Migrating as a Venezuelan Woman

As with most things in life, men and women experience the process of migration differently. They also face different challenges. While the reasons for migrating are “gender neutral,” women experience additional vulnerabilities that migrant men do not.

According to the Migration Data Portal, 50.7% of the total of international migrants in Latin America in 2017 were women, whereas 49.3% were men. While these percentages vary region to region, and throughout time, in the case of Venezuelan migrant women, the numbers follow a similar pattern. For example, in the case of Colombia, which concentrates most of the Venezuelan migration, in 2018, 51.8% of the total of 1,032,016 Venezuelan migrants were women, while around 48.1% were men.

This shows the changing role of women in migration processes, who now seem to be taking the lead in migration, with their spouses joining them later. And they are also challenging the traditional view that Venezuelan women wait for their husbands/partners to migrate first, becoming established and bringing in his family once the employment and living situation has stabilized. Venezuelan women leading migration processes show their courage and determination to make life better for themselves and their loved ones. That is worth our admiration and support.

Being a migrant automatically puts people in a situation of vulnerability: new country, new customs, need for a job, housing. But this is augmented for women who are exposed to additional vulnerabilities just for being women. Indeed the same inequalities women face in our countries of origin, and in society in general, are just continued in the process of migration and once women settle. “Lack of access to fair and equal salaries, gender discrimination, gender violence and street harassment, gender stereotypes, and social roles, as well as the lack of access to sexual and reproductive rights” are just some of the factors women have to face once they settle in their new country.

But there is more.

If we take a look at the age range for Venezuelan migrants in the region, we find that the average age of the Venezuelan migrant is 31. Venezuelan women, and especially young ones, are the ideal prey of human trafficking criminal networks.

According to the International Organization for Migration, of the total victims of human trafficking in 2014 (the last year for which data is available), women and girls comprised the majority, at 71%. Unfortunately, the share of children among detected victims has gone up from 13% in 2004 to 28% in 2014, but, again, girls are generally the majority of the trafficked children. This scourge makes women and children victims of sexual exploitation, forced labor, forced marriage, organ removal, pornography, illegal adoptions, among others.

This global reality is happening in our region, in our backyard, to migrant women from Venezuela. CEPAZ has taken the lead in producing a report on Venezuelan migration processes with a gender perspective, calling for more attention to be paid to instances where Venezuelan women suffer double and triple vulnerabilities. To name a few of these, in their forthcoming study, they have documented, that:

  • 43% of the Venezuelan women surveyed are between 18 and 29 years old, which exposes them to discrimination because of their age and gender, stigmatized as “provocative” in some countries.
  • Venezuelan women, adolescents, and girls are exposed during migration to alleged medical examinations involving nudity or forced sex with a truck driver in exchange for a ticket, among other forms of violence.
  • The specific stigmatization of Venezuelan women as sexual objects criminalizes their migration. They are perceived as causing the increase of male infidelity in the receiving country and even as members of prostitution networks.

If we add to this not having access to a passport or legal regularization options right away, they are in an even more vulnerable situation. Time to act.