UPDATE ON THE WORK OF THE RAPPORTEURSHIP ON THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN
1. In order to renew its commitment to ensuring that the rights of women are fully respected and ensured in each member state, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) established its Rapporteurship on the Rights of Women in 1994. While the constitutions of each member state guarantee formal equality, the Commission had become increasingly aware through its work that the examination of national legal systems and practices revealed the persistence of discrimination based on gender. Accordingly, the Rapporteurship was established with an initial mandate to analyze the extent to which member state law and practices which affect the rights of women comply with the broad obligations of equality and nondiscrimination contained in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and the American Convention on Human Rights.
2. These obligations of equality and nondiscrimination continue to serve as the central point of orientation for the selection of issues dealt with by the Rapporteurship. Further, the Commission and its Rapporteurship place special emphasis on the problem of violence against women, itself a manifestation of gender-based discrimination, as recognized in the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Violence Against Women, “Convention of Belém do Pará.”
3. In this regard, the Convention of Belém do Pará sets forth a strong regional commitment to combat this form of violence. This Convention is, in fact, the most widely ratified of the regional human rights treaties. Following the deposit of Suriname’s instrument of ratification on March 8, 2002, International Women’s Day, this Convention is now in force for 31 of the OAS member states. The current priority challenge for the hemisphere is to ensure that the commitments set forth are fully implemented.
4. The current Special Rapporteur, Commission member Marta Altolaguirre, Guatemalan attorney and notary, was designated by the Commission in 2000. The Rapporteur is assisted by attorney Elizabeth Abi-Mershed, Principal Specialist of the Commission Secretariat.
5. The priority given by the Commission and its Rapporteurship to the protection of the rights of women also reflects the importance given to this area by the member states themselves. In particular, the Plan of Action adopted by the Heads of State and Government during the Third Summit of the Americas recognizes the importance of women’s empowerment, and their full and equal participation in development, in the political life of their countries, and in decision-making at all levels. To this end, the Plan of Action endorses the Inter-American Program on the Promotion of Women’s Human Rights and Gender Equality and other regional initiatives aimed at implementing the commitments set forth in the Beijing Declaration and its Platform for Action.
6. While enhancing the protection of the rights of women is an agreed upon priority within the hemisphere, the capacity of the Rapporteurship to discharge its role in this regard is subject to serious constraints due to the fact that funding for its activities is presently drawn from the regular budget of the Commission, which has not been increased to reflect this important work. The Rapporteurship is currently seeking external funding to enable it to dedicate additional attention to women’s access to justice and their role and status in the administration of justice as operators, users and policy-makers. Progress on this priority issue requires the provision of additional funding.
II. PRINCIPAL ACTIVITIES OF THE RAPPORTEURSHIP
7. The present report provides an update on the activities of the Rapporteurship since the naming of the current Special Rapporteur in 2000.
A. On-Site Visits
8. Since the Rapporteurship on the Rights of Women was established in 1994, the Commission has developed a practice of specifically addressing the situation of the rights of women during on-site visits. The rights of women are then dealt with in a specific chapter of its related country reports. The Special Rapporteur has generally participated in such visits in his or her capacity as Commission member, and played an important role in ensuring due attention to this topic. For example, the plenary of the Commission most recently carried out an on-site visit to Colombia, in December of 2001, where its agenda included a number of meetings related to the situation of the rights of women.
On-Site Visit of the Rapporteurship to Ciudad Juárez, Mexico
9. On February 11 and 12, 2002, the Rapporteurship carried out its first on-site visit, for the purpose of examining the situation of the rights of women in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. The visit was undertaken pursuant to the receipt of information and expressions of concern from hundreds of nongovernmental organizations and other representatives of civil society, and pursuant to the invitation of the Government of President Vicente Fox.
10. The visit focussed in particular on the grave situation of violence against women in that area. During the visit, state representatives presented information with respect to the killing of 268 women and girls in Ciudad Juárez since 1993. In a substantial number of the cases, the victims were young women or girls, workers in the maquiladoras or students, who were sexually abused before being brutally killed. They also reported that, of the 4,154 disappearances denounced during that same time period, at least 257 remained unresolved.
11. During her visit, the Special Rapporteur met with diverse representatives of the State of Chihuahua and the Federal Government of Mexico, as well as with numerous representatives of nongovernmental organizations, and other representatives of civil society. She also received testimonies from a number of family members of victims of this violence. At the close of her visit, she issued a press release recounting her activities, and setting forth some initial reflections about the gravity of the situation, and the high level of impunity which persists in relation to these crimes. That press release is attached to the present report as Annex 1.
12. During the Commission’s subsequent 114º regular period of sessions, the Special Rapporteur reported on the visit and her initial findings to the plenary of the Commission. Further, the Commission convened a hearing, with the participation of the Mexican State and representatives of local and national non-governmental organizations, to receive updated information on this situation.
13. On the basis of the information collected in preparation for, during and following the visit, the Special Rapporteur will prepare a report with her findings and recommendations. That report is scheduled to be presented to the Commission in the coming months for its consideration and approval, in accordance with the procedures applicable for this type of report. That report, once approved and submitted to the State, will then be published, and the measures taken to implement the recommendations made will be subject to the Commission’s follow-up procedures.
B. Special Studies and Reports
14. The initial report of the Rapporteurship, prepared by the Dean Claudio Grossman (Special Rapporteur from 1994 to 2000), on the Status of Women in the Americas was approved and published by the Commission in 1997/98. It provided an initial overview of how member State laws and practices comply with the broad guarantees of equality and nondiscrimination which form the backbone of the regional human rights system.
15. The recommendations directed to the member States in that report focus on the elimination of de facto and de jure discrimination against women. This includes taking additional steps to: ensure the balancing of rights and duties of spouses within the sphere of family law; amplify the participation of women in decision-making in the public sphere; eliminate restrictions on the rights of women that persist in some civil codes, particularly with respect to representation of the family and administration of property; ensure the adoption and/or implementation of legislation, policies and programs aimed at ensuring the investigation, prosecution and punishment of violence against women and access to required services for victims; correct disparities in labor law and practices; and to ensure that women victims of crime are provided access to effective judicial recourse.
