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Violence against women and the COVID-19 pandemic in Panama

by Alejandro Marin

Conferencia Digital ADELA Panamá

Informe - Nota de Acontecimiento

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Violence against women and the COVID-19 pandemic in Panama


Markova Concepción

Designated Ambassador of Panama before the ONU. Ex. Minister of MIDES.

Gilma de León

President of FUNDAGENERO. Family Lawyer.

Dayanara Salazar 

Programs Coordinator in Panama ONU Women.



Alixenia López, Yadira Gratacos

Projects Coordinators of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation Panama, Regional Program ADELA ("Alianzas para la Democracia y el Desarrollo con LatinoAmérica").



The violence against women has transformed in a structural problem. It’s directed towards women with the objective to maintain or increase its subordination to the masculine gender. Its origin is found in the lack of equity on the relations amongst men and women in different settings and the persistent discrimination towards women. It’s a persistent social problem on a domestic setting as well as the public one, and also on different aspects: physical, sexual, psychological, economical, cultural and others, and affects women since the moment they’re born to elderly women. It isn’t confined or limited to a culture, region, or country in specific, nor to specific groups of women in society.


The violence against women on a global level

Epidemiological studies have shown that violence against women is a prevalent problem to every society and according to the investigations of the prevalence of violence towards women in couples made by the WHO in 2013, it was concluded that 1 in 3 women has suffered some type of violence by the hands of their significant other, as a matter of fact, the countries that make up the WHO, around 38% of the homicides towards the feminine sex  were made by their significant other, while the homicides towards the masculine sex by their significant other were only around 6%, which indicates with clarity the contrast between both genders.

These aspects have affected what are the levels of gender equality where a social structure in which women receive less merits and rights than men was created, and even when there were protests and efforts made in the last decades for more laws that protect women in an efficient way.

The region of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) experiences one of the highest figures on violent activities, inequality and discrimination towards women, according to Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), in the LAC region 1 out of 6 girls are in an arranged marriage or in a un formal union before the age of 18, which is a rate that hasn’t changed in the last 25 years.

 Even so, around 42% of the unemployed population of the LAC region is made up of the feminine gender, this due to the lack of equity of income to women and the limitations that bank centers impose women at the moment they ask for a personal loan or one for investment. The biggest participation by women in the economies has been very important for the exponential growth of the economical sectors, but due to the lack of security and social protection, women tend to be exploited and abused within these sectors.


Violence Towards women in Panama

In Panama, 1 out of 7 women among the ages 15 – 49 suffer some type of violence and discrimination by the male gender. Women are constant victims of violence inside and out of their homes and with time, corresponding law legislations were made by the government (ex. la ley No 82 del 24 de octubre del 2013) that protect every woman found within Panamanian grounds, no matter where they come from, however, in Panama there’s still an accelerated increase of this type of violence which sadly leads to high rates of femicides which are reported often, and it’s an evil that affects all the citizens. It’s a reality that every human is exposed to violence, wether it’s domestic or external, even so, people at a higher risk in the country of experiencing this type of physical or verbal abuse are women, specially immigrant women, of indigenous origin, refugees, disabled and among other conditions

This makes the question ‘Where does such thoughts of undervaluation of women by men arise?’ This can be easily deduced by the social structure that’s been incorporated throughout the generations in the country’s culture (and even global) that the simple fact that someone is born a girl, she’s destined to only cook, clean, take care of the family and follow or submit men’s orders. 

The Panamanian culture in the last 50 years has familiarized with the patriarchal structure as a main standard  for families, where the man is head of the family and is destined to provide for his family, whilst the woman’s main role is attend him and the rest of the family, where any contradiction by the woman towards the man is punished in a physical or verbal way, fortunately this malign way has been criticized and fought against since it’s the catalyst of high rates of inequality, discrimination, machismo and homicide towards women (femicide) in Panama and other regions on a global level.

Currently on a national level there are 44 registered non-governmental organizations that fight and defend women’s rights like Asociación de Mujeres Universitarias de Panamá (AMUP), la Unión de Mujeres Panameñas (UNAMUP) y FUNDAGENERO. Among the governmental organizations the INAMU and MIDES with Consejo Nacional de la Mujer, which has the objective of promote and elevate consciousness and sensitization towards women, create equal opportunities with public politics, and develop their capacity of participation effectively in the national life and eradicate acts of discrimination, disrespect, denigration, pressure, threats, humiliations, insults and verbal or physical aggressions to women because of their gender which has lessened competitions and abilities in political, economical and social development of the country.

