Gender inequality is an issue affecting women all around the world. Although
important positive developments in the last decades have taken place, it continues being
pervasively present across all cultures and has a negative impact not only on women, but on society in general. Almost as universal as the problem itself, has been the research carried out trying to entangle and clarify the roots, causes, mechanisms, and consequences of the unbalanced relationship among genders. Multiple disciplines using countless approaches have embarked on the gigantic task of understanding how our beliefs about gender came into existence, why, and how they affect all aspects of our lives. The field of psychology, and especially social psychology, focuses specifically on the relationship between gender stereotypes, attitudes, and prejudice, and how these are responsible for the disadvantage and discrimination of women, as well as for the violence against them. Gender-based violence, including femicide, is the ultimate and most serious consequence of gender inequality and, according to estimates, around one out of three women worldwide suffers some kind of gender violence during her life. Numerous results have shown that although gender inequality is present everywhere across the world, some regions and cultures show a greater disparity, resulting in higher rates of gender violence, therefore having a greater impact on women’s well-being. These differences among regions and cultures have multiple causes and can be rooted in historical, cultural, religious, and socio-economic factors, among many others. A region particularly noteworthy for its high rates of violence against women is Latin America.
Striking structural inequalities among genders are evident, which result on discrimination and alarming conditions regarding gender-based violence. Nevertheless, despite the situation, little is done to challenge such worrying circumstances as compared to other regions. In many European and North American countries research has come further in the attempt to understand the interaction between gender-based violence and factors such as societal beliefs, morality, political orientation, among many others. Only through such insights it is possible to start grasping the causes, mechanisms, and consequences of violence against women, all indispensable to be able to work against it. However, in order to extrapolate the knowledge gathered through context-specific research, such as the research conducted mainly in western, economically developed societies, the consideration and understanding of certain cultural factors is imperative. Indeed, crucial differences among cultures regarding for example religion, morality, political orientation, security, and socio-economic status could mark a decisive difference, hindering the generalization of findings from different cultural contexts.
With this in mind, the current work aims at providing context-specific results on key
findings related to gender violence previously identified in western societies, taking into
account the cultural particularities of the Latin American countries Colombia, Dominican
Republic, and Chile. Although the aim is not to provide cultural adaptations or to replicate
previous findings, we do intend to deliver meaningful results on currently pressing matters
while bearing in mind the cultural context. In order to do so, multiple methods and assessment instruments developed through previous research were implemented or adapted, with careful consideration of the context in each specific country, to ensure the valid gathering of data. For example, in order to assess moral foundations and its relation to rape-related attitudes in the Colombian context, a well-established instrument was culturally adapted and implemented in a Colombian sample. Interestingly, comparable results in regard to available data emerged, revealing that conservative moral foundations were positively related to the acceptance of rape myths and victim blaming, whereas, on the other hand, a negative relationship between liberal moral foundations and victim blaming could be assessed (Paper 1). With the aim of unraveling further interactions between gender-related attitudes and behaviors, and context specific conditions, a paradigm to measure sexually harassing behavior was adapted to the
Dominican context. By using this paradigm, as well as further well-established instruments, a relationship between the preference for music with sexist content (very popular in the Dominican Republic and Latin America in general) and sexually harassing behavior could be found (Paper 2). Finally, with the aim of assessing accurate prevalence rates of sexual violence victimization among undergraduates, as well as related risk and protective factors, a longitudinal study was developed in close collaboration with a Chilean university. The instruments implemented were carefully chosen and adapted, in order to meet methodological demands, while considering specificities of the context in the Chilean university. The first wave of the study revealed prevalence rates of sexual violence victimization comparable to those obtained with instruments similar in length. Further, they provide useful baseline information regarding the satisfaction of students with support systems in cases of sexual violence, allowing the evaluation of changes and interventions to this regard that are being implemented (Paper 3).
Altogether, the presented studies deal with current and context-specific issues, trying
to answer pressing questions related to gender-based attitudes and prejudice in Latin America, focusing on their relation with sexual violence and rape-related attitudes. Whereas partly confirming available findings, our studies also provide evidence for relevant differences, in comparison with results achieved in western countries. In regard to moral foundations and rape-related attitudes, whereas confirming the already reported relationship between conservative moral foundations and discriminatory intergroup attitudes, our results diverge from previous findings by showing a higher attribution of blame to victims of rape among collectivist participants. Similarly, the results of Paper 2 partly did not confirm previous findings, as no effects of the exposure to music videos with sexist content on sexually harassing behavior emerged. However, we found a positive relationship between the preference for sexist music and rape-related attitudes. Our third study (Paper 3) found similar sexual victimization rates among Chilean undergraduates as those obtained with comparable instruments regarding length, which serves as further evidence of a positive correlation of questionnaire length and victimization rates.
We consider our contribution of great importance for the field of gender research in
Latin America, as, besides providing useful instruments and adaptations that can be used in future studies, we offer highly interesting findings in regard to currently relevant issues.