Press Release

On the International Day for Older Persons, the IACHR Calls for Safeguards of the Rights of Older Persons and for the Eradication of Violence and Discrimination Against Older Women

October 1, 2020

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Washington, D.C. - On the International Day for Older Persons, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) calls on States in the Americas to promote and ensure recognition of the human rights of older persons around the region and, in particular, to prevent and eradicate all forms of violence and discrimination against older women.

The IACHR draws attention to the multiple forms of gender-based violence and discrimination that older women face throughout their lives. Older women constantly endure violence and discrimination that start in their childhood, continue into their adolescence and adult years, and are intersectionally compounded in their old age, when they coincide with circumstances associated with their age. Constant violence and discrimination also intersect with the specific conditions faced by women in the indigenous, Afro-descendant, LGBTI, detainee, and migrant communities and by women with disabilities.

Violence against women manifests itself in fields like education, health (including sexual and reproductive health), access to justice, and the workplace. Further, older women face abuse (both physical and emotional), neglect, and abandonment within the family and in long- and short-term care institutions. The vulnerability of older women is highlighted by persistent gender stereotypes that assign traditional roles to women from a very early age and that tend to hide abuse and violence, leaving older women defenseless to end constant violence and mistreatment.

In this context, the IACHR warns that major challenges persist in justice systems around the Americas to address cases involving violence against older women with a perspective that incorporates gender and age and takes into consideration their specific vulnerability. The absence of an effective State response leads to impunity and perpetuates violence and abuse.

The Inter-American Convention on Protecting the Human Rights of Older Persons specifically defines old age as “the social construct of the last stage of the life course,” which implies recognition of a complex reality that brings together biological, psychological, and social factors. To effectively address the challenges associated with the vulnerability that stems from the intersectional discrimination faced by older women, the IACHR calls for the horizontal integration of a perspective that incorporates gender and age, within the framework of the main relevant inter-American instruments.

Finally—in the context of efforts to make the Inter-American Human Rights System more universal and to expand and ensure the protection of the human rights of older persons in the region—the Commission calls on States to ratify or adhere to the Inter-American Convention on Protecting the Human Rights of Older Persons, approved by the General Assembly of the OAS on June 15, 2015, and to use this document for reference to develop public policies with a human rights approach for older persons.

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 and to defend 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. 240/20