THE HUMAN RIGHTS OF WOMEN IN THE AMERICAS
To commemorate International Women’s Day, the Special Rapporteurship on the Rights of Women of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights salutes all women. This year, International Women’s Day is particularly relevant. 2005 marks the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Platform of Action and the entry into force of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women (the “Convention of Belém do Pará”), instruments that reaffirmed gender equality and the human right of all women to live free from violence. In the Americas, this March 8th offers us the opportunity to celebrate and remember these achievements, as well as to reflect on the state of progress concerning the respect for women’s rights and the challenges that persist.
During these 10 years, there have been important advances in the defense of women’s rights. Most Member States of the Organization of American States have ratified the Convention of Belém do Pará, as well as the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and have adopted a legal framework to confront problems such as domestic and intra-family violence.
Despite these achievements, we are still confronting great challenges in the protection of women’s rights, such as the prevalence of different forms of violence and discrimination, as well as limited access to justice. The Women’s Rapporteurship has received information indicating that between 20 to 50% of women in the hemisphere have been victims of violence by their partners. Additionally, 33% of women between the ages of 16 and 49 have been victims of sexual harassment, and approximately 45% have been threatened with acts of violence.
On the other hand, women’s access to justice is still limited by factors such as insufficient access to legal representation that is free and adequate, the limited knowledge of those charged with administering justice, and the discrimination faced by women from ethnic and racial groups in the judicial system.
It is crucial that legal and policy achievements translate into concrete results for women in the Americas. To achieve this goal, we need collaboration and commitment from a variety of actors and entities. Among these, we highlight the importance and efforts of the States, civil society organizations and networks, regional and international agencies, the academic sector and the media.
During this International Women’s Day, the Special Rapporteur for Women’s Rights, Susana Villarán, reiterates her commitment to promote the advancement of women’s rights and gender equality in the region, through the use of the instruments offered by the Inter-American System of Human Rights. The promotion of equality and the elimination of all forms of discrimination are essential to achieve the protection of human rights and the consolidation of democracy in our hemisphere.
Washington, D.C., March 8, 2005