16. The issues dealt with in that report continue to be of central relevance. The Rapporteurship has been collecting information for the preparation of a report on the measures adopted by member States to implement the recommendations made in the Report of the IACHR on the Status of Women in the Americas.
17. Further, with the assistance of IACHR Principal Specialist Ariel Dulitzky, the Rapporteurship has developed a proposal to dedicate special attention to the issue of women’s access to justice and their role and status within the administration of justice, as operators, users and policy-makers. This analysis will place special emphasis on the link between discrimination and violence based on gender, and the response of justice systems. The Rapporteurship is currently seeking external funding to enable it to advance with its analysis of this crucial issue.
C. Activities of Promotion and Cooperation
18. The following section reports on selected promotional activities of the Rapporteurship since 2000. Such activities provide important opportunities for the Special Rapporteur to provide information with respect to her mandate, and the various mechanisms the regional human rights system offers to protect the rights of women. Further, this is one of the ways in which the Rapporteurship maintains its contacts and communication with representatives of civil society, who play a crucial role in both providing and disseminating relevant information. In addition to the activities mentioned below, the Special Rapporteur and relevant Secretariat staff have also attended a number of conferences, and participated in less formal discussions and meetings aimed at increasing awareness of the ways in which the inter-American human rights system can serve to enhance the protection of the rights of women.
19. The Rapporteurship participated in the conference entitled “The Gender Dimension of Human Rights: A Development Perspective,” organized by the Legal Vice Presidency and the Law and Gender Thematic Group of the World Bank, held on June 1, 2000 in Washington, DC. The conference incorporated multidisciplinary approaches to the challenge of incorporating a gender perspective in law, human rights and development. Within the session on the “Legal and Institutional Framework for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights of Women,” Dean Grossman (the immediate past Rapporteur) and a Secretariat attorney spoke on the development of the regional human rights system, the mechanisms it offers, and recent jurisprudential developments in the system in this area.
20. In October/November of 2000, Special Rapporteur Marta Altolaguirre participated as an observer in the course organized by the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights in San José, Costa Rica, for the purpose of training lawyers in the use of the inter-American human rights system to promote and protect the rights of women. This provided her the very useful opportunity to speak with participants about the work of the Commission and its Rapporteurship, and, in particular, how the individual petition system can be brought to bear in pursuing enhanced protection in this area. She was also able to collect information about the participants’ experiences working in their respective countries, and their priorities for action.
21. Pursuant to the invitation of the Commission of Women of the OAS (CIM), the Special Rapporteur addressed the Thirtieth Assembly of Delegates of the CIM on November 15, 2000 on the topic of women and human rights. She referred, in particular, to the role of the rapporteurship, the vital importance of addressing the gap that exists between men and women in obtaining access to opportunities, and the need for the incorporation of a gender perspective in all areas of public policy.
22. On June 28 and 29, 2001, the Commission, through its Rapporteurships on Indigenous Rights and the Rights of Women, respectively, co-sponsored the Seminar on the Rights of the Indigenous Woman, with the Office of the Defender of Indigenous Women of Guatemala. The Office of the Defender of the Rights of Indigenous Women was established in 1999 in accordance with a commitment contained in the peace accords signed to conclude the armed conflict. This seminar was made possible by financing provided by the PRODECA Project. The Special Rapporteur, and Isabel Madariaga, attorney of the IACHR’s Rapporteurship on Indigenous Rights, discussed the rights of indigenous women within the inter-American human rights system, with special reference to the Convention of Belém do Pará and the American Convention, and the different mechanisms offered to address problems of discrimination. A number of experts spoke about the experiences of women in Guatemala and other countries of Central America, and the Office of the Defender of Indigenous Women in Guatemala spoke about the history of systematic discrimination against these women and the mandate of the Office to defend their rights. The participants formulated a series of conclusions and recommendations, including concerning the need to improve training, both so that indigenous women are fully aware of their rights and so that public officials are aware of their obligations, to incorporate the rights of indigenous women in educational reform initiatives, and to incorporate multidisciplinary participation and strategies in the struggle to overcome systematic discrimination.
23. On November 1, 2001, the IACHR and its Rapporteurship on the Rights of Women were represented in the panel discussion on “initiatives against trafficking in human beings,” as part of the Conference of the International Bar Association held in Cancun, Mexico. The Secretariat attorney who participated spoke about the norms of the inter-American human rights system which have special bearing on the trafficking of women and children for purposes of sexual or labor exploitation, in particular, the standards of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women, and about the Commission’s related work on specific cases and country situations.
24. On February 5, 2002, the Commission and this Rapporteurship were represented in a meeting of experts convened by the CIM to discuss the formulation of recommendations to the Fourth Meeting of Ministers of Justice (REMJA IV), as part of the process to implement the Inter-American Program on the Promotion of Women’s Human Rights and Gender Equity and Equality. The recommendations, which were subsequently submitted to that Meeting by the CIM, had the objective of assisting the Ministers in incorporating a gender perspective in the formulation of policies in the area of administration of justice, including with respect to women’s access to justice and their status within the justice system.
25. From February 28 to March 1, 2002, the Rapporteurship participated in the first joint meeting of the special rapporteurs on the rights of women, with Radhika Coomaraswamy, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its Causes and Consequences, and Angela Melo, the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights. The historic meeting was organized by Rights & Democracy, and held in its offices in Montreal, Canada. The three Rapporteurs discussed shared priorities as well as avenues for collaboration in the discharge of their respective mandates.
