15 do not generate their own income, and although they represent 20 percent of the workforce in agriculture, they work on a daily basis without pay. In addition, rural women in the region only have a fraction of the land, credit, productive inputs and education that men do. Besides performing a large part of the agricultural activities, they also are in charge of the domestic chores. The participation of women is more marked in activities that involve time and physical effort, such as planting, weeding and harvesting, but they participate less in the links of the productive chain related with the generation of higher incomes, the FAO reported.

A bill being debated in the Legislative Assembly in Bolivia proposes to decriminalize abortion in nine situations, including those already recognized by present legislation: risk to the health or the life of the mother, the fetus shows malformations, and the pregnancy came as a result of rape or incest. The initiative, presented on Mar. 10 by the ruling party Movement for Socialism (MAS), authorizes abortion as a onetime option within the first eight weeks of pregnancy, when the woman is in a situation of extreme poverty; is already the mother of at least three children; or is an underage girl or adolescent. The staff workers and medical staff of the national health system will not be able to invoke conscientious objection to deny the interruption of the pregnancy in these cases and is obligated to maintain professional secrecy. If a woman undergoes an abortion that does not include any of the nine exceptions, she would be subject to imprisonment for one to three years.

Starting Mar. 9, in Chile, women in the military can be promoted to Brigadier-General, the highest rank in the Armed Forces, according to a law enacted by President Michelle Bachelet. Until that moment, women could only reach the rank of Colonel. The law — announced in a ceremony commemorating International Women’s Day, organized by the Ministry of Defense — establishes a sole rank structure for men and women, on top of adding slots to the rank of Colonel. Bachelet also reported that the Air Force will for the first time incorporate women recruits this year to serve in the military, while the Navy will do the same in 2018. “Today, we can say that, at last, there will no longer be off-limit areas for women,” the president said. “This also opens the real possibility that sooner than later, a women officer of the Armed Forces will be promoted to the rank of General and becomes Commander in Chief of the Chilean Army.”

Hundreds of people demanded the resignation of President Jimmy Morales of Guatemala after the deaths of 40 girls in a fire that took place on Mar. 8 at a state-run home for children located in the outskirts of Guatemala City. The fire was started by the girls who were protesting for the sexual and physical abuse they endured in the Hogar Seguro Virgen de la Asunción, a situation that worsened because they had been locked in. The Council for Adult Education in Latin America and the Caribbean (CEAAL) denounced that some 700 children and adolescents lived in the place, almost twice its capacity. Recommendations had been made since 2013 to make radical changes in the institution that were not heeded. A court condemned the Guatemalan state in 2013 for human rights violations taking place in the home, while the United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Council for the Defense of Human Rights proposed the closing of the facility.


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