The idea and action of disparage women is based on the social, political, and cultural fundaments, but it’s only being focused on a superficial and conjectural level, that’s why the inversion in resources against violence towards them isn’t found in the results wanted by the government and society, wether it’s in Panama or in a global level. The actions to the attention and prevention of violence to women executed on a national level, requires both men and women citizens willing to build a society that needs more women to occupy high rank positions in the governmental, judicial, legislative, business, political and civil to be part in the take of decisions and have an influence in society and public politics.

By the previous shown, we exhort the general citizens and the generators of the public opinions to promote respect to all women, using positive language and images, to highlight their contributions to the country. In such sense, social media (essays, radio, TV, etc.) can exert a great labor that contributes the prevention of violence towards women by modifying their agenda and the contents that are published, exercising a social function that contribute to a cultural peace and a healthy coexistence among men and women. The challenge is kept and the fronts start with education and the justice in which every society must show interest.


 Violence against women and the Pandemic

The confinement stablished by the Asamblea Nacional (National Assembly) and the Executive Body to avoid the spread of the virus, has increased the probabilities of risk that women, teenagers and girls suffer some type of domestic violence. According to the UN Women, in the last 12 months, around almost 243 millions of women suffer some form of violence, discrimination or abuse inside and outside of their homes and has intensified with the outbreak of the new mortal virus, which sadly indicates, a growth in these figures.

Unfortunately, only 40% of women that suffer some type of violence or domestic abuse look for help, while only a 10% go to authorities, these figures, according to UN Women, will drop due to the state of confinement exposed by the governments at a global level.

The confinement or quarantine has resulted to be effective in many countries in reducing the spread, however, has caused many women to find themselves trapped with their abusive significant other.

If we see it through the professional spectrum, according to OECD, the feminine population of the LAC region tend to be more exposed by the virus since 9 out of 10 nurses and 5 out of 10 doctors are women, which means that they’re more exposed to get infected by the virus.

Due to the closure of specific economical sectors where most of the feminine population work at in the LAC region (minor commerce, hostelries, etc.) their personal income has been strongly affected, which has forced many women to have more economical dependence of their abusive partner.

Lastly, at the moment, the focus of the governments is to invest on the medical resources against the virus, has caused for many women to be limited in the access of sexual, reproductive and vital health services. The measures taken against COVID-19 have focused on reducing the spread in an efficient way in the health and biological ambience, however, it has caused an increase in psychological and physical problems in the female population.



The fight against violence against women

Currently, many governmental institutions of national and international ambient have implemented forms and methods to prevent violence towards women before and during the pandemic. Recently, the National Police of Panama has implemented a method of sign language in which a woman (or man) that suffers some type of domestic abuse or discrimination can report another individual through virtual chats o video calls. Panama has taken certain big steps to fight said malign stigma through implementations of public centers that attend victims of this violence, for example, we have the National Institute of Women (INAMU) and Assistance to Victims of Gender Violence of General Office of the Public Ministry. Taking conscience of the difficulties that certain victims have when reporting their cases to authorities or other individuals, whether it’s by fear or economic dependence, therefore, it’s important to focus that one of the best tools on preventing and decreasing the cases on violence to women is educating communities and eradicating the thoughts of undermining of one gender to the other, this can be accomplished through the alliance of all sectors of society. The cooperation of the Security Ministry, Education Ministry, Universities, NOG’s, citizen services or organizing women and other members of communities to implement speeches or group conferences to discuss the subject in schools, companies and local communities.

It’s important the citizens’ participation in recognizing and intervene on the signs or cases where such type of violence or abuse is seen or to support, motivate and help women in reporting or receiving help at the moment which they find themselves in such awkward positions. National authorities have the responsibility of giving comfort, safety and wellness to victims of violence, who can also be an example to motivate more women that are also abused, so that these cases can be decreased on a global and national level.

Offenders must be punished and brought to justice. It’s important to listen to the voices behind these women who are daily fighting physical, psychological or any type of abuse to give them the help and support needed to leave such behavior of discrimination or to potentially save their lives. If you suffer or know a woman that currently is going through an awkward, abusive or violent situation within her home, be it before, during or after this pandemic, please report it immediately to the next phone numbers:

National Police – Phone: 104 and in case of Darién in SENAFRONT – Phone: +507 511-7000

Prosecutors Specialized in Family and Minor Affairs – Phone: +507 225-8826

Night Courts – Phones: +507 517-9500+507 517-9523

Reception Center of Denounces of the Public Ministry (MP) – Phone: +507 3498 (24 hours)

Reception Center of Denounces (DIJ) – Phone: +507-3493/ +507-3498

National Institute of Women (INAMU) – Phone: 182 (free of cost)

CrimeStoppers on – online platform for anonymous denounces





Konrad Adenauer Foundation


Alejandro Alberto Marin Leiva

Intern in the KAS ADELA Office, Panama




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