Press Release

On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, IACHR Urges States to Implement Transformative Measures

November 25, 2014

Washington, D.C. - On the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, celebrated on November 25, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) brings attention to the persistence of violence and multiple forms of discrimination that women face in the region.

“Violence against women is regrettably an ordinary feature of life throughout the Americas, engrained and endemic”, said the President of the IACHR and Rapporteur on the Rights of Women, Tracy Robinson. "In light of the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention of Belém do Pará, the Commission urges the Member States of the Organization of American States (OAS) to implement transformative measures to face this situation", she added.

In the framework of  the 20 years of the Convention of Belém do Pará, the Commission recalls that this instrument provides a broad definition of violence against women that encompasses "any act or conduct, based on gender, which causes death or physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, whether in the public or the private sphere". Additionally, the Convention also reminds States of their obligation to adopt specific measures to prevent, punish and eradicate violence, which also should take into account "the vulnerability of women to violence by reason of, among others, their race or ethnic background or their status as migrants, refugees or displaced persons".

For the IACHR, the transformative nature of reparations in cases of violence against women is fundamental to advance the effective guarantee of the right of all women to live free from violence and discrimination. The states are obliged to implement measures to address the structural roots of violence aimed at improving the situation of women in society. Violence against women, perpetrated both in public and in private, persists as a widespread, multidimensional, tolerated, unpunished and underreported phenomenon.

On the occasion of the round table "Gender-based Violence and Reparations", the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Its Causes And Consequences, Rashida Manjoo, stressed the need to move towards a perspective of transformative reparations. The UN Special Rapporteur stated that "the implementation of states’ obligations in reparations is not a reality, [on the other hand,]itremains grossly underdeveloped.” The UN Special Rapporteur noted that, in this matter, the individual measures must be accompanied by "institutional and structural measures of transformation”. 

The actions taken by states to address violence should consider the diversity among women and, in particular, should respond to specific sectors that are in a special situation of vulnerability and discrimination because of the intersection of multiple factors such as race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and social status, among others. In this sense, girls, indigenous women, women with disabilities, lesbians, trans women, afro-descendant women, women living in rural areas and female human rights defenders, among others, are exposed to a particular risk of violence, which requires States take specific and differentiated measures.

The Commission has received a variety of information this year about situations of violence against women that require immediate attention of States.  In the case of women with disabilities, it has been reported that violence and discrimination have a special and differential impact on the exercise of their sexual and reproductive rights, and they are often affected by legal regimes that deprive them of the right to make autonomous decisions about their own sexuality. The Commission has also received alarming information about the recurring practice of "corrective" sexual violence against lesbian women, whose cases are not reported and remain unpunished, as it is with the various forms of violence against trans women.  

The Commission has had the opportunity to resolve a significant number of cases of violence against women through their merits’ reports, friendly settlements, precautionary measures, and cases referred to the Court that have culminated in paradigmatic sentences for the rights of women.  The Commission has also found persistent and serious difficulties in the region when it comes to implementing timely and comprehensive recommendations, particularly with regard to measures relating to research and non-repetition of cases of violence against women.

The IACHR urges the States to fulfill their obligations to prevent, punish and repair violence against women and in particular, to ensure that public institutions exercise due diligence in the investigation, prosecution and punishment of those cases of violence against women. A coordinated, comprehensive and urgent response from the States is needed  not only to addresses individual cases of violence but also the social and cultural patterns that create and perpetuate violence is necessary.

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. 140/14