Women in Paraguay

Women in Paraguay
Traditional guarani clothes.jpg
Guarani indigenous women
Gender Inequality Index
Value0.472 (2012)
Maternal mortality (per 100,000)99 (2010)
Women in parliament15% (2014)[1]
Females over 25 with secondary education35.0% (2010)
Women in labour force57.9% (2011)
Global Gender Gap Index[2]
Value0.672 (2018)
Rank102nd out of 149

Women in Paraguay live in a culture that has been undergoing rapid change in recent decades. Women's rights were expanded through constitutional and legal changes during the 1990s. Cultural attitudes towards many areas of women's lives are also changing. Yet Paraguayan women still face many challenges in trying to attain social equality and their status in society.

The legal and government institutions that currently exist in Paraguay were developed in part through the efforts of feminist organizations in the country that held significant awareness-raising campaigns during the 1990s to formalize the guarantees of women's rights.[3]

The 1992 Constitution of Paraguay upholds the principle of equality for all individuals and prohibits discrimination. However, socio-cultural practices still support discrimination against women in some areas.


Illiteracy rates for women in Paraguay are higher than those of men, although this is a much more pronounced difference for older generations. The gender gap in education has decreased in recent years. Among youth aged 15 to 24 years, the literacy rate is 99% for both males and females. Young people of both sexes begin dropping out of the education system at significant rates following primary levels, however, and are unlikely to pursue education beyond the secondary level.[4] As of 2010, of the population 15 and over, 92.9% of women and 94.8% of men were literate.[5]


A woman shopkeeper in Paraguay.

Women's salaries in relation to men's are the second-lowest in Latin America.[6] This is despite the fact that women make up 74% of Paraguay's labour force.[7]

Discrimination against women in the workplace, as well as sexual harassment on the job, are common in Paraguay. The Labor Code prohibits, but does not criminalize, discrimination or harassment on the basis of sex. Complaints are generally settled privately. The Secretariat of Women's Affairs occasionally operates programs supporting women's access to employment, social security, housing, land ownership and business opportunities.[8]


Early marriage is common in Paraguay. A 2004 United Nations report estimated that 17 percent of girls between 15 and 19 years of age were married, divorced or widowed. The legal age for marriage in Paraguay is 16.[9]


Divorce was legalized in Paraguay in 1991.[10] Paraguay was one of the last countries to legalize divorce, both in the world and in Latin America: divorce was also legalized in 1991 in Colombia;[11] across Latin America it was only Chile that had not legalized it by that time, subsequently doing so in 2004.[12] The legalization of divorce in Paraguay had been strongly opposed by the Roman Catholic Church, a powerful force in Paraguayan society since European colonization. Divorce rates in Paraguay remain well below worldwide averages, and are the lowest in Latin America.[13]


An indigenous woman and child. Fertility rates are higher in rural areas and among indigenous women.

Fertility rates in Paraguay were historically high relative to other countries in the Latin American region. This has changed since the 1990s, and fertility has recently declined significantly. In 2004 the fertility rate was estimated at 2.9. Research has found that births before marriage are common in Paraguay, although like the fertility rate overall, this phenomenon is decreasing. One study established that birth rates before a first marriage were 23, 24, and 21 percent, based on 2004, 1998, and 1995–96 data.[14] The maternal mortality rate in Paraguay is 99 deaths/100,000 live births (as of 2010).[15]

Sexuality and birth control[edit]

As the cultural influence of the Roman Catholic Church declines in Paraguay,[further explanation needed] attitudes towards women's sexuality and the use of birth control are changing. The use of modern contraceptive methods, such as birth control pills, condoms and IUDs, increased from a rate of 43% in 1996 to more than 60% by 2004.[16] Adultery was decriminalized in 1990.[17] The HIV/AIDS rate is 0.3% for adults (aged 15–49), as of 2012 estimates.[18]

Abortion remains illegal in Paraguay, with exceptional cases where it can be demonstrated that the life of the mother is in danger.

Financial matters[edit]

Agriculture is a significant component of Paraguay's economy and an important source of income, with approximately 45% of Paraguay's workforce being employed in agriculture. Access to land ownership has been problematic for women in Paraguay, however. There are no legal restrictions on female land ownership, yet women are half as likely as men to be approved for loans to buy land. The 2002 Agrarian Act includes provisions intended to strengthen women's rights in this regard.[19]


Gloria Rubìn, Paraguay's Minister of the Women's Secretariat, supports reforms that improve women's rights.

