Press Release

Ahead of the International Day of Afro-Latin, Afro-Caribbean, and Diaspora Women, the IACHR Calls on States to Adopt Specific Measures to End the Multiple Discrimination Faced by Afro-Descendant Women in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic

July 24, 2020

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Washington, D.C. - Ahead of the International Day of Afro-Latin, Afro-Caribbean, and Diaspora Women, on July 25, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) calls on States to adopt—with an intersectional and intercultural approach—specific measures to end the multiple discrimination faced by Afro-descendant women in the Americas in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Inter-American Commission notes that Afro-descendant women and girls in the Americas have suffered structural exclusion and even marginalization, often in the form of restricted access to education, jobs, and social security. At the same time, the IACHR notes that these women often have the highest rates for school dropouts, maternal mortality, adolescent pregnancy, unemployment, and unqualified or unpaid work, that they are overrepresented in penitentiaries, and that they also have low indices for political participation and for representation in decision-making.

The precariousness of the rights of Afro-descendant women in the Americas evidences the historical consequences of slavery, colonization, and racial discrimination schemes that are still present in institutions. When they intersect with different forms of gender-based violence and discrimination, these elements lead to multiple exclusion patterns. This scenario requires the implementation of public policies with an intersectional, intercultural approach to eradicate the various categories of discrimination that affect Afro-descendant women.

The IACHR also warns that, according with the available reports, the structural inequality faced by Afro-descendant women in the Americas has deepened in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, due to the economic recession, the increase in unemployment, and the speedy rise of informal work. This has particularly affected women who are domestic workers, homeless women, women who are sex workers, women heads of household, migrant women, women who live in poverty or extreme poverty, trans women, and women who are rural workers. All of them have suffered dramatic reductions in their income and therefore in their financial autonomy, as well as having difficulties to access healthcare services.

The Inter-American Commission stresses the need for States to adopt special measures and affirmative action policies to eradicate the multiple, aggravated discrimination faced by Afro-descendant women, in order to address all the causes and structures that prevent them from fully exercising their rights. Along these lines, States should also provide financial support to mitigate the disproportionate effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on Afro-descendant women, and implement healthcare policies that enable them to fully access healthcare.

Commissioner Margarette May Macaulay, IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of Women and of Afro-descendants and against Racial Discrimination, has said that States must support gender and racial equality and, in particular, promote the full and effective social inclusion of Afro-descendant women. “Afro-descendant women face constant hurdles to enjoy their economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights. States must therefore develop specific policies targeting these rights, with the participation of Afro-descendant women,” said IACHR President Joel Hernández.

Finally, the IACHR stresses the importance of integrating an intersectional, intercultural approach into the process of designing, implementing, and monitoring all public policies, especially those focused on the social inclusion of Afro-descendant women. In particular, States must strengthen all their social protection systems and food security policies with a gender perspective. This includes basic income policies and the provision of healthcare focused on the specific needs of these women in the context of economic recovery processes after the pandemic. The Commission calls on States to ratify both the Inter-American Convention Against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance and the Inter-American Convention Against All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance.

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. 177/20