26. During the meeting, the Rapporteurs adopted a joint declaration denouncing the persistence of discrimination and violence against women, which was issued on March 8, 2002, International Women’s Day. This declaration, included as Annex 2 to the present report, highlights that women’s rights are human rights, and that the widespread impunity enjoyed by the private individuals and state agents who commit such violence encourages its persistence. The Rapporteurs exhort the states, in particular, to comply with their obligation to use due diligence to investigate, prosecute and punish such violence. This obligation applies to such violence, whether committed in the public or private spheres, and whether committed by public or private actors. In closing the meeting, the Rapporteurs expressed their great satisfaction with the results of their first opportunity to share priorities and strategies, and their interest in future opportunities to meet.
D. The Individual Petition System and Recent Jurisprudence of the IACHR in Relation to the Rights of Women
27. The work of the Commission and its Rapporteurship on the Rights of Women play complementary roles. In this sense, one of the objectives of the Rapporteurship is to serve as a resource for the full Commission in targeting issues, and providing data, information on jurisprudential developments and other source material. A closely related purpose is to serve as a means to raise awareness within civil society of the mechanisms the system offers to enhance the protection of these rights, including the individual petition system. In this regard, the Rapporteurship’s promotional activities have a direct bearing on its protection activities, and those of the Commission as a whole.
28. The Commission is currently processing a substantial number of individual petitions that deal with alleged human rights violations with gender-specific causes and consequences. The Commission’s work in this area has involved convoking hearings on such pending petitions, as well as on broader issues affecting the rights of women in the hemisphere. With respect to these broader issues, it may be noted that during its 113º regular period of sessions, the Commission convened a hearing on the situation of the rights of women in the Americas, and during its 114º regular period of sessions, it convened one hearing on the situation of violence against women in the region, and another on the status of women in the law. Such hearings provide a very valuable opportunity for the exchange of information with representatives of civil society.
29. The following reports represent developments in the Commission’s jurisprudence concerning the rights of women since 2000. The references are intended as illustrative rather than exhaustive.
Friendly Settlement Reports
30. Pursuant to its review of the agreement reached by the parties in the case of María Merciadri de Morini, the Commission approved its report of friendly settlement on October 11, 2001. The petitioner charged that on the list of six candidates running on the Unión Cívica Radical party ticket for election as national deputies from the Province of Córdoba, one woman was fourth on the list and another sixth. She maintained that this was a violation of Law 24,012 and its governing decree No. 379/93, which required that the two women be listed among the first five positions, and a violation of the guarantees of the American Convention. The petitioner invoked the available domestic remedies before the courts; however, the latter not only dismissed her complaint but also denied her procedural standing to bring an action. Finally, the Supreme Court denied her appeal on the grounds that it was moot, ruling that “the votes that the Unión Cívica Radical carried in the October 3, 1993 election entitled it to four seats in the Chamber of Deputies; this case was about who ended up in fifth place.” The Commission declared the case admissible on September 21, 1999, and then placed itself at the disposal of the parties for the purposes of reaching a friendly settlement based on respect for the rights upheld in the Convention.
friendly settlement agreement was reached on March 8, 2001, when the
parties signed an agreement in Buenos Aires.
That agreement sets forth that the issuance of Presidential Decree
No. 1246, which contains the provisions by which Law No. 24,012 shall be
implemented and repeals the previous implementing decree so as to ensure
full compliance with the provisions of that law, resolves the complaint.
In its report, the Commission recognizes and values the efforts
made by both parties to arrive at a settlement based on the object and
purpose of the Convention. It
reiterates that achieving the free and full participation of women in
political life is a priority for our hemisphere.
The purpose of Law No. 24,012 is to effectively integrate women
into political life, and Decree No. 1246, promulgated as an outcome of the
settlement, has the complementary objective of guaranteeing effective
compliance with that law.
32. The Commission adopted its report on the merits of the case of Ana, Beatriz and Celia González Pérez on April 4, 2001. In its analysis, the Commission establishes that the sisters, members of the Tzetzal community, were illegally detained by military personnel in Chiapas, raped and tortured. The Commission’s report sets forth the responsibility of the State for the acts of its agents, as well as for its failure to exercise due diligence to investigate, prosecute and punish the crimes, in violation of Articles 1, 5, 7, 8, 11, 25 of the American Convention, and in the case of the minor victim, Article 19 of that Convention, as well as Article 8 of the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture. The Commission’s report indicates that these victims were subjected to multiple levels of discrimination and victimization by virtue of the fact that they do not speak Spanish, the language of their aggressors, and that used by the authorities. The Commission also emphasized that, while an ineffective investigation had been opened in the military justice system, the measures necessary to combat impunity in this case included carrying out an effective investigation within the regular criminal courts of Mexico.
33. In its report on the case of Maria da Penha Maia Fernandes, the Commission applies both the American Convention and the Convention of Belém do Pará in establishing the nature of the State of Brazil’s obligations to apply due diligence to investigate, prosecute and punish domestic violence. The facts, uncontroverted by the State, indicate that the victim was subjected to domestic violence by her husband, Marco Antonio Heredia Viveiros. In May of 1983 he reportedly shot and attempted to kill her. She was left gravely injured, with irreversible paraplegia. Two weeks later, he reportedly attempted to electrocute her. The criminal case against Mr. Viveiros languished for eight years before he was convicted by a jury. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison, with the penalty reduced to 10 years because he had no prior convictions. The defense filed an appeal, which the prosecution maintained was clearly inadmissible for having been filed extemporaneously. The court of appeals waited three years before accepting the appeal and revoking the decision at first instance. Two years later, a second trial was held, and the perpetrator was condemned to 10 years and six months in jail. A second appeal was filed and remained pending as of the Commission’s decision.
34. In its report, the Commission emphasizes that, over 17 years from the time of the facts, the criminal prosecution remained pending without a final resolution, raising the possibility that these crimes could be left in complete impunity through the eventual application of prescription. The report finds violations in this sense of Articles 1, 8 and 25 of the American Convention. Further, the Commission takes into account the pattern and practice of violence against women in Brazil in establishing that the measures taken to combat this problem were insufficient and had not had any effect in the present case, in violation of Article 24 of the American Convention. Finally, it indicates that the pattern of impunity prevailing in domestic violence cases, and in this case in particular, stand in direct opposition to the State’s duties under Article 7 of the Convention of Belém do Pará.
a result of the processing of the case of María
Eugenia Morales de Sierra,
the State of Guatemala adopted a series of important reforms to the Civil
Code concerning the rights and duties of women and men in marriage.
