JUSTICE FAILS IN DEFENDING WOMEN VICTIMS OF VIOLENCE: THERE IS A PATTERN OF IMPUNITY AND DISCRIMINATION
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights expresses its concern over the inability of justice systems to respond to women victims of violence in several countries in the Americas. In the report Access to Justice for Women Victims of Violence in the Americas, which will be presented on Wednesday, March 7, 2007, in Washington, D.C., the Commission voices its alarm over the pattern of impunity that affects most cases of violence against women.
In many occasions, victims that seek to report incidents of violence face discrimination and are mistreated by State employees. Prosecutors, police officers and judges do not take victims seriously or give scant credence to their declarations. Aside from the mistreatment, women victims of violence tend to find that the incidents they report are not investigated, which contributes to a mistrust of justice.
The report makes reference as well to the inexistence of specialty units within the prosecutor’s offices, tribunals and the police with the technical knowledge required in addressing themes related to violence. The absence of judicial instances in rural, poor and marginalized zones, and the lack of court-appointed attorneys and public defenders available to victims of violence without economic means, are also additional obstacles to an effective access to justice. Afrodescendent and indigenous women also face the problem of discrimination in the different state instances.
The report verifies that in many cases women end up becoming the victims of fatal assaults even after having sought preventive protection from the State. All too often protective measures may be ordered on a woman’s behalf only to be improperly implemented.
The report issues recommendations to enhance the adoption of measures to end this situation. Within the main recommendations are the design of an integral and coordinated public policy, supported by adequate public resources, to guarantee that victims of gender-based violence have full access to judicial protection; the strengthening of the institutional capacity to combat the impunity toward cases of violence against women through an adequate investigation, sanction and reparations; and the adoption of public policies and programs destined to restructure the stereotypes about women’s role in society, as well as promoting the eradication of discriminatory socio-cultural patterns, including training programs and prevention policies, among other measures.
Washington, D.C., March 6, 2007