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Walking to end sexual violence against young people in Bolivia

Raised fists against an orange background

Young people in Bolivia are coming together like never before to call for an end to the country’s epidemic of sexual violence.

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The figures in this graphic above were designed by young survivors of sexual violence in Bolivia, where one in three girls will experience sexual violence before she turns 18. According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) (English | Español), Bolivia has the highest rate of sexual violence against women during their lifetime in Latin America and 70 percent of Bolivian women are survivors of sexual and physical violence. The country’s reporting rates are among the lowest in the region. In the first six months of 2015 alone, 94 percent of reported sexual violence cases against minors involved a girl who was under 18.

Young people taking the lead

But on August 9, the National Day of Solidarity with Victims of Sexual Assault and Against Sexual Violence Against Children and Adolescents (Día Nacional de la Solidaridad con las Víctimas de Agresiones Sexuales y en contra de la Violencia Sexual en Niñas, Niños y Adolescentes), young people are coming together for the Walk Against Sexual Violence Against Children and Young People to raise awareness of the country’s high levels of sexual violence against children. This event, organized by The Network of Girls, Boys and Adolescents Against Sexual Violence and the Centro Una Brisa de Esperanz`a (CUBE), will see youth from across Bolivia stand up for their rights and call for an end to sexual violence against children and young people.

Fighting barriers to justice in Bolivia

Sexual violence survivors in Bolivia face tremendous barriers to accessing justice because they must prove “intimidation, physical or psychological violence.” According to one 2007 assessment, 84 percent of sexual violence cases were dropped during the preliminary phases of an investigation because of this burden of proof. The Bolivian penal code also does not define consent, nor does it provide a presumption against consent. The law of estupro, is damaging legislation that imposes lesser penalties for the rape of an adolescent girl than of a young girl or adult woman, and is frequently used at judges’ discretion, enabling rapists to avoid being held fully accountable for their crimes. Among the sexual violence cases that do make it beyond the preliminary investigative phase in Bolivia, 94 percent were lost or abandoned before they reach a trial phase.

Bolivian activists have worked tirelessly to bring sexual violence to the forefront of national and international attention. Earlier this year, Equality Now helped to facilitate a convening of organizations in Bolivia to address the country’s epidemic of sexual violence and to organize a breakfast at which Inter-American Council on Human Rights (IACHR) Commissioners Margarette May Macaulay, Rapporteur in charge of the Rights of Women, and Esmeralda Arosemena de Trotiño, Rapporteur in charge of the Rights of Children, had the chance to hear directly from young survivors of sexual violence and the obstacles they face.

Recognizing activism

Just one day before the Walk on August 9, the Women of Justice Award will be presented to Fundación Una Brisa de Esperanza (A Breeze of Hope – Bolivia), one of Equality Now’s partner organizations in Bolivia, for 15 years of service to children who have been sexually abused, along with Julieta Montano, a lawyer who has been an activist for women and girls for more than 30 years and Opinión – a media outlet committed to covering the rights of women and girls and to covering sexual violence from a feminist perspective.

Taking action

Now, with more young people than ever raising their voices, it is time for Bolivia to end sexual violence. Equality Now stands shoulder to shoulder with those participating in the Walk Against Sexual Violence Against Children and Young People and today and everyday we call on Bolivia’s officials to do all they can to end sexual violence against children and young people.

Join us today