The case challenged the compatibility of nine provisions of the
Civil Code that assigned roles to spouses within marriage with the
provisions on nondiscrimination and equal protection of the American
80-98 and 27-99, adopted as a result of the processing of this case,
addressed eight of the nine articles challenged.
Article 109, which had authorized the husband to represent the
marital union, was reformed to provide that such representation
corresponds equally to both spouses.
Article 110, which had attributed to the wife the special duty to
care for the home and children, was
modified in its second paragraph to
provide that both spouses have
the duty to care for minor children.
Article 115, which had provided
the exceptional circumstances under which a wife was permitted to
represent the union, was amended to provide that in case of a disagreement
between spouses as to such representation, a family judge will decide to
whom it shall correspond on the basis of the conduct of each partner.
Article 131, which had authorized the husband to administer marital
property, was reformed to provide that both spouses may administer
such property, either jointly or separately, and Article 255, which
had attributed similar authority to the husband with respect to the
representation of children and their property was modified to provide that
both parents shall exercise this authority, either jointly or separately.
Three Articles were repealed: 113, which had permitted a wife to
pursue work outside the home only if this did not prejudice her role as
wife and mother; 114, which had authorized a husband to oppose his
wife’s activities outside the home, as long as he provided for the
household and his reasons were sufficiently justified; and 133, which had
specified the exceptional circumstances under which a wife was permitted
to administer marital property.
As a result of the Guatemalan State’s adoption of these reforms,
the Commission was able to certify an important measure of compliance with
its recommendations to repair the violation of the rights of María
Eugenia Morales de Sierra. The
State’s action represents an extremely valuable step forward in its
commitment to eliminate de jure discrimination as part of its agenda to
address past discrimination and ensure women their full rights.
Nonetheless, because there remains a disequilibrium in the law with
respect to the heading and first section of Article 110, and with respect
to Article 317, the Commission could not certify full compliance and
recommended that action be taken to correct the balancing of the rights
and responsibilities concerned.
37. On October 15, 2001, the Commission decided to admit the case of Zoilamérica Narváez Murillo. The petitioners in the case claim that she was denied her right to be heard by a competent tribunal, in violation of Articles 1, 2, 8, 24 and 25 of the American Convention, as well as Article 7 of the Convention of Belém do Pará. They maintain that the State violated her right to a fair trial because it allowed the crimes of sexual abuse she denounced before the judiciary to go unpunished by failing to suspend the congressional immunity of the alleged perpetrator, then-deputy Daniel Ortega. They indicate that the legislature impeded her access to justice by failing to process the request that his immunity be lifted in accordance with the law. The State maintained that its actions had been in accordance with applicable law, and that the petition was inadmissible for failure to exhaust domestic remedies. The Commission determined that the requirement that domestic remedies be exhausted was excused because she had been denied effective access to such remedies, and that the petition was admissible with respect to Article 1, 8, 24 and 25 of the American Convention, and that it would analyze the remaining contentions in the merits phase.
38. The Commission decided to admit the case of María Mamérita Mestanza Chávez on October 3, 2000. The petitioners allege that the victim, the 33 year old mother of seven, had died as the result of having been wrongfully coerced to undergo surgical sterilization, followed by deficient medical attention. They argued violations of Articles 1, 4, 5 and 24 of the American Convention, multiple provisions of the Convention of Belém do Pará, the Additional Protocol in the Area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. The State contended that the petition was inadmissible because applicable domestic remedies had not been exhausted as required under Article 46 of the American Convention. It maintained that it carried out an investigation which found that while the medical attention had been deficient, the surgical procedure had been consented to voluntarily. The Commission determined that the requirement of having exhausted domestic remedies had been met, and that the petition was admissible with respect to the cited Articles of the American Convention and Article 7 of the Convention of Belém do Pará.
39. In addition to the foregoing reports on individual cases, since 2000, the Commission has issued 3 country reports, on the situation of human rights in Peru, Paraguay and Guatemala, respectively, each with chapters dedicated to addressing the rights of women. The relevant chapter of the Commission’s Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Peru first sets forth the applicable international and domestic legal regime. It then briefly examines certain progressive measures adopted before proceeding to a more detailed analysis of the situation of: discrimination against women, in areas including education, work, marriage and the political sphere; domestic and sexual violence based on gender; and issues concerning reproductive health. The recommendations issued by the Commission in this chapter include calling for: modifications to the Civil Code; the implementation of guarantees of equal pay for equal work; the restoration of certain protections for mothers within the labor sphere; the amplification of the State’s response to violence with gender-specific causes and consequences; and the taking of steps to address complaints of forced sterilization.
40. Chapter VIII of the Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Paraguay follows a similar analytic framework, with additional attention to important legislative advances throughout the 1990’s. This chapter examines the basic topics referred to in the aforementioned report, and looks as well at issues including sexual harassment, and the rights of women in detention. The recommendations made call for additional legislative reforms, the implementation of programs to provide services to women victims of crimes of violence, the adoption of measures to attain equality in the workplace, the implementation of steps to enhance women’s access to health and reproductive health services, the taking of preventive measures to improve the situation of women in detention, and the promotion of positive measures designed to eliminate discriminatory stereotyping through information and education programs.