Women in Paraguay have no legal restrictions on holding political office. Women have served in the government as members of the Congress (as National Deputies and as Senators), as governors, as heads of ministries, and there has been one female Supreme Court judge. They are underrepresented in comparison to male members of the government, however, and even relative to the rates of female representation in the governments of other countries of Latin America. Indeed, Paraguay has one of the lowest percentage of women in parliament in Latin America, significantly lower than neighboring Argentina and Bolivia, although higher than Brazil.[20]

Violence against women[edit]

Domestic violence[edit]

Domestic abuse is very common in Paraguay. The legal response of Paraguay to domestic violence has been very weak, even by The Latin American standards. Although Paraguay enacted in 2000 Law No. 1,600 Against Domestic Violence (Ley No 1.600 contra la Violencia Doméstica), this law - while having a broad definition of domestic violence (including physical, psychological and sexual abuse "lesiones, maltratos físicos, psíquicos o sexuales" [21]) - is civil in nature, and as such does not provide for any sanctions against the perpetrators. While the Criminal Code provides for a crime of domestic violence, this crime has a very narrow definition, as physical violence that is carried out habitually, and is punishable only by a fine.[22][23] As of 2014, there have been increasing calls, from both inside and outside of the country, for the enactment of a comprehensive law against violence against women.[24][25][26][27][28][29]

Human trafficking[edit]

Human trafficking for the purposes of forcing young women into prostitution is an entrenched problem. In recent years, human trafficking networks organized by Taiwanese and Chinese nationals have been broken up by Paraguayan law enforcement, with Paraguayan women being trafficked to Brazil, Argentina, or Spain to work in brothels. There are no precise estimates of the number of women who are victims of human trafficking, but anecdotal estimates are that several hundred Paraguayan women are smuggled out of the country annually. Underage girls are also trafficked within Paraguay and to neighbouring countries to be forced to work as domestic servants.[30]

Women's rights history in Paraguay[edit]

The movement to expand women's rights in Paraguay grew significantly in the 1920s, in large part through the work of María Felicidad González, who represented her country at a feminist conference in Baltimore, in 1922. One year earlier, on April 26, 1921, she opened the Centro Femenino del Paraguay (CFP) (Women's Centre of Paraguay). Influenced by women's rights movements in North America and Europe, Paraguayan women also began to mobilize and claim their rights. During this period, feminism was associated with the Revolutionary Febrerista Party.

Paraguayan Women's Union[edit]

In 1936, during the Revolution of February 17, 1936, the Unión Femenina del Paraguay (UFP) (Paraguayan Women's Union) was created. It was founded on April 26, 15 years after the founding of the Women's Centre of Paraguay, at a meeting that took place at the Colegio Nacional de la Capital, in Asunción. The first president of the Union was Maria F. de Casati.

The Union, in addition to its feminist cause, was openly socialist and part of the wider changes resulting from the Revolution of February 17, 1936. In fact, María F. de Casati stated:

Our feminist movement was born on February 17, with the Revolution that was a clarion call to the popular soul, which opened to everyone the hope for social improvement".[31]

Among the participants in the Union were Elena Freis de Barthe, Lorenza C. de Gaona, and Luisa vda. de Felip. The Union published a periodical called Por la Mujer (For Women), which was the first feminist periodical in Paraguay. Among other causes, it promoted women's suffrage and equality of the sexes.

The Union held meetings in the capitol and throughout Paraguay to raise awareness among women about their rights. Ties were strengthened with other feminist groups in the Americas, including: Asociación Argentina Pro-Sufragio Femenino, the Confederación Femenina de la Paz Americana, Liga Femenina Pro-Union Americana, the Asociación Argentina Pro Paz, and the Asociación Cristiana Femenina.

In 1937, with the fall of the government that came into power following the Revolution of February 17, 1936, the Union was forced to disband, leaving the women's rights movement without an organization.

Women's Democratic Union[edit]

After passing several years between 1940 and 1945 without a women's rights organization, the Unión Democrática de Mujeres (UDM) (Women's Democratic Union) was founded on December 19, 1946. It grew out of the Agrupación de Mujeres Febrerista Residentes en Montevideo (AMFRM) (Association of Febrerista Women Living in Montevideo), which was connected to the Concentración Revolucionaria Febrerista, a Febrerista exile group based out of Montevideo, Uruguay. The founders of this group included Carmen Soler, Esther Ballestrino, Lilia Freis, and several others. This group was forced to disband following the Paraguayan Civil War in 1947.

