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OAS Secretary General Recalls that Democracies Must Guarantee the Full Exercise of the Political Rights of Women

  February 25, 2015

The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, today inaugurated the Round Table “Political Violence against Women: a Hemispheric Challenge,” with a speech in which he recalled that democracies face the challenge of guaranteeing the full and effective political participation of women. “Today we are united by the effort to achieve the growth of democracy in the region in its deepest meaning: that of the real exercise of the rights and effective political participation of the women of our Hemisphere,” he said.

The leader of the hemispheric institution opened his address recalling the leadership positions exercised to this point by women in the region, their broad legislative participation and the progress made in parity laws. However, he warned that many countries have not reached 20% participation by women in their legislatures and that in others “strategies to circumvent legally established parity quotas.” “As it is an emerging phenomenon, we still do not have systematic evidence at the global or regional level on the reach and the expressions of political violence against women, but there is a clear diagnosis: greater emergence provokes greater and visible resistance, to the degree that proposals have accelerated the participation of women in political office, efforts to prevent it are also expanding,” he said.

Speaking of the challenges facing an effective and broad political participation of women, Secretary General Insulza said that violence, harassment, intimidation and coercion "undermine the respect, monitoring and promotion of their rights." "It is clear that as women move up in parliament and positions of power, there are forces that seek to prevent such progress and re-place them in secondary positions," which he described as "an attack not only against the rights of women, but against democracy itself, because the political participation of women strengthens the representativeness, diversity and viability of democracy in the long term."

He recalled, in his conclusion, that the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women, the Convention of Belém do Pará led to the adoption of laws in several countries to prevent and eradicate violence against women, including violence in the public sphere. In this context he said that "gender inequalities have cultural, social and economic dimensions, but is the political dimension in which our institutions can demonstrate their ability to defend basic democratic principles, including the full and effective equality of access to political power of men and women."

For her part, the Minister of Women of Costa Rica and President of the Inter-American Commission of Women (CIM) Alejandra Mora, said that political violence against women is a form of violence "embedded in the structure" of countries, and that the objective of the discussion that took place today at the OAS is "to give it a first and last name so that we can identify what we mean by violence and political harassment."

"Those of us who believe in the international human rights system as the engine of change for national rights, will be leaving here today with tools to advance the effective protection of this new form of violence and to promote political agreements to curb this situation," said Minister Mora, who recalled the need to identify the pillars on which such violence is established, including the delayed progress of women, lack of allocation of resources and responsibilities, and physical and emotional violence, among others. Finally she encouraged use of the law to exercise the effective protection of political rights of women, identification of responsibilities, and reflection on the extent of the actors who exercise such violence, including men in politics, organizational structures, political parties and the media.

The OAS Secretary for Multidimensional Security, Adam Blackwell, explained how the OAS has promoted the concept of "intelligent security" in terms of violence in general, and how the same approach can be used to combat political violence against women. The "intelligent security," he explained, assumes security "from an inclusive perspective which means breaking with preconceived ideas" and broadening the spectrum of threats. "By expanding the spectrum, new security actors come to the scene that go beyond the classic security forces. That is the case of women in politics, electoral institutions, political parties, NGOs and many other areas which have a fundamental role, "he said.

The senior OAS official alluded to the importance of prevention and awareness for greater effectiveness in the fight against violence. "Preventive measures should put the emphasis on addressing the structural causes that lead to violence. That's intelligent security. And to make things right in the field of violence and discrimination against women, it is necessary to take into account the multiplicity of forms of this violence and types that characterize such discrimination," he said.

Finally, the Alternate Representative of the Permanent Mission of Canada to the OAS, Brett Alexander Maitland, noted the importance of the topic discussed at the round table and its links to the inter-American agenda. He recalled that in the context of the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the participation of his country as a member of the OAS, Canada continues to see the Organization and the CIM as channels for hemispheric cooperation and constructive dialogue on issues such as equity. In this context he said that combating violence and gender discrimination are at the center of the international and domestic policy of his country and as such, efforts targeted to the implement of agreements such as the Belem do Para Convention are essential to achieve the objectives of peace, integral development, justice and security required by the region.

The roundtable, organized by the CIM with support from the Government of Canada, included panel discussions about specific experiences on political violence by recognized women leaders from Peru, Bolivia, Mexico, Colombia, El Salvador, Venezuela, Guatemala, and Ecuador, Bahamas and Saint Lucia, among other countries of the region.

A gallery of photos of the event is available here.

The video news of the event will be available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-057/15