International Day for Afro-Latina, Afro-Caribbean, and Diaspora Women: IACHR Calls on States to Combat Political Violence against Women of African Descent

July 25, 2021

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Washington, D.C. — On the International Day for Afro-Latina, Afro-Caribbean and Diaspora Women, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) called on States in the Americas to adopt effective measures to combat all types of discrimination and violence against women of African descent in the context of their right to participate in government.

The IACHR noted that women of African descent face specific risk factors that are associated with gender-based violence as they exercise their right to participate in public life and government. This is due to deep-rooted historical patterns of discrimination that reinforce stereotypes stemming from colonialism and slavery. The IACHR has taken note of research that indicates that women of African descent may experience severe limitations to their right to participate in government due to the imposition of sociocultural roles that result in a lack of economic autonomy and control over their lives. Likewise, according to the available data, in some States in the region, women of African descent are even more underrepresented within political bodies and decision-making spaces than men of African descent and women who are not of African descent.

The IACHR has also noted with concern the information put forward by civil society describing stigmatizing discourse that encourages violence and hatred, and expressions that reinforce stereotypes being used to refer to women of African descent exercising social leadership roles, working as human rights defenders, or holding public office. Specifically, these have entailed insults and abuse such as remarks based on ethno-racial origin, sexual orientation, and gender identity and gender expression in public spaces and the media and on social media platforms. There have also been reports of arbitrary detentions in response to their political activities and threats and aggressions that jeopardize their lives and personal integrity. It was also emphasized that some measures adopted in States in the region have constituted setbacks to women's human rights, which have had differentiated impacts on the rights of women of African descent.

The IACHR reminded States that they must take affirmative action to promote and guarantee the participation and representation of women of African descent in political systems and to guarantee the exercise of their political rights, as established in the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance and the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women.

In this regard, the IACHR has observed that some States have implemented initiatives to combat gender-based political violence. It emphasized that advances of this type are needed to incorporate an intersectional perspective that includes the differential, negative impact of this type of violence against women of African descent, including trans and transvestite women, taking into account other factors that can aggravate violence, such as gender expression, gender identity, age, sexual orientation, disability, socioeconomic origin, and migration status.

Finally, the IACHR urged States in the Americas to develop a legislative and policy framework that includes measures to prevent and combat political violence against women of African descent, and to implement a system for reporting and handling cases of this type of violence, including security measures and the inclusion of an intersectional and intercultural approach. It also urged them to implement strategies that promote sociocultural change to combat stereotypes against women of African descent and to take measures to guarantee their participation in public life in their countries, including actions to ensure they can participate fully in government and society.

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

No. 191/21

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