Press Release

On International Women’s Day, the IACHR urges the States to reaffirm commitment to gender equality and non-discrimination in the workplace

March 7, 2017

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Washington, D.C. – On the occasion of International Women's Day, the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) urges the States to reaffirm their commitment to the principles of gender equality and non-discrimination, and the empowerment of women and girls, which are essential to the consolidation of vibrant democracies, the elimination of poverty, and to the full observance of all other human rights.

The Commission supports the initiative of the Commission on the Status of Women of the United Nations to focus its 61st session on the topic of “Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work,” as it acknowledges that gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls are central to sustainable development and to poverty eradication, and are a prerequisite in order to achieve progress across all of the sustainable development goals and targets.

The Commission observes that discrimination against women continues to be ingrained in structural inequalities and inequities between men and women in all of the countries in the hemisphere, and that the workplace is no exception to this reality. Indeed, despite the significant increase of women’s participation in the labor market in recent decades, the Commission observes that a range of barriers continue to prevent women in the Americas from having access to equal work opportunities, equal terms of employment, quality employment, and to a workplace free from sexual harassment. 

In this regard, the Commission has received information of concern on the wage gap between men and women, irrespective of a women’s level of education or training. In 2015, women working full time in the United States earned on average 78 cents for every dollar a man earned, a wage gap of almost 20 percent, and an increase of only 17 cents on the dollar since the Equal Pay Act of 1963 was enacted. The data is even more problematic with regards to women of color, who are subject to racial discrimination in addition to gender discrimination: in the United States, on average, black women are paid only 64 cents and Latin-American women only 54 cents for every dollar a man earns. The same is also true in Latin American countries: in Brazil for example, while women earned an average salary of $430 compared to $610 for men, black women were paid the least, at $315.

The Rapporteur on the Rights of Women, Commissioner Margarette May Macaulay, also expressed her concerns with regards to the importance of discussing “the scourge of sexual harassment which women have to battle in all spheres of work, and its devastating consequences.” Sexual harassment is a widespread problem that affects women in every kind of workplace, at every level of employment, and in every country in the hemisphere. Studies have shown that sexual harassment takes a significant toll on the physical, mental and emotional health of workers. In this regard, the Commission calls on States to respond to conduct that affects the dignity of women in the workplace, or creates a hostile or unsafe work environment, and calls on States to take immediate and effective measures to investigate and punish the perpetrators of this form of violence against women. 

A principal, autonomous body of the 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.

No. 024/17