Press Release

IACHR Presents Report on Access to Justice for Women Victims of Sexual Violence in Mesoamerica

December 28, 2011

Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) publishes today the Report Access to Justice for Women Victims of Sexual Violence in Mesoamerica. The report analyzes the multiple dimensions of the problem of sexual violence and its treatment by the justice systems of the Mesoamerican region, with a special emphasis on Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua.

The women victims of sexual violence encounter serious de jure and de facto obstacles in endeavoring to get access to adequate and effective justice. These obstacles are impediments to the full enjoyment of women’s human rights, which is protected under inter-American and international human rights instruments; they also represent a failure on the part of the States to honor their obligation to act with the due diligence required to prevent, investigate, prosecute, punish and redress acts of violence committed against women.

The IACHR has observed that sexual violence is not an isolated phenomenon confined to the Mesoamerican region. It is instead a multidimensional problem that affects every country in the Americas. It is a product of a social environment in which violence is tolerated and is compounded in the case of women, as they are victims of generations of discrimination and inferior treatment owing to their sex. The result is that the State’s response to these problems is deficient. The roles that the various institutions play are influenced by socio-cultural patterns that discriminate against women, patterns that are pervasive throughout society.

This situation translates into a pattern of judicial ineffectiveness regarding acts of sexual violence in Mesoamerica, a pattern that adversely affects the prosecution of cases of sexual violence at every stage in the proceedings with the justice system. This judicial ineffectiveness promotes and perpetuates impunity in the vast majority of cases involving sexual violence, breeds social tolerance of this phenomenon, and creates a persistent sense of mistrust on the victims in the administration of justice.

The IACHR reiterates the link between the duty to act with due diligence and the obligation of States to guarantee access to adequate and effective judicial remedies for victims and their family members when they suffer acts of violence.

The inter-American system is based on the premise that access to suitable and effective judicial remedies is the first line of defense for basic rights, including the rights of women. The many forms that sexual violence takes and the urgency of this problem creates comprehensive, multidimensional obligations for the States, and it demands the organization of all the State structure to prevent, investigate, prosecute and redress this serious human rights problem.

The report includes recommendations oriented to promote State interventions to prevent, investigate, prosecute and redress acts of sexual violence promptly and effectively.

This report was elaborated thanks to the technical and financial support of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and with the financial assistance of the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation (Agencia Española para la Cooperación Internacional al Desarrollo, AECID).

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 matter. 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. 135/11