41. The relevant chapter of the Commission’s Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Guatemala sets forth the applicable legal framework before analyzing issues concerning women, the law, and access to judicial remedies. This includes an analysis of the level of representation of women in the law and policy-making bodies of the State. The chapter then examines the role of the State in addressing issues concerning women, work and development, before proceeding to discuss concerns related to women’s health and reproductive health, particularly with respect to access to basic services. The Commission then focuses on the problem of violence based on gender, first within the context of the legacy of the armed conflict in Guatemala, and then with special attention to intrafamilial and sexual violence. The recommendations call for: the adoption of legislative measures to modify provisions which establish unjustified distinctions based on gender; steps to enhance women’s access to justice, particularly for victims of violence; the incorporation of a gender perspective in the design and execution of law and public policy; the allocation of additional resources to the State entities tasked with protecting and promoting respect for the rights of women; strengthening girls’ access to primary education; the design of educational initiatives aimed at eliminating the persistence of stereotyping; strengthening labor legislation and inspection services; enhancing access to health and reproductive health services; the adoption of diverse measures to respond to violence against women through better reporting procedures, education and training initiatives, access to protective measures and the application of due diligence in the investigation, prosecution and punishment of such violence.
42. The foregoing has provided a brief update on the work done and the current concerns being addressed by the Rapporteurship and the Commission in seeking to ensure greater respect for the rights of women. In this regard, the Special Rapporteur wishes to emphasize the problem of impunity and its role in encouraging the persistence of human rights violations which have gender-specific causes and consequences. As the jurisprudence of the system consistently reiterates, if a member State allows violations to go unpunished, and fails to reestablish the enjoyment of those rights to the extent possible, it has failed in its duty to respect and ensure the rights of those subject to its jurisdiction. Impunity undermines the very system of guarantees, and creates a climate conducive to the repetition of violations.
43. The hemispheric community has expressed a strong commitment in favor of the rights of women, and the adoption of the measures necessary to attain their full participation in national life and development. The member States of the OAS have likewise committed themselves to respect and ensure the right of women to be free from discrimination and violence. The region has established a strong and forward-thinking normative framework; the shared challenge that confronts us to achieve the effective implementation of these guarantees. In this regard, the key undertaking with respect to which the Special Rapporteur exhorts the member States to redouble their efforts is to apply due diligence in the investigation, prosecution and punishment of acts of discrimination and violence. It is equally crucial that victims have access to the services they need to protect and vindicate their rights, most especially, prompt access to effective justice.
Declaration of the
March 2002) The UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its
causes and consequences, and the Special Rapporteurs on women’s rights
of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and he African Commission
on Human and Peoples’ Rights met for the first time on 28 February and 1
March 2002, in Montreal, at a meeting organized by Rights & Democracy.
The Special Rapporteurs issued the following joint declaration:
that women’s rights are human rights, we, the Special Rapporteurs,
reaffirm our commitment to international standards of women’s rights
contained in, inter alia:
affirm that these international and regional instruments provide
comprehensive protection against gender-based violence and discrimination
against women. We call on all states that have not yet done so to ratify
the relevant treaties and to ensure compliance with international norms.
emphasize that violence against women is understood as violence
perpetrated by any person within the home and the family, and within the
community, as well as that perpetrated or condoned by the state, including
during armed conflict.Violence against women is a manifestation of
discrimination based on gender. We reaffirm that the right of every woman
to be free from violence includes the right to be free from such
discrimination and to enjoy equal protection under the law.
We recognize the diversity among women and the right of people in community and with other members of their group to enjoy their own culture. We recognize the particularities in the different regions regarding the application of women’s rights. However, states must not invoke any custom, tradition or religious consideration to avoid their obligations with respect to the elimination of violence and discrimination against women. All women have the right to live in freedom, equality and dignity.
against women and girls is perpetrated in every country in the world. This
occurs in situations of peace and conflict. However, the state agents and
private actors responsible are not held to account. This climate of
impunity encourages the persistence of such violations. We urge states to
take immediate action to end such impunity and to bring perpetrators to
reiterate that international standards of human rights protect women from
violence and discrimination by private non-state actors. States have a
duty to take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against
women by any person, organization or enterprise. States are held to a due
diligence standard to prevent, prosecute and punish those who commit
violence against women and to take measures to permanently eradicate
violence against women in their societies.
the international and regional communities have established standards to prevent,
punish and eradicate violence and discrimination against women, many
states have yet to take the steps necessary to implement these standards
in domestic legislation and practices. We urge states to take appropriate
action to bring their laws and practices into conformity with these
highlight the fact that women who have been subjected to violence and
discrimination generally lack access to effective judicial protection and
remedies. Strategies must be implemented that involve law reform and, in
particular, reform of the criminal justice system. Training is required
for policy makers, police, judges, and prosecutors. There must also be
provision of legal, medical and psychological counselling and adequate
social services for the victims. States should use the education system
and awareness-raising campaigns aimed at the general public to assist them
in implementing international standards at the national level.
In light of these
shared concerns we undertake to coordinate our efforts to achieve greater
effectiveness in our work through: (a) exchange of information, including
on laws and cases, as well as mission-related information; (b) sharing
ideas and strategies on how to approach emerging issues and the violation
of women’s rights; (c) harmonizing our recommendations to states; (d)
communicating regularly with regional and international NGOs, women`s
organizations and other representatives of civil society for whom the
promotion and protection of women’s human rights are central objectives.
We undertake to keep each other informed of the latest developments.
RAPPORTEUR OF THE IACHR CONCLUDES VISIT TO EVALUATE
SITUATION OF WOMEN'S RIGHTS IN CIUDAD JUÁREZ, MEXICO
Marta Altolaguirre, Special Rapporteur on Women's Rights of the
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), today concluded a
two-day visit to Ciudad Juárez and Mexico City.
The visit was conducted at the invitation of the Government of
President Vicente Fox and pursuant to concerns expressed by diverse
representatives of civil society. The
purpose of the visit was to evaluate the situation of women's rights in
Ciudad Juárez. During this
visit, the Special Rapporteur was assisted by Elizabeth Abi-Mershed,
Principal Specialist of the IACHR.
Altolaguirre, a member of the Commission who currently serves as its Vice
President, was named Special Rapporteur in 2000.
Under the Rapporteur's mandate, her tasks are to protect and
promote greater respect for the rights of women in the hemisphere.
