Research Intern at Jindal Centre for the Global South
O.P. Jindal Global University
The mere absence of tyranny does not entail the freedom to a just life. The Venezuelan people fleeing their homeland in hopes of a better life for themselves and their families understand this sentiment more than most.
As a result of the economic freefall from 2014, Venezuela found itself at the centre of a humanitarian crisis (Amnesty International, 2022) whose consequences have yet to cease leaving a significant mark on coming Venezuelan generations. Following the end of Hugo Chavez’s leadership in 2013, the succession of Nicolás Maduro in office led to the PSUV party tightening its grip on fundamental institutions of the government, which inadvertently led to the growth of the power and influence of the president on the public.
In sight of the economic crisis, citizens of Venezuela found themselves relying on aid packages and programs led by the administration for the standard wages and food supplies; Maduro instead used these programs as leverage over the people to solicit political loyalty and authorized extreme levels of torture to suppress criticism against the government (United Nations Human Rights: Office of the High Commissioner, 2022). The worsening political situation (BBC News, 2021) led to continuous human rights violations which further led to millions of Venezuelans fleeing the country due to poverty, food insecurity, inaccessibility to basic healthcare, gender-based violence, and the mere inability to live a peaceful and just life (“UN Study: 1 of Every 3 Venezuelans Is Facing Hunger,” 2020). The Covid-19 pandemic pushed the Venezuelan population further into poverty, forcing families to ration their food intake, solely so that their young had enough to eat. Following such devastating circumstances, more than 7 million Venezuelans have fled the nation, of which about 6 million spread out throughout Latin America; Colombia and Peru having received the largest number of refugees. Of the refugee population crossing the borders, almost 50% are women. For generations, women have faced the brunt of economic or humanitarian global crises. In so being, Venezuelan refugee women are trapped in a rather twisted game of ‘double jeopardy’ where they have faced constant gender-based injustice in private and public domains alike. These women have stood to be the unfortunate collateral of the lack of governmental protection and responsibility, and face violence that is rather “twofold” (Campo, 2022) as a people fleeing mass human rights violations, and then again as women. They have endured much in their host states (“Facts and Figures: Gender-based Violence Against Venezuelan Refugee Women in Colombia and Peru,” 2022) unfeeling to the suffering they previously braved in their home state (Peace for Venezuela, 2021).
Gender-based violence has been on the rise in Colombia and Peru with the stats displaying an increase in the former by 71% between 2018 and 2021, while the latter supported a 31% increase between 2019 and 2021 (Grattan, 2022) respectively. As per a report, ‘Unprotected’ (2022), published by Amnesty International, the Colombian and Peruvian governments have overlooked the crimes committed against Venezuelan women in their countries in different aspects of their lives, be it workplace harassment, on the streets, being denied the healthcare or access to justice due to their nationality, sexual violence by their partners or even otherwise.
“Veneca” is what they are called; A deprecating term used to refer to Venezuelans. As per the report, these governments have on paper, made significant steps towards modernization regarding the prevention and protection measures of violence against women, but in practice, there remain multiple obstacles; The blatant unawareness of rights, the lack of judicial institutions in rural areas or even the basic idea of the ineffectiveness of the justice system which in turn stops the people from let alone climbing the steps towards justice, but making them hesitate at the base itself. One of the biggest issues is the lack of women’s access to temporary shelters – the existing ones having reached full capacity. These shelters stand to be vital to these women’s ways of life, where these shelters replace the void caused by the lack of support systems and minimum access to basic facilities while providing these people hope for the life they would not have let themselves even dream of before. Shelters represent more than a mere roof over one’s head, it represents community and understanding, which are fundamental to the healing of women who have faced so much.
Despite the evolution of times, migration remains one of the few issues dealt with immensely backward perspectives. There is much to be done in this field, and the Amnesty International report calls for certain steps to be taken by the respective authorities. Officials need to be trained to adapt to distinct situations and be sensitized to certain contexts to further tackle the problem of misinformation or rather, the lack of information to the Venezuelan women. There must be an effective distribution system of information regarding the provisions available to these women with efficient inter-departmental, international cooperation and coordination. Finally, they must also address gender-based violence, giving the survivors the prioritization that they deserve.
If it reaches one, it will find its way to the many – as it goes for fearmongering, the same applies to spreading awareness regarding the context of gender in migration policies in Venezuela and abroad which will further promote an economy providing equal opportunities and a just way of life to all its residents (Wemer, 2022).
The Venezuelan refugees, no matter their circumstances, have powered through and many dare to hope for a better tomorrow. It is to be understood that ‘home’ is relative to where one feels safe, and it seems that the authorities are failing its people on this ground. The Venezuelan people fled the state they once considered their home, while their host states refuse to accept or respect them, and the women find themselves as the majorly overlooked victims of this hostility. These situations can only be corrected with the active involvement of the governments as opposed to their major absenteeism; It is upon the system to help these masses find their way back ‘home.’
Amnesty International. (2022). Venezuela 2021. In Amnesty International (ISBN No. 0-86210-505-6). Amnesty International Ltd. https://www.amnesty.org/en/location/americas/south-america/venezuela/report-venezuela/
Amnesty International. (2022). UNPROTECTED: GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE AGAINST VENEZUELAN REFUGEE WOMEN IN COLOMBIA AND PERU. In Amnesty International (AMR 01/5675/2022). Amnesty International Ltd. https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/amr01/5675/2022/en/
BBC News. (2021, August 12). Venezuela crisis: How the political situation escalated. BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-36319877
Campo, C. D. (2022, July 22). Constant violence and absent governments: The twofold lack of protection faced by Venezuelan refugees. Amnesty International. https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2022/07/twofold-lack-faced-by-venezuelan-refugees/
Grattan, S. (2022, July 12). Venezuelan refugee women face increasing violence in Colombia, Peru -Amnesty. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/venezuelan-refugee-women-face-increasing-violence-colombia-peru-amnesty-2022-07-12/
Peace for Venezuela. (2021, September 2). Violence against women: every 28 hours there is a femicide in Venezuela. https://peaceforvenezuela.org/july-2021-there-was-a-femicide-action-in-venezuela-every-24-hours/
United Nations Human Rights: Office of the High Commissioner. (2022, September 20). Venezuela: New UN report details responsibilities for crimes against humanity to repress dissent and highlights situation in remotes mining areas [Press release]. https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2022/09/venezuela-new-un-report-details-responsibilities-crimes-against-humanity
UN study: 1 of every 3 Venezuelans is facing hunger. (2020, February 24). AP NEWS. https://apnews.com/article/ap-top-news-caracas-caribbean-united-nations-venezuela-88519b3806497d02619e710e91bc4ed8
Wemer, D. (2022, October 3). Venezuelan women: The unseen victims of the humanitarian crisis. Atlantic Council. https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/new-atlanticist/venezuelan-women-the-unseen-victims-of-the-humanitarian-crisis/
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author (s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Jindal Centre for the Global South or its members.