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Facts at a Glance

Brazilian women won the right to vote in 1932. Today, women represent 5 percent of the House of Deputies and .24 percent of the Senate.

Some 20 percent of Brazil's 35 million families are now headed by women. Most are poor and live with inadequate sanitation: over 90 percent of children under a year old in the Northeast live in homes with inadequate sewage systems.

Women in Brazil earn, on the average, 52 percent of what men do.

Latin America has one of the highest rates in the Third World of women engaged in economic activities outside of the home. According to authors Brydon and Chant (Women in the Third World), "in most countries in the continent 26 to 45 percent of women aged 15 years or more have paid employment, and on an average women constitute between 16 to 35 percent of the total labor force in Latin American nations." As work outside the home does not mean a lessening of household duties, many Latin American women have a double workload.

80 percent of women surveyed in Santiago, Chile, said they were beaten by male relatives or partners at home.

In the Caribbean women aged 15 years or over display an average rate of participation in economic activities of between 45 to 65 percent, which is among the highest for the developing world as a whole.

In Nicaragua, 44 percent of men said they beat their wives or girlfriends regularly.

In a country-wide survey on violence in Colombia, one out of five women were beaten by their partners, one out of ten raped, and one out of three had been mentally abused.

According to statistics covering the years 1985 to 1990, Latin American women bear an average of 3.6 children during their reproductive years. Bolivia has the highest birthrate in Latin America, as well as the highest child mortality rate in the hemisphere: 171 children per 1,000 will die before they are five years old.

61 percent of Mexican housewives are physically abused by their husbands or partners, according to a study conducted by the Federal District's Department of Justice. A statistical survey conducted in Netzahualcoyotl, a city next to Mexico City, found that one in three women had been victims of family violence; 20 percent reported blows to the stomach during pregnancy.

During the colonial period in Latin America, Spanish and Portuguese legal codes identified women as "imbecilitus sexus" or "an imbecile by nature."

(From Freedom From Violence: Women's Strategies From Around the World, UNIFEM, 1992; "Women and the 500 Years", CLAI)