Her analysis focuses in particular on the degree to which the laws
and practices of OAS member States are consistent with the obligations of
equality before the law and nondiscrimination set forth in the applicable
instruments. Those instruments include, in particular, the American
Convention on Human Rights (“American Convention”), to which Mexico
has been a Party since 1981, and the Inter-American Convention on the
Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women
("Convention of Belém do Pará"), which Mexico ratified in
IACHR is a principal organ of the Organization of American States (OAS),
composed of seven members elected in their personal capacity by the OAS
General Assembly. The Commission's mandate is to promote the observance of
human rights in the hemisphere in accordance with the parameters
established in the American Convention on Human Rights. Among the
commitments undertaken by OAS member States and States Parties to the
Convention is that of extending to the Commission all the facilities
necessary to enable it to carry out its observation missions with full
autonomy in the pursuit of its mandate.
The Special Rapporteur's visit was conducted under the authority
established in the American Convention and the Rules of Procedure of the
the course of these two days, the Special Rapporteur discharged an
extremely full agenda that included meetings with federal officials, such
as Senator Susana Stephenson Pérez, Chair of the Commission on Equity and
Gender of the Senate of the Republic; Federal Deputy Concepción González
Molina, Chair of the Commission on Equity and Gender of the Chamber of
Deputies; Deputies Silvia López Escoffié and Olga Haydee Juárez, and
Senators Leticia Burgos and María del Carmen Ramírez García, members of
the aforementioned commissions; the Chair of the Commission on Human
Rights of the Senate; David Rodríguez Torres, Federal Deputy and member
of the Special Commission to Solve the Murders of Women in Ciudad Juárez;
Mariclaire Acosta Urquidi, Under-Secretary for Human Rights and Democracy,
and Patricia Olamendi, Under-Secretary for Global Issues, both of the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Patricia Espinosa Torres, President of the
National Women’s Institute (Inmujeres) and Martha Laura Carranza,
Technical Secretary of Inmujeres; and the following officials from the
Office of Attorney General of the Republic: Carlos Vega Memije, Assistant
State's Attorney for Criminal Procedures “B”, María de la Luz Lima
Malvido, Assistant State's Attorney for General Coordination and
Development, Eduardo Ibarrola Nicolin, Assistant State's Attorney for
Legal Matters and International Affairs, Miguel Oscar Aguilar Ruiz,
Director General of Expert Witness Services, and Mario I. Alvarez Ledesma,
Director General for Protection of Human Rights.
Special Rapporteur also held interviews with officials of the State of
Chihuahua and of the Municipality of Ciudad Juárez, inter
alia, Jesús José Solís Silva, the State Attorney-General; Lorenzo
Aquino Miranda, Representative in Chihuahua of the Office of the Attorney
General; Suly Ponce, Regional Coordinator of the North Zone from the State
Attorney-General's Office; Zulema Bolivar, Special Prosecutor for the
Investigation of the Murders of Women; Sergio A. Martínez Garza,
Secretary General of the Office of the Governor of the State of Chihuahua;
Oscar Francisco Yáñez Franco, Chair of the State Commission on Human
Rights (CEDH); José Luis Armendáriz, Technical Secretary of the CEDH;
Jaime Flores Castañeda, Principal Representative of the CEDH in Ciudad Juárez;
José Reyes Ferriz, Mayor of Ciudad Juárez; and several officials from
the Directorate of Municipal Public Security.
addition, she received information and testimonies from victims’
relatives, and met with representatives of nongovernmental human rights
organizations and other representatives of civil society at the local and
national level, including, inter
alia, Casa Amiga Centro de Crisis, A.C., Red de No Violencia y
Dignidad Humana, Campaña “Alto a la Impunidad: Ni Una Muerte Más”,
Grupo Feminista Ocho de Marzo de Chihuahua, FEMAP, CIESAS, Círculo de
Estudios de Género, Asociación de Amigos y Personas Desaparecidos A.C.,
MILETNIA, Pastoral Obrera, Pastoral Juvenil Obrera, CETLAC, Comisión de
Solidaridad y Defensa de los Derechos Humanos (COSYDDHAC), Despacho Obrero,
Centro Mujeres, Centro de Investigación y Solidaridad Obrera, Asociación
de Trabajadores Sociales, A.C., Consorcio para el Diálogo Parlamentario y
la Equidad, Centro Norte Americano para la Solidaridad Sindical
Internacional AFL-CIO, Milenio Feminista Convergencia Socialista, ELIGE
Red de Jóvenes para los Derechos Sexuales y Reproductivos, A.C., Mujeres
Trabajadores Unidas, A.C., Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de
los Derechos Humanos A.C., Centro de Derechos Humanos Miguel Agustín Pro
Juárez, and the Commission on Equity and Gender of the Sindicato de
Telefonistas de la República Mexicana.
Special Rapporteur thanks the Governor of Chihuahua and the Mayor of
Ciudad Juárez and their staffs for their hospitality during the visit. She also thanks the Government of President Fox for
permitting her to conduct her work, as well as for its willingness to
cooperate in seeking solutions to the problems posed. She is particularly
grateful to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Under-Secretary Patricia
Olamendi for accompanying her in the interviews.
In concrete terms, that willingness has been reflected in closer
relations with President Vicente Fox and the competent authorities in the
implementation of the recommendations of the Inter-American Commission.
Reference may be made in that regard to the recent release of
General Gallardo in response to a recommendation issued by the
Inter-American Commission. The
Special Rapporteur also wishes to extend her thanks to representatives of
civil society, especially those directly affected by this situation, for
their cooperation and the important information they supplied during this
Special Rapporteur will present a brief report on her visit to the plenary
of the IACHR during its next session, due to begin at the end of the
current month. The Office of
the Rapporteur will examine all the information received on this visit in
detail, in order to prepare a report containing its conclusions on the
situation of violence against women in Ciudad Juárez for the subsequent
consideration and approval of the plenary of the IACHR.
