Press Release

IACHR Urges States to Respect and Guarantee Human Rights of Rural Women

October 15, 2014

Washington D.C. - The celebration of the International Day of Rural Women, October 15, presents to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) the opportunity to remind Member States of the Organization of American States (OAS) the importance of ensuring the full exercise of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of rural women.

According to the principles of equality and non-discrimination, the Commission has identified the protection of women's rights as a priority goal in the exercise of its mandate. Discrimination and violence against women are serious problems that continue to be tolerated in the hemisphere and demand priority and comprehensive response from the States. On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women (Belém do Pará Convention), the Commission reiterates the obligation of States Party to use due diligence to prevent, punish and eradicate such violence.

In this context, the situation is particularly critical for women living in rural areas. Conditions such as poverty and social marginalization have diverse impacts on rural women, hindering from their access to economic resources and basic social services to their access to justice and political participation. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, rural women live in social, political and economic inequality with only 30% of land ownership, 10% of loans and 5% for technical assistance.

The IACHR notes the situation of vulnerability that rural women experience due to the intersection of multiple forms of discrimination, such as their gender, race, ethnicity, age, economic status, disabilities, sexual orientation, and in the contexts of conflict and displacement. Often, the vulnerability experienced by rural women is amplified if they are also of indigenous or African descent.

Rural women are particularly affected by the lack of access to clean water and sanitation as well as basic education and health services. In this context, rural women’s access to health services is of particular concern to the Commission. Within the scope of its 150th period of sessions, the IACHR received information concerning violations of the right to health that affect particularly rural women and cases such as obstetric violence, lack of access to maternal health care and discrimination therein. Situations of this nature violate the health of women and their rights to personal integrity and non-discrimination.

Furthermore, rural women are more vulnerable to violence. The IACHR has received information indicating that the general lack of accurate statistics on violence against women is of particular concern regarding the killing of women due to their gender in rural areas. Similarly, rural women face greater barriers to accessing information about their rights and the mechanisms available to report acts of violence and discrimination.

With respect to access to information on violence and discrimination, the Commission has noted on several occasions specific problems regarding the availability, quality and completeness of public information on violence and discrimination against women. This includes the lack or insufficient collecting of complete information on all forms of violence and discrimination by the various organs of the state. In addition, there is lack of comprehensive production of statistics from this information and of disaggregation of statistical information based on factors such as sex, race, ethnicity, age, social status, disabilities, sexual orientation and other criteria. This type of information would allow an assessment of the actual incidence of violence and discrimination in specific groups of women. The absence of this type of statistics produces the invisibilization of the problem of violence and discrimination against women.

The Commission also found that, along with the above, the dissemination of information concerning the rights of women, the mechanisms for access to legal avenues to prevent and protect women from violence and the availability of free legal aid services, are insufficient to ensure that women have access to justice in an effective manner. For rural women, the insufficient dissemination of information on their rights is exacerbated by geographical and socioeconomic barriers, among others. As a result, they face particular difficulties to achieve the representation of their needs on the political agenda and access to political participation.

On the International Day of Rural Women, the Commission reminds the States of their obligation to respect, promote and protect the human rights of rural women. It is essential that the Member States through laws, policies, programs and effective budgets ensure the full and effective exercise of these rights, based on the principles of equality and non-discrimination. Within the framework of the 20th anniversary of the Convention of Belém do Pará, the Commission makes a special call to the States to guarantee the right of rural women to live free from violence.

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. 119/14