Press Release

The rights of women: The road to fulfilling the promise in the Americas

March 8, 2013

Washington, D.C. – The celebration of International Women’s Day offers both the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the Inter-American Commission of Women (CIM) the invaluable opportunity to reflect on the achievements and challenges in the protection of the rights of women in the Americas.

Both entities today salute the efforts from the majority of States in the hemisphere to ratify the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women (Convention of Belém do Pará), which mandates the adoption of a complementary set of actions to address with due diligence the problems of violence and discrimination against women. A significant number of States have also become parties to a range of international and regional treaties which protect the rights of women to non-discrimination, equal protection of the law, privacy, integrity, and access to justice, such as the American Convention on Human Rights and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

After the ratification of these treaties, the IACHR and the CIM recognize the steps taken by different States to advance the principles of gender equality and women’s empowerment in different areas relevant to the protection of their civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights. Some of the most noteworthy advances in the region are in the adoption of legislation and public policies to address violence against women; the incorporation of the principles of equality and discrimination in Constitutions, laws, and national plans of action throughout the Americas; the establishment of a set of institutions at the executive, legislative and judicial level to influence the development of legislation, public policies, and government interventions in this area; and the implementation of a variety of training programs for public officials to better address concerns related to violence and discrimination against women.

Available information however indicates that the aforementioned advances are coupled with significant gaps between the formal recognition of women’s rights in existing laws and public policies, and their practical application. For most women throughout the Americas, the laws that exist on paper still do not translate into real equality and justice.

Both entities are still concerned over the existence of gender stereotypes contained in the text of legislation in the region, and the absence of fundamental protections for women in the realms of violence, employment, and sexual and reproductive rights. Women still face formidable barriers to access justice; obstacles particularly acute in the case of girls, and women affected by poverty and other forms of exclusion. Discrimination against women continues to be evident in the job market; in women’s limited access to social security; and in the particularly heavy toll on women of poverty and social exclusion. Indigenous and afrodescendent women still face multiple forms of discrimination, are still largely absent from government policies and programs, and do not benefit from the economic and social development of their societies. Women’s rights defenders are also still increasingly exposed to acts of violence, threats, harassment, and other types of violations to their human rights.

These challenges reveal that there is still a strong link between violence and discrimination, and the full exercise by women of their rights and citizenship. This impairs their health, economic potential, and their participation in the public and political life of their societies; paramount obstacles to the consolidation of development, democracy, and rule of law throughout the hemisphere.

Today the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Commission of Women remind States of their duty to act with due diligence to prevent, investigate, sanction and offer reparations for all acts of violence against women. This duty entails the organization of the entire State structure not only to respond to violence against women, but to the multiple forms of discrimination, poverty and exclusion that fuel and promote this phenomenon. Both entities also underscore the indivisibility and close interrelationship between the guarantee of women's economic, social, and cultural rights, and those civil and political in nature; which must be borne in mind in the adoption of legislation and public policies designed to address gender equality concerns. Lastly, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Commission of Women recall the need for States to consider the specific situation of sectors of women particularly at risk to human rights violations in the design of government interventions in the area, such as girls, those indigenous and afrodescendent, and those who work in the defense of women's rights. These actions are fundamental to reduce the distance between the formal efforts undertaken by States and their impact in the daily lives of women throughout 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 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. For more information, visit IACHR at: /en/iachr/default.asp

Established in 1928, the Inter-American Commission of Women (CIM) of the Organization of American States (OAS) was the first inter-governmental agency established to ensure recognition of the human rights of women. CIM is made up of 34 Principal Delegates, one for each member state, and has become the principal forum for debating and formulating policy on gender equality and women's empowerment in the Americas. For more information, visit CIM at: /cim


No. 16/13