Mr. Chair of the Permanent Council, Ambassador Selwin Charles Hart,
Ambassadors, Permanent Representatives and Observers
The CIM is grateful for the opportunity to address the Permanent Council in commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women – which is observed each November the 25th in memory of the brutal murders in 1960 of the three Mirabal sisters, political activists from the Dominican Republic, during the Trujillo era.
We are talking about a global pandemic. Each November the 25th we remember the magnitude and severity of violence against women – which continues to affect 1 in 3 women at the global level and, in some countries, up to 70% of women. In 1994, the Member States of the OAS adopted the Belém do Pará Convention, which reiterates that violence against women is: a violation of human rights that limits the recognition, enjoyment and exercise of all women’s rights, an offence to human dignity and a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between women and men.
This violence occurs not only at home; health, education and employment centres are also on this list, where sexual, physical, economic, psychological, labour and institutional harassment and violence become part of the daily lives of women and girls. In fact, this year, in the framework of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence, which span November 25th until December 10th (International Human Rights Day), the theme is “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Make Education Safe for All,” in recognition that schools are unsafe spaces for many girls, in which they face multiple types of violence perpetrated by both their peers and teachers.
UNCIEF estimates that in Latin America and the Caribbean, almost 30% of girls are married before the age of 18. In a region that has largely reached gender parity in education, and where girls’ school enrollment sometimes surpasses that of boys, this fact is worrying. If we also take into account that Latin America and the Caribbean is the only region in the developing world where the rate of child pregnancy is increasing – and is projected by UNFPA to continue increasing through 2030 – we have a clear context for understanding the data on child marriage.
As you know, on Tuesday we held, with the support of Canada, Mexico, Panama and the United States, an international forum on child marriage and motherhood, in which the Follow-Up Mechanism to the Belém do Pará Convention (MESECVI) launched a thematic hemispheric report on child pregnancy and sexual violence. The high incidence of sexual violence against girls and adolescents and its relation to child and adolescent pregnancy, forced motherhood and the absence of public policies that effectively address this grave situation have become a source of particular concern to the Committee of Experts of the MESECVI. Among other things, the report highlights the significant gap between the criminalization of sexual acts with girls younger than 14 – which happens in all 32 States Party to the Convention – and the existence of:
- On the one hand, statistical data on sexual violence, pregnancy, maternal mortality and judicial proceeding on sexual violence against girls; and
- On the other hand, protocols for the care of girls younger than 14 who are victims of sexual violence and pregnancy.
This implementation gap means that girls younger than 14 who are victims of sexual violence end up in a black hole in terms of a health and justice response that, for the most part, re-victimizes them and puts an end to their life projects.
From a diversity of sectors and perspectives, the panelists shared chilling quantitative and qualitative information that highlighted the issue of discrimination and the multiple forms of violence, including high rates of sexual violence and forced motherhood, against girls in our region. Among the results of the forum, which we are still processing, was the need to organize and implement a coordinated and appropriate response to this problem from a human rights perspective and to join efforts to call more attention to the rights of girls. I kindly invite you to consider this possibility in your future commitments.
In October, we held a meeting of the Committee of Experts of the MESECVI in which they reviewed a draft “Model Inter-American Law on Political Violence against Women.” We have observed that as more women enter the political sphere, more and new manifestations of violence are directed against them – from sexist media coverage to the femicide of women candidates and elected officials. As a follow-up to the “Declaration on Political Harassment and Violence against Women,” adopted by the States Party to the Convention in 2015, this Model Law seeks to highlight the problem and strengthen State response from a perspective of prevention, care and punishment. As it is approved by the authors, the Model Law will be made available to the Delegations.
The challenge that we face is identifying the high percentage of tolerance for political violence. The acceptance of violence and its naturalization are at the centre of our cultures, and we haven’t yet been able to eradicate it from its roots.
In the same context, it should be noted that today we commemorate World AIDS Day – December 1st. In March of this year and on the basis of resolution 2802 of 2013, the CIM and the UNAIDS’ Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean launched a report on “The Human Rights of Women Living with HIV in the Americas.” Discrimination in the justice, health, education, work, and social protection systems, limited access to information, and the scant social participation of women living with HIV tend to exacerbate the social exclusion faced by these women, which is in turn transferred to their children. Factors involved in inequality like socioeconomic status, ethnicity, gender identity, and residence in urban or rural areas, among others, interconnect and influence these violations in specific ways.
Guaranteeing the exercise of the rights of women who live with or are affected by HIV requires an effective response to HIV across sectors from a human rights and gender equality perspective, supported by decision-makers at all levels, with an assigned budget and significant social participation. In order to achieve such a goal, it is imperative to identify and raise awareness of the specific human rights violations suffered by these women as well as the impact of the epidemic, the needs derived from such violations, and the best national and regional strategies for addressing them.
As we have constantly pointed out in our reports and documents, all the countries of the region have laws and policies that are designed to prevent, punish and eradicate violence in women, in compliance with their obligations under the Belém do Pará Convention. Nevertheless, not only is the incidence of violence not decreasing, but:
- Each time women advance into a particular space – for example the labour market or politics – we begin to see new forms of harassment and violence against them. The patriarchy knows how to protect itself and in recent years we have seen the strengthening and radicalization of this resistance to change; and
- Global phenomena such as financial crises, the deepening of socio-economic inequalities, organized crime, the war on drugs, waves of migration, internal conflicts, climate change and natural disasters, among others exacerbate violence against women.
Our horizon is full of storm clouds – to which we will have to respond with greater energy and activity, in a context of decreasing financial and human resources. This situation demands creativity in the search for solutions – which will require strengthening our alliances, building coalitions that are increasingly plural and multi-sectoral, and identifying joint and complementary actions – each of us from our distinct comparative advantages.
From the CIM we reiterate our commitment to this cause and we will continue to try with each of you to, as the Secretary General stated in his message, “…eradicate male chauvinism, inequality and oppression so that the cry of Ni Una Menos becomes a reality.”
In this the CIM requires your political support, as well as resources, opportunities and funding. I am sure that each of you, within your own circumstances, will continue to support us and I thank you in advance.