The deadline for submitting responses has been extended
until April
16, 2011

Rapporteurship on Women’s Rights


Legal Standards on Gender Equality in the Inter-American Human Rights System







This questionnaire has been prepared as part of the work plan of the (“Rapporteurship on Women” or “Rapporteurship”) of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (“IACHR” or “Commission”) for the purpose of compiling information on legal decisions concerning the principle of equality and nondiscrimination adopted by domestic courts, and the impact of the recommendations and decisions of the organs of the inter-American human rights system in this sphere.  The information compiled will be assessed in a report that will systematize and analyze the impact of the standards, recommendations, and decisions of the system on case law at the domestic level.


This initiative is part of a project implemented by the Commission, with the support of the Government of Canada, to promote the advancement of case law and legal standards on gender equality in the region, taking into account international and domestic developments.  The case law of the system provides guidance to OAS Member States in their compliance with a variety of human rights obligations related to gender equality and can serve as an important resource and tool in the advocacy and monitoring efforts of civil society organizations, international agencies, and the academic sector.




International human rights law has established that states have a duty to ensure the exercise of human rights for women in conditions of equality and free from all forms of discrimination.  The binding principles of equality and nondiscrimination are the backbone of the inter-American human rights system and of its instruments, such as the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, the American Convention on Human Rights, and the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women (“Convention of Belém do Pará”). 


As regards the principle of equality and nondiscrimination, Article 24 of the American Convention provides, “All persons are equal before the law. Consequently, they are entitled, without discrimination, to equal protection of the law.” In this regard, the Inter-American Court has held that,


The notion of equality springs directly from the oneness of the human family and is linked to the essential dignity of the individual. That principle cannot be reconciled with the notion that a given group has the right to privileged treatment because of its perceived superiority. It is equally irreconcilable with that notion to characterize a group as inferior and treat it with hostility or otherwise subject it to discrimination in the enjoyment of rights which are accorded to others not so classified. It is impermissible to subject human beings to differences in treatment that are inconsistent with their unique and congenerous character.[1]


As for the obligation not to discriminate, Article 1(1) of the American Convention provides,


The States Parties to this Convention undertake to respect the rights and freedoms recognized herein and to ensure to all persons subject to their jurisdiction the free and full exercise of those rights and freedoms, without any discrimination for reasons of race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, economic status, birth, or any other social condition.


For its part, the Convention of Belém do Pará states that violence against women “is a manifestation of the historically unequal power relations between women and men,” and recognizes that the right of every woman to be free from violence includes the right to be free from all forms of discrimination. The above-cited Convention reflects the uniform concern felt throughout the hemisphere for the seriousness of the problem of violence against women, its connection with the discrimination women have historically suffered, and the need to adopt comprehensive strategies to prevent, punish, and eliminate it. 


Under treaty law, both the Commission and the Court can and should take into account other sources of international obligation for Member States. In this regard, in the universal human rights system, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (hereinafter “CEDAW”), defines “discrimination against women” as


any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.


Furthermore, the CEDAW requires states parties to adopt and pursue "by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating discrimination against women."


Responses to this questionnaire should be forwarded no later than April 16, 2011 to:



Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

Organization of American States

1889 F Street, N.W.

Washington, DC 20006





Please provide the following:


1)  Information on (and copies of) judicial decisions issued by courts at the national level in the last 10 years in connection with gender equality and the principle of nondiscrimination, in keeping with the standards, decisions, and recommendations of the inter-American human rights system. Include information on decisions related to violence against women; their economic, social, and cultural rights; their reproductive rights; and their right to live free from all forms of discrimination, among other aspects related to women's rights.

2)  Information on (and copies of) studies, research, or analyses in connection with the aforementioned decisions. 

3)  Describe the impact of the standards, decisions, and recommendations of the inter-American human rights system on equality and non discrimination on the basis of gender and in particular, on equality between men and women within the structure and workings of the judicial branch (at the federal, national and local level).

4)  Indicate if there is a mechanism in place to implement standards, decisions, and recommendations issued by the organs of the inter-American system in the judicial sphere and its effectiveness.

5)  Describe any formal or informal mechanism established for coordination or dialogue between government representatives and civil society, international agencies and/or the academic sector, in order to create awareness in the judiciary or law schools about instruments, standards, decisions, and recommendations of the inter-American system?

6)  What are the mechanisms in place to ensure that members of the judiciary are kept informed about the standards, decisions, and recommendations of the inter-American system?


For the purposes of this questionnaire:


  • The expression "judicial decisions at the national level" refers broadly to court orders, judgments, recommendations, and other opinions issued by different bodies in the judicial branch of a particular country, including traditional and alternative systems of justice, and specialized tribunals.  The expectation is to receive information and copies of decisions issued at the national and local level in both urban and rural areas. 

  • In countries with federal systems of government, the Commission hopes to obtain information from all states and provinces.

  • The submission of information on decisions that concern the specific situation of women in groups that are particularly exposed to violence and discrimination, such as afro-descendent women, indigenous women, girls, elderly women, and others is encouraged.


[1] I/A Court H.R., Proposed Amendments to the Naturalization Provisions of the Constitution of Costa Rica. Advisory Opinion OC-4/84 of January 19, 1984. Series A, No. 4.