IACHR Press Office
Washington, D.C. - On International Women's Day, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) recognizes and highlights the leadership of women in the search for and defense of human rights in situations of forced and involuntary disappearance of persons and calls on States to protect their rights in a comprehensive manner, and to guarantee the exercise of their work with a gender and intersectional approach.
Given pre-existing gender inequalities, coupled with the absence of the State, women have taken on the search for missing loved ones, both in contexts of armed conflict or dictatorship as well as criminality. In addition to this, they experience the economic, social and emotional consequences of the disappearance of their relatives in a differentiated way, and, in addition, they carry out the search for the disappeared person in precarious and risky conditions.
Women carry out searches in life in hospitals, detention centers, rehabilitation clinics, etc., as well as searches in the field and in in clandestine graves. In this process, many have become activists, community leaders and human rights defenders, also dedicating efforts to accompany and guide other families, participate in social protests, and advocate for legislation, among others. In carrying out these activities, they face acts of gender-based violence, harassment, threats and even murder.
In addition, when the person responsible for the maintenance of the household is disappeared, women are suddenly forced to assume the economic support of the family, and to devote time and resources to the search for their loved one. In addition, the domestic and caregiving tasks traditionally assigned to women further limit the time available to invest in remunerated activities, forcing them to accept low-paid, informal or insecure jobs, without social benefits. This has repercussions in a serious deterioration of the family economic situation.
Likewise, the participation and leadership of women in searching activities and judicial entails high physical and emotional overloads that puts their health at risk. Time constraints also make it difficult to self-care, particularly feeding, resting and recreation, as well as access to medical care. They are more likely to experience constant feelings of frustration and despair during the search, as well as suffering and pain due to the lack of justice. Likewise, they face rejection and stigmatization from their community and/or family, or their own feelings of worry and guilt, for considering that they are neglecting their children or other people under their care because of their dedication to the search.
The Commission recognizes that women's actions in the search for truth and justice have been key in the finding of missing persons, in the advancement of investigations, and in the adoption of public policies and structural reforms in this matter.
The IACHR urges States to adopt comprehensive protection measures that take into account their particular needs and the specific risks faced by women in the search for missing persons and defense of human rights. IACHR also reiterates the call to adopt and implement a comprehensive policy on enforced disappearances that addresses the differentiated effects on the rights of women relatives of disappeared persons, ensuring that they play a leading role in its design. The above, through the issuance of a regulatory framework that includes, in particular, the access of women seekers to health services, social security and and psychosocial support with a gender and intersectionality perspective.
The IACHR is a principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), whose mandate derives from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission is mandated to promote the observance of human rights in the region and to act as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The IACHR is composed of seven independent members who are elected by the OAS General Assembly in their personal capacity and do not represent their countries of origin or residence.
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.