Press Release

On International Women’s Day, the IACHR Highlights Deep Concerns Regarding the Protection of the Rights of Women in the Americas

March 8, 2014

Washington, D.C. – The celebration of International Women’s Day offers the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights the opportunity to highlight concerns in the protection of the rights of women in the Americas revealed in its daily work and in the execution of its regional initiatives. Twenty years after the adoption of the Convention of Belém do Pará, the existing problems underscore the need for States to further develop and apply due diligence to adequately respond to violence and discrimination against women.

The Inter-American Commission is currently implementing a project to examine the situation of the rights of indigenous women in the Americas. In the framework of this initiative, the Commission has consistently received information from indigenous women underscoring the multidimensional and intersectional nature of the discrimination that they suffer, and the need to address the causes of the discrimination which still affects them. The Commission reiterates that indigenous women tend to suffer discrimination on the basis of multiple factors, including their sex, race, ethnicity, and situation of poverty. This discrimination is connected to the persistence of violence against indigenous women, not only physical, psychological and sexual, but also spiritual. This violence is also connected to threats to the full protection of their right to property over lands, territories and natural resources, including armed conflicts, development projects, and the presence of extractive industries.

Indigenous women also face tremendous barriers to fully exercise their economic, social, and cultural rights, and to access basic services in the realms of education, health, and employment. In regards to access to justice, indigenous women have also informed the Commission about difficulties in achieving protection and redress for acts of violence and discrimination in indigenous legal systems. In this regard, the Commission underscores the importance of a holistic approach in the design of State interventions to protect the rights of indigenous women, taking into account their perspective, identity, values, contributions, and conception of rights.

The Commission is also currently examining the main challenges that women face in their access to complete, accessible, reliable, and timely information managed by the State in the fields of violence and discrimination. This in the context of a regional initiative which will conclude with the publication of a report including a set of recommendations for States on how to improve compliance with existing human rights standards relevant to the issue of access to information, where the Commission welcomes inputs from both State and non-State actors. The Commission has historically received accounts of roadblocks faced by women and their family members to obtain basic information regarding the processing by the justice system of their cases of violence, the functioning of the legal process in general, and ways to avail themselves of basic guarantees and protections provided by the law. The Commission has also noted the gaps in the statistics available on the issue of violence against women and the need to disaggregate those statistics that are collected on the basis of race, ethnicity, age, and other grounds. The Commission reiterates that access to information is closely linked to the attainment of other key human rights of women, such as their right to personal integrity, to privacy, to protection of the family, and to live free from violence and discrimination. Therefore, a failure to respect and guarantee this right for women can lead to the infringement of a range of civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights.

The Commission finally urges States to create public spaces for all women and the organizations that represent them to have a voice in the design of legislation and public policies pertaining to the issues of violence, discrimination, and access to information, as a key ingredient to improving their effectiveness.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 25/14