More than 40 percent of victims of sexual violence in Argentina are either children or adolescents, according to government data.
A new study, published last week by a government prosecutorial unit specialising in violence against women, showed that 87 percent of adult victims of sexual abuse in Argentina are female and that the perpetrators of such acts are overwhelmingly male.
The report also shows that sexual violence (crimes such as sexual assault, rape and sexual abuse), or at least the denunciation of such crimes, rose consistently at a national level between 2016 and 2021, from 13,003 to 41,697.
Federal Prosecutor Mariela Labozzetta, the head of the Unidad Fiscal Especializada en Violencia contra las Mujeres (UFEM) presenting the study, said that experts had updated exploratory work published in 2019 to track the evolution of the phenomenon.
UFEM compiled and analysed information produced between 2016 and 2021 by public bodies with knowledge and/or intervention in cases of sexual violence, trolling publications and public access databases both nationally and in the City of Buenos Aires. Data from the Public Prosecutor's Office was also incorporated.
The unit found that there had been an increase in registered cases of sexual violence at both the national and local level over the five-year period, a phenomenon reflected in data provided by the report’s police, judicial, penitentiary and communication sources. The only period to have witnessed a drop in registered cases coincided with the implementation of restrictions on movement imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to UFEM, 90 percent of persons charged with and convicted of sexual violence crimes were male. Registered cases of sexual abuse that did not extend to rape and the number of individuals detained for sexual offences both notably increased over the five-year spell.
“The number of persons detained for sexual offences increased, ranking fourth among the causes of deprivation of liberty,” added the report.
The unit said that information gathering about sexual violence had improved and that government messaging had helped “reduce the under-reporting of cases,” particularly in the capital. Calls to the government's 144 gender violence hotline rose substantially over the study’s five-year period, rising from 33,000 consultations in 2016 to more than 110,000 in recent years.
Nevertheless, UFEM stressed, surveys of victims showed that "sexual violence is a widespread phenomenon,” and that many did not come forward to denounce crimes. Studies at a national level showed that “around 20 percent of women report having suffered some episode of sexual violence during their adult life,” but that “88 percent did not make any type of complaint.”
Greater visibility of public messaging, “the dissemination of emblematic cases” and a change in “social context” have also contributed to better management and awareness of the problem, said UFEM.
Drilling into data from Buenos Aires City, UFEM said that 40 percent of sexual crimes prosecuted in the capital with an identified perpetrator featured victims under the age of 13. This proportion rose to 46 percent if victims under the age of 18 were included.
Children and adolescents make up around 27 percent of the capital’s population.