Press Release

On International Women’s Day, the IACHR Urges States to Refrain from Adopting Measures that Would Set Back Respect for and Protection of Women’s Rights

March 8, 2018

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Washington, D.C. - On the occasion of International Women’s Day, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) encourages the States of the region to ensure that women, girls, and female adolescents can fully exercise their rights. It urges the States to refrain from adopting measures that would have a negative or regressive impact on respect for and protection of their fundamental rights.

Women in the region continue to face serious challenges when it comes to having their fundamental rights respected and protected, in a context of violence and structural, endemic discrimination against them. Specifically, there are high rates of gender-based homicides, disappearances, harassment, and sexual violence, among other forms of violence, and there are still serious obstacles that keep women from having timely access, without discrimination, to justice and to full redress and protection from such acts. At the same time, women also face barriers to obtaining proper access to education, information, and sexual and reproductive health services in a way that is impartial, timely, and culturally appropriate. Discrimination against women also hampers their access to equal opportunities for work and equal working conditions, and particularly access to the same pay as their male colleagues for work of equal value and access to a workplace free of sexual harassment.

These violations of the human rights of women have a differentiated impact on women who belong to historically excluded groups, such as women in a state of poverty, those who live in rural areas, indigenous and Afro-descendant women, women with disabilities, and women from the LGBTI community. And such violations take on a special dimension in the case of girls and adolescents.

The IACHR reaffirms that the gender perspective is a concept that shines a light on the position of inequality and structural subordination of women to men based on their gender, and it a critical tool to combat discrimination and violence against women, in accordance with inter-American standards in this area. In this regard, the Commission urges the States to prevent the influence of trends that seek to limit the rights of women, such as the troubling use of “gender ideology” as a pejorative reference to the gender perspective.

The IACHR also urges the States to document, investigate, and punish emerging forms of violence against women, girls, and adolescents, such as sexual harassment, work harassment, obstetric violence, violence via technology and the internet, and human trafficking, to name a few.

Commissioner Margarette Macaulay, President of the IACHR and Rapporteur on the Rights of Women, has noted that “measures that represent a setback in States’ efforts to fulfill these obligations may constitute a violation of women’s human rights and therefore are unacceptable.”

The Commission stresses that the States should address the discriminatory social and cultural patterns underlying these practices. States also have the obligation to act with due diligence to prevent violence against women, girls, and adolescents; investigate, prosecute, and punish those responsible; and offer comprehensive redress to victims.

To help meet these obligations, during the 2017-2018 period the IACHR has decided to place special emphasis on actions designed to monitor the human rights situation of women in the region; contribute to the establishment and dissemination of standards and to the development of and follow-up to recommendations in this area; and provide any technical assistance that States or civil society organizations may need to move forward in the promotion of women’s rights.

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 and to defend 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. 044/18