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The second smallest country in the Southern Cone of South America, Paraguay is landlocked between Bolivia, Brazil and Argentina. Following decades of dictatorship, this democratic republic remains politically unstable, and is still seen as a haven for drug smuggling and money laundering. In relation to children’s rights, some of the most prominent issues include a low minimum age of criminal responsibility, children working in domestic labour and trafficking.
The Republic of Paraguay is the second smallest country in the Southern Cone of South America. It is landlocked between Argentina to the south and southwest, Brazil to the east, and Bolivia to the northwest. And due to its central location in the region, it is also known as El corazón de Ámerica, or Heart of America. The Paraguay River, the second most important in the La Plata Basin, divides the country into two regions: the eastern Paraná region where more than 95 per cent of the country’s population resides, and the lowlands of Western Paraguay, also known as the Chaco plain. The country’s capital and most populated city is Asunción.
Population and language
In 2009, Paraguay’s population stood at 6,340,639, of which 45 per cent is aged between 0-19 years. Life expectancy at birth is 72.3. Ninety-five per cent of the population is of mixed European and Amerindian ethnicity, also known as mestizo. Brazilians represent the largest immigrant group, with an estimated 400,000 living in Paraguay. Spanish and Guaraní are the official languages.
Politics and legal system
Paraguay is a representative democratic republic with the President acting as both head of state and head of government. Voting is compulsory for citizens between the ages of 18 and 75, and non-compulsory for those older than 75, yet this rule is not enforced. After more than six decades of conservative rule under the Colorado Party, the Left achieved a historic victory in 2008 with former bishop Fernando Lugo voted into office. Paraguay’s legal system was founded on the 1987 Civil Code, which is based largely on the Napoleonic and the Argentinean Codes.
Paraguay has consistently shown the highest economic growth in South America, with a GDP rate of 14.5 per cent by the end of 2010. Agriculture dominates the economy. The country is the sixth largest soy producer in the world. However, there have been several cases of deaths and illness of children and adults caused by the use of toxic agro-chemicals in soya bean plantations. Paraguay presents one of the most unequal rates of land distribution in the world, with 10 per cent of the population controlling 66 per cent of arable land, leaving 30 per cent of rural families landless. The industrial sector is also very important, accounting for 25 per cent of GDP. Paraguay is a member of the MERCOSUR free-trade agreement between Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. Notably, the country is home to the world’s third leading free commercial zone: Ciudad del Este, after Miami and Hong Kong. Paraguay also has the world’s largest hydroelectric dam (by annual generation capacity), the Itaipu Dam, and sells 95 per cent of its share of the energy it generates to Brazil. The country also has a large informal sector consisting of the re-sale of imported goods to neighbouring countries and foreign citizens who cross the border to buy less expensive goods, micro-enterprises, urban street vendors and subsistent farmers.
Media and civil society
Reporters Without Borders ranks the country 54th out of 175 (with one being the most free) in its 2010 worldwide index of press freedom. There have been several notorious murders of local reporters and attacks on local radio stations that expose the illegal activities of drug cartels and speak out against complicity between the cartels and some political figures and members of the police and army. The current head of state, Fernando Lugo, announced that he would not support any press law that restricts the work of journalists.
Several prominent children's rights issues include: the high number of child domestic workers, the failure to separate child detainees from adult prisoners in detention centres, trafficking of women and children for the purpose of sexual exploitation, a lack of more severe punishment for perpetrators of domestic violence (currently only a fine), discrimination against indigenous children, discrimination against girls in schools, and the need to raise the minimum age for marriage from 16. Corporal punishment of children is prohibited in the penal system as a sentence for crime and disciplinary measure, yet it is lawful in the home, and it is not explicit prohibited in schools and alternative care settings.
- Banco Central del Paraguay
- Dirección General de Estadísticas Encuestas y Censos de Paraguay
- Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children Profile for Paraguay
- National Geographic country profile for Paraguay
- Reporters Without Borders, Country Report – Paraguay, 2010
- UNDP country profile for Paraguay
- Population: 6,682,940 (UNDP, 2013)
- Population under 18: 2,606,000 (UNICEF, 2012)
- Number of Internet users: 1,523,273 (Internet World Stats, 2011)
- Human Development Index: 111 (UNDP, 2013)
- Happy Planet Index ranking: 57 (New Economics Foundation, 2012)