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Roundtable Organized by the CIM Examines Violence against Women and Its Relationship with Social Inclusion

  June 2, 2014

The roundtable “Violence against Women and Social Inclusion,” organized by the Inter-American Commission of Women (CIM) of the Organization of American States (OAS), was held today in Asunción, Paraguay, in the context of preliminary events the forty-fourth regular session of the General Assembly of that multilateral institution, to take place in the convention hall of the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) from June 3 to 5.

The inauguration of the event, in which the OAS Secretary General, José Miguel Insulza, participated, centered on the close relationship between violence and discrimination. It coincided with the 20th anniversary celebration of the adoption of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women, or
Convention of Belém do Pará, a binding legal instrument that has been ratified by 32 of the 34 OAS member states.

In his opening remarks, Secretary General Insulza linked the Convention and its content to the deliberations, now through Thursday, of the ministers of foreign affairs of the Americas, at the General Assembly session, on the central theme of “Development with Social Inclusion.” “The foreign ministers' aim is to examine, and find ways to make progress, on one of the most complex issues facing our region--reconciling the great challenge of economic development with the issue of social inclusion.”

The OAS leader cited economic progress over recent years in the region in terms of poverty reduction and sustained growth, despite which, he said, “inequality and social exclusion in our Hemisphere have not changed. The Americas today are a richer, more developed Hemisphere, but remain profoundly unjust, with great gaps in income distribution.”

“Inequality not only manifests itself in income disparity among persons but also stems from deeply ingrained forms of discrimination in our society and our culture; to be indigenous, African-American, a migrant, a person with disabilities, or a worker in the informal economy means is to start with a disadvantage,” said the leader of the hemispheric institution, stressing that “the most painful, most visible, and most hurtful discrimination in our society is, without a doubt, gender discrimination.”

Focusing his analysis on the situation of poverty, discrimination, and vulnerability, Secretary General Insulza said “one characteristic of poverty in our Hemisphere is that a disproportionate number of single-parent households headed by women are poor.” “One of the most significant expressions of women's vulnerability, and clearly the most aberrant in a democratic society predicated on equal rights for all citizens, is the status of preferred, daily victim of violence,” he added.

“That was the impetus for the Convention of Belem do Pará. It arose from the need to deal, as countries, through a set of policies and measures, with the issue of violence against women,” explained the high OAS official. He added that, over the past 20 years, the region has attained the highest level of legal development to protect women from violence, with strong, comprehensive laws that reflect, or even surpass, the provisions of the Convention.

The President of the CIM, Alejandra Mora, Costa Rican Minister for the Status of Women, spoke on the strategic and political meaning of the Convention and its impact on women facing conditions that harm their dignity. “Historically, women have been excluded from the development experience, because of gender hierarchies, the gender-based division of labor, and the dichotomy between public and private life. The exclusion of women is a multidimensional issue that helps to make more precarious any inroad or action in the economic, social, and political realms and impairs women's chances of influencing political systems and processes, preventing women from participating, being represented, and availing themselves of public resources, which curtails democracy and the exercise of female citizenship,” she said.

Minister Mora stressed the persistent inequality and discrimination “that become triggers against women in the region, escalate, and pose the main barrier to social inclusion and the full exercise of rights.” She also said that, in marking the 20th anniversary of the Convention of Belém do Pará, “it is necessary to remember its significance and how it constitutes the first political commitment by the region's governments to fight this scourge.” “This is an instrument that provides a strong and broad legal framework for dealing with the various types of violence--physical, psychological, and sexual---both in the public arena and in private life.” She concluded by explaining that the CIM has begun a process of underscoring achievements by countries of the region in implementing the Convention, identifying and calling attention to best practices.

For her part, the Resident Coordinator of the United Nations in Paraguay, Cecilia Ugaz, described recent efforts by the world organization to combat this scourge: the campaign ”Unite to End Violence against Women,” promoted by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “The campaign's activities are intended to lend visibility to this problem and generate solutions, foster responsibility on the part of all actors, invest in prevention, combat impunity, and improve victim protection,” she said.

The UN Representative said the Convention of Belém do Pará “has become an important driver of policies, laws, programs, and action plans, both national and regional, to eradicate violence against women.” Coordinator Ugaz also described the steps taken by the Paraguayan State to guarantee the rights of women, placing the topic on the institutional agenda.

“We must coordinate efforts and narrow differences to develop a message of change: violence against women and girls is not inevitable and can be stopped; we have the impetus and the political will to promote women's empowerment and, what is most important, we have the conviction and the means to allow women and girls to live free from violence,” she said. Lastly, she explained that the Paraguayan Ministry of Women has already joined in the efforts to raise awareness and seek the commitment of key actors.

Today's roundtable discussed the“Second Hemispheric Report on the Implementation of the Convention of Belém do Pará” and was led by the Executive Secretary of the CIM, Carmen Moreno. Also presented were the conclusions of the “ Hemispheric Forum “Belém do Pará +20,”” held in May, in Pachuca, Hidalgo, Mexico, with the title “The Convention and the prevention of violence: Best practices and proposals for the future,” as well as the various cases and experiences of some countries of the region that participate in the Follow-up Mechanism of the Convention of Belém do Pará (MESECVI).

A gallery of photos of the event is available

The B-Roll of the event is available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-222/14