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OAS Secretary General Inaugurated Hemispheric Forum in Mexico on Prevention of Violence Against Women

  May 14, 2014

The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, today participated in the inauguration of the Hemispheric Forum "The Convention of Belém do Pará and the Prevention of Violence against Women: Best Practices and Proposals for the Future," held in Pachuca, State of Hidalgo, Mexico, where for two days specialists from across the region will discuss the progress made and challenges still facing the Hemisphere in achieving gender equality.

Secretary General Insulza recalled that in the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women, known as the Convention of Belem do Pará, adopted in 1994, the states parties undertook to adopt policies to prevent, punish and eradicate such violence and defined it for the first time as a violation of the human rights of women. The OAS Secretary General appreciated the steps taken by most countries in the region to implement the Convention: "Over these twenty years laws have been promoted against violence, as have national plans, public policies, programs and projects that have contributed to criminalizing all forms of violence against women in the public and private sectors, including femicide," he said.

The OAS leader highlighted that the ratification of the Convention has had positive effects in maintaining sustained progress towards the eradication of violence against women. However, he charged that, despite these efforts, "the persistence of high levels of violence in the region reveals several challenges that need a comprehensive and effective response." "Among those challenges, which I am sure it will be debated in the context of this forum, it is necessary to consider the poor application of the law and access to justice, the concentration of national plans on intra-family violence, the exclusion of other forms of violence, and the emphasis on care and punishment of violence, neglecting prevention," he said.

"Nonviolence is not an impossible dream, it requires political commitment and will. I sincerely hope that these two days show everybody that this commitment and will actually exist," said Secretary General Insulza, who also noted that during the Forum "we will talk about poverty in the Hemisphere, poverty that has race and has gender, because there are a significant number of single-parent households headed by women, and which suffer much more poverty than other households in the Hemisphere."

In his message, the leader of the OAS said that the countries of the region must not only fight to eradicate violence against women, but should also take steps to end the inequality of women. "Overall, we identified violence against women with attacks and deaths, but we not identify it with the humiliation to which they are daily victims, even verbally, because violence against women is first violence of humiliation, and begins at home, in the street, at work, and we forget that we live in a system where we have not achieved gender equality."

Following this line of reasoning, Secretary General Insulza said there is no full democracy without gender equality. "Ultimately this is an undemocratic system, because democracy is for everyone, and half of the people living in this Hemisphere are women, and democracy without full equality is not democracy," he said. In this regard, he called for "strengthening women's political citizenship, and thereby improving the quality of our democracies with structural measures to ensure the wide participation of women at all levels of the state and in all democratic processes."

The OAS Secretary General also stressed in his speech the leadership of the Inter-American Commission of Women (CIM) of the OAS in the struggle for gender equality, and in particular its Executive Secretary, Carmen Moreno. "Without her, our beloved CIM not would be what it is today. I have wanted to say this for a long time, and what better place to say this than here,” he said. Secretary General Insulza sent a very special greeting to the organizations of women participating in the Forum, because "they are what gives life to this event with their contributions, experiences and concerns."

The Forum is being co-organized by the CIM, UN Women, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, the National Women's Institute of Mexico, the Government of the State of Hidalgo, and the Iberoamerican General Secretariat (SEGIB). The event is being held in the TUZOFORUM Convention Center, located in the David Ben Gurion Park in Pachuca.

In the same inaugural ceremony, the Undersecretary for Legal and Human Rights Affairs of the Ministry of the Interior of Mexico, Lía Limón, said the Convention of Belém do Pará is a legal mandate for the states parties, and stressed that it is the only legal agreement to combat violence against women in the region. Undersecretary Limón recalled that in Mexico, the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto is committed to taking action to ensure gender equality and ending violence against women, "within the framework of promoting legal equality, dignity and non-discrimination."

In our country we have a national plan until 2018, and public policies in any area without exception must incorporate a gender perspective," said Undersecretary Limon, who also highlighted the creation and strengthening of centers of justice for women in the States and Districts of Mexico, where the highest levels of violence are recorded.

The Governor of the State of Hidalgo, José Francisco Olvera, whose government is hosting the event, said that the realization of the Hemispheric Forum " has a special significance because in this way we support a group of legal changes and new public policies to combat violence against women.” Governor Olvera recalled that in 2012 the State of Hidalgo signed a framework agreement with the OAS, which has allowed the State, with the help of the CIM, "to adopt the recommendations of the Convention of Belém do Pará."

The Governor of Hidalgo also expressed his support for the National Development Plan of the federal government of Mexico, because "it contains important measures to combat violence against women," and concluded his speech saying that "to fight for dignity and equality courage is required. Let us be brave and not commit gender violence."

The Executive Secretary of the Ibero-American General Secretariat (SEGIB), Rebecca Grynspan, in her address about the struggle of women for equality, said her own promotion to the position she currently occupies is a demonstration of the results that can be obtained. "That is why my first statement as Ibero-American Secretary General was to incorporate the issue of gender equality at the Ibero-American Secretariat." Executive Secretary Grynspan welcomed in particular that the Hemispheric Forum gives a voice to indigenous women.

By analyzing the problems caused by violence against women, Grynspan noted that studies argue that countries lose up to two percent of their gross domestic product due to this type of violence, "so I think this issue has to be addressed by society." “There will be no human development until we liberate society from this scourge, until we liberate girls and mothers to build a society that allows them to live freely and without violence," said Grynspan, who expressed her hope that "not one more woman has to suffer gender violence."

Another participant at the opening of the Forum was the President of the National Women's Institute of Mexico and Delegate to the CIM , Lorena Cruz, who said violence, both social and gender, remains the most powerful impediment to the development of women in the region. "Today we are concerned about the fact that in many parts of society, many young men and women see violence against women as normal," she said.

The President of the National Women's Institute of Mexico recalled that women represent more than half of the population and urged combating "an archaic society that gives greater value to the masculine." Cruz also recalled that since the adoption of the Convention of Belém do Pará in 1994, "it is no little thing that we have achieved in 20 years, but I am certain that these achievements are just the beginning," and called for increased efforts to achieve "the cultural transformation of our societies."

According to the CIM, over the past two decades, the Convention has given rise to a new generation of comprehensive laws and the formulation of public policies and national plans. However, the CIM believes that the Convention is a promise yet to be fulfilled, because violence is still a daily reality for women and girls in the Americas. In this context, the organizers of the Hemispheric Forum will seek to identify progress - lessons learned, practices and promising experiences – as well as the challenges to effective prevention of violence in the key areas of education and communication for gender equality and nonviolence.

A gallery of photos of the event is available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-197/14