Latin America & Caribbean

Bolivia ombudsman alarmed at sexual attacks on girls

A woman holds a sign during the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on 25 November, 2011 in La Paz. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Bolivia has the highest rate of violence against women in South America, studies suggest

The Bolivian ombudsman has said he is worried about a rise in sexual attacks against girls and women.

Rolando Villena said that local, regional and national authorities were failing to act in the face of a growing number of increasingly cruel attacks on young girls.

Last week, a four-year-old girl was raped and murdered in Palos Blancos, north-east of La Paz.

It was the third case of its kind in two weeks in Bolivia.

'Untenable violence'

Bolivia has the highest levels of violence against women in South America, according to a 2013 Pan-American Health Organization study.

In an official statement, Mr Villena said that there was a "complacency" within Bolivian society, which meant that no action was taken to prevent further attacks.

He said Bolivians thought it "was enough to detain and jail the perpetrators, while nothing is done to protect girls and adolescents".

Bolivians have been shocked by the case of the four-year-old who was found raped and murdered in Palos Blancos, about 250km north-east of La Paz.

It came a week after a five-year-old girl was raped at a medical centre in the central region of Cochabamba. The girl later died while being transferred to a hospital.

According to the ombudsman's office, 34% of underage girls in Bolivia have suffered some form of sexual abuse at some point.

"We don't know how many more cases we have to have before the government accepts that we're facing a situation with untenable levels violence against women, and girls in particular," Mr Villena said.

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