Press Release

IACHR Urges the States to Reaffirm Commitment to Gender Equality and Non-discrimination and to Guarantee the Rights of Afro-descendant Women

August 8, 2017

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Washington, D.C. – Within the framework of the International Decade for People of African Descent and on the occasion of the celebration of the International Day of Afro-descendant Women, on July 25th, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) urges States to reaffirm their commitment to the principles of gender equality and non-discrimination, and to continue to combat structural racism in the region. On this occasion, the IACHR highlights the unique and specific impact of discrimination on Afro-descendant women.

The Commission acknowledges the close link between racial discrimination, poverty and the rights of Afro-descendant women. The poverty situation that particularly affects Afro-descendant women in the region, directly impacts their rights to non-discrimination, access to education, health, and justice. In this context, Afro-descendant women also face challenges in being formally employed under decent work conditions and advancing into decision-making roles. Likewise, the Commission has stated that women of African descent continue to face profound challenges in enjoying their civil and political rights and - in comparison to other women – are clearly under-represented in decision-making bodies such as senates and parliaments across the region. These problems affect women of African descent in a significant manner in different countries of the hemisphere and demand differential provisions and special measures to in order to be overcome.

In addition, through its systematic monitoring, the Commission has received information from civil society about the harsher effects on Afro-descendant women of problems such as domestic, sexual and obstetric violence, and barriers to accessing sexual and reproductive health services. Likewise, the inaccessibility of access to complaints and reparation mechanisms, whether administrative or judicial, contributing to the persistence of racism in the region.

"In the American continent, Afro-descendant women suffer from double discrimination: because they are women and because of their racial and ethnic origin. Although a number of countries have made progress in implementing programs to combat racial discrimination, women continue to face significant barriers to the full enjoyment of their fundamental rights”, declared the Commissioner Margarette May Macaulay, Rapporteur on the Rights of Women and Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons of African Descent and against Racial Discrimination.

In several occasions, the IACHR has stressed that the lack of the “afro-descendant” variable in national census and other population survey mechanisms in several countries of the region contributes to the invisibility of their demands and needs. “It is particularly relevant that States take into account every discrimination factor, including the fight against racism in the design of standards, national programs, reparation measures and awareness-raising campaigns on women's rights" Commissioner Margarette May Macaulay has indicated.

The IACHR stressed that discrimination constitutes a form of violence against women and a manifestation of stereotyped patterns that reinforce historically unequal power relations between women and men. Likewise, racism accentuates social and structural inequalities among different people based on their ethnicity, race and social status. According to Article 6 of the Convention of Belém do Pará, women have the right to live a life free of violence, also including the right to be free from all forms of discrimination and racism. In addition, OAS member states have an obligation to act with due diligence to prevent, punish and eradicate all forms of violence against women, including the structural and social racism prevalent in the region.

The Commission calls upon all States in the region to adopt without delay the necessary measures to ratify and implement the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance and the Inter-American Convention against All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance, as a sign of their commitment to combat discrimination and all forms of intolerance in the Hemisphere.

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. 117/17