Press Release

IACHR Urges States to Take Steps to Guarantee Rights of Rural Women

October 15, 2013

Washington, D.C. - On the occasion of the International Day of Rural Women, which is observed on October 15, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) urges the member countries of the Organization of American States (OAS) to take steps to ensure that rural women can properly and effectively exercise their civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights.

In keeping with the principles of equality and nondiscrimination, the Commission has identified the protection of women’s rights as a priority goal in the implementation of its mandate. Discrimination and violence against women are still serious problems that are tolerated in the hemisphere and that demand a high-priority, comprehensive response by the States.

These problems are particularly acute for women who live in rural areas. Rural women face major barriers when it comes to their access to adequate economic resources; ownership of the land they work; decent, quality jobs; basic services; and justice. Poverty, indigence, and social marginalization— problems that afflict millions of people in the region—affect rural women in greater numbers. Moreover, the lack or scarcity of sources of employment in rural areas affects women in greater proportion than men. According to several studies, rural women are also affected to a greater extent by the lack of potable water and sanitation, which has a direct impact on their health, among other consequences.

Given that infrastructure and services are scarcer in rural areas, women who live there have to travel long distances to report acts of violence and discrimination to judicial institutions, and they incur additional costs in seeking to bring their cases to justice. Because of the problems they face in terms of access to economic resources, these situations become significant obstacles to access to justice. Rural women often do not have the information they need about mechanisms that are available to report acts of violence and discrimination.

In addition, rural women are underrepresented in decision-making positions, and there are significant barriers to their participation in decision-making opportunities at the local, regional, and national level. They live in a context in which the exercise of their rights is denied.

The Commission has found that many of the women who lodge petitions with the IACHR live in rural areas affected by poverty and belong to groups whose needs have traditionally been excluded from the public agenda. Many women who live in rural areas are in a particularly vulnerable situation due to the intersection of multiple forms of discrimination based on a combination of factors in addition to sex, such as race, ethnicity, economic position, and age. A large number of petitions that are being examined by the Inter-American Commission were lodged by rural women, most of whom are poor and some of whom are indigenous or of African descent. These petitions reflect situations involving structural discrimination, in which the devastating effects of intersecting types of discrimination can be observed. This situation is exacerbated by the absence of State policies, programs, and special legislation that take into account the specific needs of these groups.

On the International Day of Rural Women, the Inter-American Commission makes a special appeal to the OAS States to guarantee that the rights and service priorities for rural women are reflected effectively in their laws, policies, programs, and budgets. This is essential to achieve full protection of women’s rights and to ensure the exercise of their right to equality and nondiscrimination.

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. 77/13