That report, which will be transmitted to the Mexican State for
consideration and made public in the near future, will contain a series of
recommendations designed to assist the State in achieving greater
compliance with its international obligations in this area.
The Inter-American Commission will evaluate the measures adopted to
comply with these recommendations through its follow-up procedures.
foregoing notwithstanding, within the framework of the climate of
cooperation that exists with the Government and in order to contribute to
the quest for greater protection of women's rights in Ciudad Juárez, the
Special Rapporteur wishes to offer some initial observations, in
particular regarding the troubling situation of violence against women
there. Since November of
2001, the Office of the Rapporteur has received a series of
communications, signed by over 300 organizations, to the effect that, from
1993 to date more than two hundred women have been brutally murdered in
that border city, complaining of the inefficacy of the administration of
justice, and requesting the Office of the Rapporteur to make a visit to
Mexico in order to verify the situation of violence that women in that
city endure. In reply to the
concern expressed by the Special Rapporteur in response to this
information, the Government of Mexico extended the invitation to conduct
the on-site visit that concludes today.
the visit, the Office of the Attorney-General for the State of Chihuahua (PGJE)
presented information on the murders of 268 women in Ciudad Juárez
between January 1993 and January 2002.
In many cases, the victims were young women who worked at in-bond
assembly plants (maquiladoras)
or students, some of them minors, who were raped, strangled or stabbed,
and whose bodies were found dumped on the outskirts of the city.
The PGJE reported that the vast majority of these cases, which it
classifies as multiple homicides, remain under investigation and
It also reported that, of the 4,154 disappearances denounced during
that same period, the vast majority had been solved and the persons in
question located, although at least 257 remain pending.
Although other sources question those figures and the criteria that
the PGJE applies to classify the crimes, what is absolutely clear is the
gravity of the situation and the high degree of impunity.
a letter presented to the Special Rapporteur during the visit explains,
“Since 1993, women living in Ciudad Juárez have been afraid -- afraid
to go out into the street and walk the distance between their home and
their job. Afraid at 10, 13,
15, 20 years old -- it makes no difference if she is a girl or a
woman.…” This situation in Ciudad Juárez has had an impact
on the minds of the population.
In fact, the letter in question was presented with 5,000
signatures. The Executive
Secretariat also took receipt, through attorney Abi-Mershed, of two
petitions regarding specific victims, and other organizations indicated
that they were going to file petitions with the IACHR in the near future.
impact is also reflected in certain initiatives implemented by the State
in order to clarify the murders of women in Ciudad Juárez. The Special Rapporteur was pleased by the information she
received on the activities of the Congressional Commissions on Equity and
Gender, and the Special Commission of the Chamber of Deputies created in
November of 2001 to solve the murders of women in Ciudad Juárez. That Special Commission has held meetings with relatives of
victims, nongovernmental organizations that work in this area, State
officials, and representatives of in-bond assembly plants, in order to
follow-up on investigations, encourage real collaboration between the
Government at all three levels and civil society, and offer concrete
recommendations on ways to prevent these crimes.
She also received information on the strong support given by the
National Women’s Institute for the creation of an Inter-institutional
Panel for Dialogue (Mesa Interinstitucional de Diálogo) composed of representatives of
different agencies of the State of Chihuahua and representatives of civil
society. The purpose of that
Panel will be to analyze and pursue the murder cases, including reviewing
case files, in order to issue observations and recommendations to improve
the progress of the investigations. The
Special Rapporteur values initiatives intended to stop these crimes, unite
efforts, and solve the cases of past victims.
the above-described initiatives are reason for hope, it appears that other
initiatives implemented to resolve the problem have not received the
necessary follow-up. In
particular, according to the information available, the important effort
made by the National Human Rights Commission in 1998 to assess the
investigations into the murder of women that led to the issuance of
recommendation 44/98 has not produced concrete results.
Further, although the creation of the Office of the Special
Prosecutor for the Investigation of the Murders of Women in Ciudad Juárez
has contributed important new evidence for the investigation, it too has
failed to produce the results desired by the affected community.
Convention of Belém do Pará provides that “Every woman has the right
to be free from violence in both the public and private spheres”
(Article 3). It also states that violence against women shall be
understood to include physical, sexual and psychological violence that
occurs in the home, in the community, and that is perpetrated or condoned
by the State (Article 2). This Convention also recognizes the right of women to
exercise and receive protection for all their fundamental rights, and
gives rise to various obligations on the part of the State, principally
that it apply due diligence to prevent, investigate and punish violence
against women (Article 7).
spite of the gravity of the situation and the steps that are being taken,
the State response to these crimes continues to be markedly deficient. As various public authorities stated, the measures that have
been adopted are not commensurate with the magnitude of the problem.
Moreover, both the competent authorities and representatives of
civil society stated repeatedly that the administration of justice in the
State has been ineffective in solving these crimes, which, as a result,
has encouraged impunity and insecurity. The impunity that has existed since 1993 with respect to the
serious violations of women’s human rights in Ciudad Juárez contributes
significantly to the perpetuation of violence against women.
Special Rapporteur has observed a notable, widespread lack of respect for
the administration of justice in the State of Chihuahua. On the one hand, relatives of victims and their
representatives consistently said that they do not receive basic
information and the assistance they need in their search for justice.
It is clear that this lack of information plays a very important
role in the lack of confidence in the justice system.
In several interviews, relatives of victims and members of civil
society expressed doubts about the grounds supporting the charges against
alleged culprits. Further, in
certain specific cases, the relatives say they have grave doubts about the
true identity of the corpse identified by the authorities as being that of
their loved one.
was repeated reference to the lack of consideration shown by some
officials for relatives who came forward to inquire about the status of
the investigations. In
addition, the Special Rapporteur has received a number of reports to the
effect that some relatives feel that their interests are not being
protected; to the contrary, they say some officials are undermining their
reputations and those of the victims. According
to these reports, there is a tendency to relate the crimes in question to
the mode of dress or behavior of the victim, essentially blaming her
rather than directing attention toward the murderer.
