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Central American women see sexual and gender violence as a reason to migrate


One in five adolescents from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico think that sexual and gender-based violence are reasons for migrating, according to the study ‘Women in crisis: life in contexts of mobility in the region of Central America and Mexico’ carried out by Plan International, with the support of the General Directorate of Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection of the European Union.

For this document, the entity has collected the opinion of more than 260 adolescents in a situation of mobility between the ages of 15 and 19, as well as a dozen people around them, on education, violence, internal mobility and migration based on surveys and interviews.

From Plan International they warn that Central America is one of the regions with the greatest situation of poverty and vulnerability in the world, due to a combination of factors such as inequality based on gender and age. In fact, it highlights that 7.9 million migrants in Latin America and the Caribbean are under 18 years of age and specifies that girls and adolescents represent 20% of all women from these countries who migrate.

According to the report, for adolescents lack of employment is the main reason (45.7%) for migrating, followed by violence (19.1%), difficulty in accessing education (11.7%) and insecurity (7.4%).

“Sometimes people emigrate because of situations of violence, because there is abuse in their homes or community, because there are symptoms of violence. Here it is like a closed door, we don’t see opportunities”, explained one of the respondents, 18 years old and from El Salvador. “My father was violent, he hit us a lot all the time and he came to abuse us, my sister and me, that’s why we came, so that it wouldn’t happen again, we went out with my other brothers and my aunt and here We already feel better, calmer”, explained another, of Honduran origin but interviewed in Mexico.

The entity has indicated that, in addition, “living in a permanent state of risk and alarm limits their freedom both in the public and private space and restricts their sexual and reproductive rights, which are interrupted during migratory transit.”

Thus, the experts point out, the fact of menstruating or traveling pregnant implies additional risks and difficulties during the journeys. “The violence that lives in their countries of origin increases and is transformed during transit, and during migration they are exposed to much greater risks such as trafficking, kidnapping or extortion,” they warn.

Given the lack of effective complaint mechanisms, adolescents generate protection strategies to prevent sexual violence and reprisals from organized criminal groups, as explained by the respondents. “My mother had to dress me as a man almost the whole way to prevent something from happening to me, and here we have to go out to do some paperwork, I feel insecure,” said a 15-year-old Venezuelan teenager, interviewed in Mexico.

From Plan International they have announced that this migration interrupts the education of girls and adolescents, compromising their future, hindering their future opportunities and their school reintegration both in the host countries and in their countries of origin.

According to the study, bureaucratic difficulties arise in access for students who migrate, and although 59.6% consider the school a safe space, one in three indicates it is unsafe due to physical, emotional, sexual and psychological violence, as well on the journeys.

Other factors that lead to school dropout, according to the work, are social and gender violence, indicated by 22% of the respondents; forced marriages, which affect 20% of women between 20 and 24 years of age in the region; early pregnancies, the gender mandate associated with care, or the priority need to work to generate income.

Faced with scenarios, Plan International urges governments, donors, organizations and society in general to work together to guarantee the rights and improve the living conditions of migrant and internally displaced adolescents in Central America and Mexico, considering all reference issues to education and protection.

The implementation of a comprehensive approach that includes sexual education and education on gender-based violence for adolescents in the migratory context is recommended; and in protection, the participation of the immigration authorities in the protection mechanisms is proposed to guarantee the rights of the adolescent population and promote social cohesion in the communities.

In addition, diagnoses are urged, with reliable data and statistics, with the participation of adolescents and young people themselves, to learn about their contexts of vulnerability and delve into violence as a cause of displacement; and reinforce awareness and training offered in shelters during migratory transit, offering guidelines for education in emergencies and psychosocial support.

The regional director of Plan International for the Americas and the Caribbean, Débora Cóbar, explained that, according to the report, “adolescents from the Northern Triangle of Central America and Mexico face serious situations of violence and discrimination on a daily basis.”

“The violence and the lack of opportunities force them to abandon their education and push them to flee, in a migratory transit in which they suffer new violations of their rights, often repeated on their return to their country of origin,” Concha added. López, the general director of Plan International.

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