Febrerista Women's Emancipation Movement[edit]

The Movimiento Femenino Febrerista de Emancipación (MFFE) (Febrerista Women's Emancipation Movement) was founded in 1949, and it was the successor organization to the Agrupación de Mujeres Febreristas Residentes en Montevideo. It published a periodical, Correspondencia. The MFFE remained associated with the Concentración Revolucionaria Febrerista group. In 1951, the Febrerista Revolutionary Party was founded, and the MFFE was integrated with it.

Women's suffrage was gained in Paraguay in 1961, primarily because the strongarm president, Alfredo Stroessner, lacking the approval of his male constituents, sought to bolster his support through women voters.[32]

Current feminist organizations[edit]

In recent years, almost all major political parties in Paraguay have included groups focussed on women's rights issues. Many members of these groups were part of the Mujeres por la Alianza (Women for the Alliance) movement that supported the candidacy of Fernando Lugo, on April 20, 2008.[33]


Juan Speratti: Feminismo, Editorial Litocolor, Asunción, 1989


  1. ^ http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SG.GEN.PARL.ZS
  2. ^ "The Global Gender Gap Report 2018" (PDF). World Economic Forum. pp. 10–11.
  3. ^ "Social Institutions and Gender Index". genderindex.org. Retrieved September 4, 2011.
  4. ^ "At a glance: Paraguay statistics". UNICEF. Retrieved September 4, 2011.
  5. ^ https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2103.html
  6. ^ "2008 Legatum Prosperity Index". Legatum. Retrieved September 4, 2011.
  7. ^ "Paraguay Makes Step Forward For Women's". www.eurasiareview.com. Retrieved September 4, 2011.
  8. ^ "Paraguay". U.S. State Department. Retrieved September 4, 2011.
  9. ^ "Social Institutions and Gender Index". genderindex.org. Retrieved September 4, 2011.
  10. ^ Sex and the State: Abortion, Divorce, and the Family Under Latin. American Dictatorships and Democracies, by Mala Htun, pp 102
  11. ^ https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-19390164
  12. ^ http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4021427.stm
  13. ^ "2008 Legatum Prosperity Index". Legatum. Retrieved September 4, 2011.
  14. ^ Kanako Ishida; Paul Stupp & Mercedes Melian. "Fertility decline in Paraguay" (PDF). USAID. Retrieved September 4, 2011.
  15. ^ https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2223rank.html
  16. ^ Kanako Ishida; Paul Stupp & Mercedes Melian. "Fertility decline in Paraguay" (PDF). USAID. Retrieved September 4, 2011.
  17. ^ http://www.ultimahora.com/nuevo-codigo-elimino-delitos-machistas-y-discriminatorios-n212137.html
  18. ^ https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2155rank.html
  19. ^ "Social Institutions and Gender Index". genderindex.org. Retrieved September 4, 2011.
  20. ^ http://www.ipu.org/wmn-e/classif.htm
  21. ^ http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/population/domesticviolence/paraguay.dv.00.htm
  22. ^ http://www.refworld.org/docid/42df61652.html
  23. ^ http://www.eurasiareview.com/07072011-paraguay-makes-step-forward-for-women%E2%80%99s-and-indigenous-rights-analysis/
  24. ^ http://www.decidamos.org.py/www/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=1705:10-razones-por-las-que-paraguay-necesita-una-ley-integral-contra-la-violencia-hacia-las-mujeres&Itemid=1
  25. ^ http://www.pj.gov.py/contenido/136-secretaria-de-genero/609
  26. ^ http://noticias.lainformacion.com/politica/derechos-humanos/paraguay-requiere-ley-contra-violencia-de-genero-dice-representante-de-onu_StZtbOZvhADLnLJA5rcFN6/
  27. ^ http://www.hoy.com.py/nacionales/a-paraguay-le-urge-una-ley-contra-violencia-de-genero
  28. ^ http://www.paraguay.com/nacionales/reclaman-ley-integral-contra-la-violencia-hacia-las-mujeres-99037
  29. ^ http://www.abc.com.py/especiales/fin-de-semana/un-salto-legal-contra-la-violencia-hacia-las-mujeres-1303660.html
  30. ^ "Paraguay". U.S. State Department. Retrieved September 4, 2011.
  31. ^ Juan Speratti: Feminismo, Editorial Litocolor, Asunción, 1989
  32. ^ Przeworski, Adam; Shin, Kong Joo; Xi, Tianyang (September 26, 2013). "A Simple Partisan Calculus of Women's Suffrage" (PDF). Faculdade de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas. São Paulo, Brazil: Universidade de São Paulo. p. 22. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 September 2017. Retrieved 9 September 2017.
  33. ^ Mujeres por la Alianza

External links[edit]