This type of treatment or response reflects a discrimination that
is unacceptable to the IACHR.
Special Rapporteur was also informed that human rights defenders,
representatives of NGOs that work with relatives of the victims, and
journalists have received threats in connection with their work in this
area. The Rapporteur wishes to recall that these defenders play a
pivotal role in the protection of human rights, and she underscores the
importance for persons at risk to have access to measures of protection.
is also important to mention the duty of the State, under both the
American Convention on Human Rights and the Convention of Belém do Pará,
to take reasonable steps to prevent violations of human rights.
At the meetings, representatives of civil society and public
officials coincided in mentioning certain circumstances or special
features of Ciudad Juárez, such as the disproportionate growth as a
result of the in-bond assembly plants and employment opportunities, the
presence of other migrants waiting to cross the border, the porous nature
of that border, and the rise in the sale of drugs and the infiltration of
organized crime. Furthermore,
and in light of the circumstances of the murders under investigation,
repeated mention was made of the need for enhanced security measures and
public policies designed to guarantee the life and physical integrity of
the women of Ciudad Juárez, for instance, in the areas of street
lighting, public transport, and aspects of public security.
that connection, the Mayor informed the Special Rapporteur that in recent
months, following a series of meetings with representatives of civil
society, steps were taken, inter
alia, to arrange with TELEMEX the installation of a telephone hotline
to take emergency calls from women at risk from domestic violence,
harassment in the street, etc.; implement a program of stricter controls
for hiring drivers in the public transport service; install more street
lighting; launch a new anonymous complaint program called “Juntos contra
la Delincuencia” (Together against Crime); and work with some in-bond
assembly plants to adopt measures to ensure that no woman is left alone on
the trucks that transport them. The
Rapporteur hopes to receive information on the results of these and other
initiatives in the near future.
conclusion, the Special Rapporteur wishes to acknowledge the efforts of
the Mexican Government and civil society to find solutions to the problem
of violence against women in Ciudad Juárez. She fully supports these
efforts, particularly with respect to the need for Government at all
levels and civil society to join forces.
As the Convention of Belém do Pará reflects, violence against
women is not a private problem but fundamentally social, affecting all
members of civil society.
in light of the gravity of the situation, the Special Rapporteur cannot
but mention her disappointment with the slowness of the progress made in a
situation that dates from 1993. On
one hand, it is essential to clarify these crimes and to punish those
responsible in accordance with the law.
On the other, it is just as important to adopt effective policies
that are adequately funded to prevent and eliminate violence against
women. The Special Rapporteur
reiterates her readiness to continue working with the authorities and
civil society within the framework of the applicable instruments in order
to contribute to the strengthening of domestic and international
mechanisms for the protection of women's rights, and, in particular, the
right to a life free from violence. Finally, the Special Rapporteur wishes to thank the
journalists and the mass media for their interest and coverage of this
February 13, 2002
Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on the Status of
Women in the Americas, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.100, Doc. 17, Oct. 13, 1998,
initially published in Annual
Report of the IACHR 1997, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.98, Doc. 7 rev., April
13, 1998, ch. VI.
Subsequent to the issuance of its Report
on the Status of Women in the Americas, at the request of the CIM,
the Commission issued an opinion on “considerations regarding the
compatibility of affirmative action measures designed to promote the
political participation of women with the principles of equality and
non-discrimination,” which refers to the role such measures may play
in advancing the participation of women in decision-making in the
Published in, Annual
Report of the IACHR 1999, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.106, Doc. 3 rev., April
13, 2000, ch. VI.
Report Nº 103/00, Mería Merciadri de Morini, Case 11.307
(Argentina), Annual Report of the IACHR 2001, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.114, ch., III.
For the earlier report adopted on admissibility see, Report Nº
102/99, Mería Merciadri de Morini, Case 11.307 (Argentina), Annual
Report of the IACHR 1999, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.106, Doc. 3 rev., April
13, 2000, ch. III.
See IACHR, “Considerations Regarding the Compatibility of the
Affirmative Action Measures Designed to Promote the Political
Participation of Women with the Principles of Equality and
at section IV; Report of the
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on the Status of Women in
the Americas, supra, at V.C.
Ana, Beatriz and Celia González Pérez, Case 11.565 (Mexico), Annual
Report of the IACHR 2000, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.111, Doc. 20 rev., 16
april 2001, ch. III.
For the earlier report adopted on admissibility, see, Report Nº
129/99 Ana González et al., case 11.565 (Mexico), Annual
Report of the IACHR 1999, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.106, Doc. 3 rev., April
13, 2000, ch. III.
Report Nº 54/01, Maria da Penha Maia Fernandes, Case 12.051 (Brazil),
Annual Report of the IACHR 2000,
OEA/Ser.L/V/II.111, Doc. 20 rev., 16 april 2001, ch. III.
Report Nº 4/01, Case 11.625, María Eugenia Morales de Sierra
Report of the IACHR 2000, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.111, Doc. 20 rev., 16
april 2001, ch. III.
Report Nº 28/98, Annual Report of the IACHR 1997, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.98, Doc. 7 rev.,
April 13, 1998, ch. III.
Report Nº 118/01, Case 12.230, Zoilamérica Narváez Murillo
(Nicaragua), Annual Report of the IACHR 1999, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.106, Doc. 3 rev.,
April 13, 2000, ch. III.
Report Nº 66/00, María Mamérita Mestanza Chávez, Case 12.191
(Peru), Annual Report of the IACHR 2000, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.111, Doc. 20 rev.,
16 april 2001, ch. III.
OEA/Ser.L/V/II.106, Doc. 59 rev., 2 June 2000, ch. VII.
OEA/Ser.L/V/II.110, Doc. 52, 9 March 2001, ch. VIII.
OEA/Ser.L/V/II.111, Doc. 21 rev., 6 April 2001, ch. XIII.