Violence against women (VAW), in most cases perpetrated by their (former) partners, leaves physical and psychological aftereffects on women and their families. These consequences range from physical and emotional ailments to economic costs for the assaulted women and their households. Recently, food insecurity was also found to be a consequence of this issue. Battered women are more likely to run out of money to buy food, making them more likely to buy food on credit or go hungry and even let their children go hungry.
How VAW affects the country’s full development
Violence against women is a serious social and public health issue and a violation of human rights worldwide. A stark reminder of the magnitude of gender-based violence in the world is that, according to WHO, one in three women is subjected to physical and/or sexual violence in her lifetime (WHO, 2021).
In the case of Ecuador, the situation is unfortunately no different; official statistics show that 7 out of 10 women have experienced VAW throughout their lives, perpetuated mostly by their (former) partners. Among the types of violence against women at the national level are identified as psychological (56.9%), physical 35.4%, sexual (32.7%), and economic (16.4%) (INEC, 2019).
This reality does not only affect Ecuadorian women, but also the country. The high cost of violence has a negative impact on economic and social development, interfering in the sustainable development of the country. Ecuador loses 4,608 million USD a year, equivalent to 4.28% of the GDP. This amount represents costs and losses at the level of the individual (1.2 billion USD), household (543 million USD), community (340 million USD), and social services (144 million USD) in expenses such as food insecurity; health and schooling of children; loss of sales for microenterprises; direct costs of justice, health, education, and administration; and, finally, the loss of income tax revenues (GIZ/ Vara Horna, 2020). Addressing this issue is not a private matter, but a matter of political relevance.
The individual and household costs caused by VAW
The study “The Individual, Household, and Community Costs of Violence against Women in Ecuador” (GIZ/ Vara Horna, 2019) examines the different costs of VAW at the individual, household, and societal levels. The comprehensive study examines the individual impacts and costs of VAW in terms of direct expenses and lost time, as well as intergenerational impacts on education and physical and mental health. Affected women report direct or visible costs associated with protection, access to justice, and medical care amounting to $67.5 million USD annually. These costs are largely borne “out of pocket” by the assaulted person. Moreover, the loss of money is reflected not only in the amount of money spent on the institutions that provide these services, but also, and above all, in the productive work time lost (indirectly or invisibly) to deal with these emergencies. In total, the annual loss of income due to VAW in Ecuador amounts to 1.1billon USD (GIZ/Vara Horna, 2020).
When talking about these costs, we cannot take into account only women with formal paid work, since 47.4% of the Ecuadorian female population is engaged in unpaid work in the home. Housewives are also part of these statistics as they are forced to receive loans from acquaintances or social support to cover these expenses. In other words, not only do they lose days of domestic care, but they also lose money in expenses and loans incurred to deal with the repercussions of VAW.
In total, women, households, and communities in the country lose 2.3 billion USD annually as a result of VAW (GIZ/Vara Horna, 2019).This is reflected in the household economy and of the Ecuadorian population and, ultimately, in the country’s economy.
Violence against women and food insecurity
VAW impacts food security due to economic violence and lack of food autonomy, as well as the decapitalization of women and families due to out-of-pocket expenses and loss of income. The relationship between VAW and food insecurity needs to be discussed, especially in the context of Ecuador, as it is the second most food-insecure country in Latin America (FAO, 2022).
Food insecurity is an indicator of social inequality associated with the lack of regular and constant access to food in sufficient quantity and quality. It can be measured in moderate and severe levels. Moderate insecurity is when the quality and variety of food is compromised, while severe insecurity is when food is rationed or omitted, causing families to go hungry. 31 out of every 100 women in Ecuador are impacted by one of these two levels of food insecurity. Of the women surveyed, only 8.2% (GIZ/Vara Horna, 2019) stated that their children were also going hungry. This is not surprising, as women are often the ones who sacrifice their health for the wellbeing of their families.
The study shows that, as a result of economic violence, the budget of 27 out of every 100 women is controlled by their partner, thus denying the food autonomy of women who suffer economic violence, revealing the strong relationship between power and gender subordination even in food practices. This directly interferes with the right we all have to decide on our food practices.
In addition, the decapitalization of Ecuadorian families is reflected in the cutting of budgets for the purchasing of food. It is estimated that 238.8 million USD, which should be allocated to the food budget annually, is used to cover the costs of VcM (GIZ/Vara Horna, 2019). This leads on several occasions to the consumption of non-nutritious and high-calorie meals. To satisfy hunger in times of scarcity, replacing nutritious foods such as protein with high carbohydrate foods becomes the only option, and this has a direct impact on the development of diseases caused by poor nutrition.
The study invites us to open our eyes to see the different structures under which VAW hides and goes unnoticed. It has shown us the need to broaden the scope of the investigations, as there are undoubtedly many more connections to be discovered. Uncovering them is important to continue to approach VAW prevention from more angles and to finally achieve gender equality and ensure spaces free of VAW. It is imperative to take action to prevent violence against women in order to achieve comprehensive and equitable development of societies. Addressing this issue is everyone’s responsibility!
FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO (2022). The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2022. Repurposing food and agricultural policies to make healthy diets more affordable. Rome, FAO. https://doi.org/10.4060/cc0639en
National Institute of Statistics and Census – INEC. (2019).
National survey on family relationships and gender-based violence against women – ENVIGMU. Quito.
Vara-Horna, A. (2019). The individual, household, and community costs of violence against women in Ecuador. Quito, 2019, PreviMujer, GIZ.
Vara-Horna, A. (2020). The country costs of violence against women in Ecuador. Quito, 2020, PreViMujer, GIZ.
WHO (2021). Violence against women, 2018 estimates: global, regional, and national estimates of the prevalence of intimate partner violence against women and global and regional estimates of the prevalence of non-partner sexual violence against women. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2021. License: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO
Contact DetailsName: Carolin Loayza