CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) – Venezuela is a place where women are paid less than men for the same work and where people still wear traditional dress to celebrate the country’s independence.
Yet in a country where the government’s economic policies have left millions behind, people are embracing their cultural heritage and adapting to change.
The country has been the subject of intense debate since a new constitution was adopted last year that abolished a controversial law that restricted the sale of cosmetics, toiletries and other products.
The law has been criticized for encouraging the sale and use of “luxury goods” that often contain no nutritional value.
It has also made it easier for women to get married, end child marriage and open more than a dozen licensed beauty salons in some areas.
Women are increasingly working in the fields, teaching in primary schools and going to university to study in professions such as nursing and business management.
The country is one of the fastest-growing economies in Latin America.
But in the country of more than 4 million, there are many who feel isolated.
Women have little or no voice in politics, where the gender pay gap remains wide and some are relegated to less prestigious jobs.
The government has promised to make the economy more equal, but some argue that many women are still excluded from important posts, including in the armed forces, where they still make up only 13 percent of the workforce.
There are no statistics on the number of women in the ranks of the armed force or the judiciary, and there is no government website that lists the gender of its senior officers.
The law that created the National Assembly’s new constitution also has made it harder for women in business, which includes owning businesses, investing in them or even owning property.
It restricts women from owning shares in publicly traded companies and bars women from running a political party.
Women also do not have the same opportunities as men in most sectors.
Women account for less than 1 percent of registered entrepreneurs, according to the state-run CENESP, but more than half of the population works in low-wage jobs.
In the public sector, women have limited control over their wages, pay or promotions.
Women in business and academia have been largely excluded from higher education and from holding managerial positions in the government and media, while many women also lack a high school diploma or a university degree.
Many Venezuelans are also seeing changes in their personal lives, especially the increasing number of unmarried couples who have never married and do not want to.
A new survey showed that 48 percent of people who said they had a romantic partner were not currently in a relationship.
The number of people living with a partner has grown to nearly 15 percent of Venezuelans.
“People feel isolated and disconnected,” said Alejandro Perez, a 23-year-old graphic designer from the city of Valencia, who works in an advertising agency.
“They have not done much with their lives, and now they are living without a partner.
We feel like we are living in a jungle.
We are trying to find a partner, but we cannot.”
The government also says it will allow women to join the military.
But the government has not yet released the number who will be allowed to join.
The new constitution is expected to be ratified this week and then the government will make it mandatory for men and women to register for military service, which will mean they have to show identification.
The government will then decide which men will be considered eligible for military duty and which women will be excluded from the military altogether.
Venezuela’s constitution, adopted in December 2016, allows the president to issue a decree that allows for the military to function only between two weeks and two years after a president is elected.
It is up to the president, or other ministers to decide who is eligible for the service and who is not.
The armed forces were supposed to be the first to be reformed under the new constitution, but in December 2017, the Supreme Court ruled that the military was unconstitutional.
It said the armed services were the responsibility of the government, which is responsible for recruiting and training the armed groups.
The ruling sparked widespread protests and a series of resignations of some senior officers, who accused the ruling of violating their rights.
Videos circulated on social media showed armed men holding weapons and threatening civilians.
In the cities of Valencia and Caracas, armed men with long beards and military fatigues threatened passers-by, smashing cars and damaging businesses.
Voters overwhelmingly approved the new government in a December vote, but President Nicolas Maduro has remained in power, and the military is largely intact.