Development Centre

To reduce gender discrimination in Latin America and the Caribbean, prioritise marginalised groups of women, says new report


Paris, 20 July 2020 - Despite legal reforms promoting greater gender equality, deep-rooted social norms and practices in the Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region still expose women and girls to discrimination, which the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic is exacerbating. Vulnerable women and girls are disproportionately affected, due to their socio-economic situation or origin, according to the Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) 2020 Regional Report for Latin America and the Caribbean.


The report, which covers 29 LAC countries, shows encouraging progress in the region’s fight for gender equality. Since the previous edition of the SIGI report in 2014, seven countries have passed legislation setting the minimum legal age for marriage at 18 years for boys and girls, with no exceptions. Seven countries in the LAC region have also introduced new legal frameworks protecting against more types of violence against women, including feminicide. The protection of women’s workplace rights has improved, with the introduction or extension of maternity and paternity leave schemes. In addition, the proportion of women in parliaments in the region reached 30% in 2018, which is higher than the global average of 24%. The report also notes that the region is characterised by strong feminist movements.


Nonetheless, persistent legal discrimination continues to undermine efforts to protect women’s rights. Legal loopholes, coupled with discriminatory practices, still allow child marriage. Every year, one in six girls in the LAC region gets married or enters an informal union before the age of 18 years. Furthermore, no country in the region has yet introduced a comprehensive legal framework protecting women from all forms of violence, including rape, domestic violence and sexual harassment in the workplace, in educational institutions and in public spaces. Nine LAC countries continue to prohibit or restrict women’s access to certain professions. Laws in some Caribbean countries continue to define women’s citizenship rights in relation to their marital status.


According to the report, change is most difficult in the family sphere: social expectations prevent men from assuming equal caring responsibilities, and they confine women to their reproductive role.  Violence against women often stems from gender norms – especially machismo – which justify this behaviour. About 27% of women in the LAC region have experienced domestic violence in their lifetime (16% in Central America, 21% in the Caribbean and 33% in South America). Yet, 11% of women aged 15-49 years believe that a husband is justified in beating his wife under certain circumstances. Early reports suggest that the Covid crisis has exacerbated these trends.


Finally, the report highlights that women in vulnerable situations (migrant, rural and low-income) and from minority groups (indigenous, afro-descendant) are at the intersection of multiple, cumulated forms of discrimination. Challenges in the area of civil liberties include registering the birth of their children, accessing the justice system and participating in political life. They also face more barriers in accessing



healthcare systems, which the Covid crisis has reinforced. For example, the use of modern contraceptive methods is 20% lower among indigenous women than in the general population.


The SIGI 2020 Regional Report for LAC identifies the most urgent actions for governments in the region to accelerate gender progress:


  • Update laws to eliminate discrimination and loopholes, in particular those concerning child marriage, violence against women, workplace rights and political voice
  • Build public and legal capacities to ensure adequate enforcement and guarantee legal redress. This requires infrastructure development and service provision in remote areas.
  • Adopt a holistic and intersectional approach when designing and implementing laws and programmes in order to ensure that all women are considered
  • Invest in critical capabilities to produce more and better sex-disaggregated data; prioritise dissemination strategies to raise awareness of the most pressing issues and to keep policy makers well informed.
  • Develop communication and awareness campaigns to sensitise all stakeholders to gender inequality and gender-based discrimination, and to inform women and girls about their rights and the opportunities offered by non-discrimination law.
  • Design innovative economic recovery policies in the aftermath of the coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis, by systematically including a gender lens.


Media queries should be directed to the OECD Development Centre’s Press Office (email: [email protected]; tel.: +33 145 24 82 96).


Since its first edition in 2009, the OECD Development Centre’s Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) has been measuring the gaps that discriminatory laws, social norms and practices create between women and men in terms of rights and opportunities. The full 2020 report and its 180 country notes are available at


Wikigender, an online collaborative platform, shares research, data and solutions to advance gender equality, in Spanish, English and French:


The report benefitted from the support of the European Union through the Joint Project on Gender undertaken in the context of the EU Regional Facility for Development in Transition, led by the European Commission, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the OECD Development Centre.



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