SPECIAL RAPPORTEURSHIP ON THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN OF THE INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) established its
Rapporteurship on the Rights of Women in 1994 to renew its commitment to
ensuring that the rights of women are fully respected and ensured in each
member State. While the
constitutions of each member State formally guarantee equality, the
Commission’s examination of national legal systems and practices had
increasingly revealed the persistence of discrimination based on gender.
the Rapporteurship was established with an initial mandate to analyze the
extent to which member State law and practices that affect the rights of
women comply with the broad obligations of equality and nondiscrimination
set forth in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and
the American Convention on Human Rights.
Following the intensive study carried out by the Rapporteurship,
the Commission published its Report on the Status of Women in the
Americas to: provide an overview of the situation; issue
recommendations designed to assist the member States in eradicating
discrimination in law and practice; and establish priorities for further
action by the Rapporteurship and the Commission.
The obligations of equality
and nondiscrimination continue to serve as the points of orientation for
the selection of issues being addressed 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 Eradication of Violence
Against Women, “Convention of Belém do Pará.”
that initial study, the Rapporteurship has played a vital role in the
Commission’s work to protect the rights of women through the publication
of thematic studies; assisting in the development of new jurisprudence in
this area within the individual case system; and supporting the
investigation of broader issues affecting the rights of women in specific
countries of the region through on site visits and country reports.
specifically, the Rapporteurship on the Rights of Women serves to: raise
awareness of the need for further action to ensure that women are able to
fully exercise their basic rights; issue specific recommendations aimed at
enhancing member State compliance with their priority obligations of
equality and nondiscrimination; promote the mechanisms – for example,
the filing of individual complaints of violations – that the
inter-American human rights system provides to protect the rights of
women; conduct specialized studies and prepare reports in this area; and
assist the Commission in responding to petitions and other reports of
violations of these rights in the region.
priority given by the Commission and its Rapporteurship to the protection
of the rights of women 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.
The Rapporteurship works under the directionof a member named by the
plenary of the Commission. The current Special Rapporteur, Member
Susan Villarán, was named by the Commissio in late 2003. Commission Member Marta Altolaguirre was
designated by the Commission in 2000 and served until late 2003.
The first Rapporteur, member Claudio Grossman, was named by the
Commission in 1994, and served until 2000.
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. A recent example is the Commission’s on site visit to Colombia, carried out in December of 2001, which included a series of meetings related to the situation of the rights of women.
In February of 2002, the
Rapporteurship carried out its first independent on-site visit, for the
purpose of examining the situation of the rights of women in Ciudad Juárez,
Mexico. The visit was
undertaken following 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. The
visit focused on the grave situation of violence against women in that
area, including the killing of over 250 women and girls since 1993, and
the unresolved disappearance of over 200 others.
During the Commission’s March 2002 period of sessions, Rapporteur Marta Altolaguirre informed the plenary of the Commission about the visit and the information collected, and subsequently organized a series of follow-up hearings with representatives of the State and civil society at the Commission’s headquarters.
In December of 2002, the Commission approved the conclusions and recommendations set forth in the report prepared by the Special Rapporteur, and the report was published in March of 2003. The recommendations fall into three categories: general recommendations; recommendations concerning the application of due diligence to investigate these crimes and prosecute and punish those responsible; and recommendations concerning the application of due diligence to prevent future such crimes. The recommendations focus on ending the impunity that has characterized the vast majority of these crimes, as a key means to punish past killings and prevent future killings.
Rapporteurship continues to serve the Commission as a vital resource in
dealing with individual petitions alleging human rights violations with
gender specific causes and consequences.
The Rapporteurship provides an initial analysis of new petitions
received in this area, and also assists in follow-up on petitions being
processed and the preparation of related reports.
Rapporteurship’s Work Program
Rapporteurship is currently defining the work program for its next
initiatives, the focus of which will be women’s access to justice. As the Rapporteurship and the Commission have observed in a
wide variety of contexts, women often face severe obstacles in obtaining
access to effective judicial protection and guarantees.
Because effective access to justice is indispensable for the
protection and exercise of basic rights, the Rapporteurship considers that
overcoming these obstacles is a vital and urgent priority in the region.
Rapporteurship will carry out its analysis taking into account the role of
women in the administration of justice from three perspectives.
First, the analysis will consider the situation of women as
administrators of justice – as judges, prosecutors and lawyers, and as
legislators and members of the executive branch responsible for
formulating and implementing law and public policy in this area.
The analysis will examine the extent to which women are
participants in these critical functions, and the obstacles that continue
to limit the participation of women in key decision-making positions
within the administration of justice. Second, the project will review the situation of women as
litigants in the judicial system, with particular attention to the rights
of women who have been the victims of crime.
Third, the study will analyze the situation of women being tried as
defendants within the criminal justice system.
core objectives of the project include:
* Identifying and sharing best practices in the region with respect
to women’s access to justice
Analyzing the current challenges that confront the countries of the
region in this area
* Formulating recommendations designed to strengthen the best
practices and overcome the obstacles
* Amplifying awareness in the region of the guarantees and mechanisms
the inter-American human rights system offers for the protection of the
rights of women
Monitoring, and providing any technical assistance requested by
member States in the implementation of the recommendations in national law
It is vital to the project
that the Rapporteurship incorporate a broad range of information and
sources in its study of the obstacles that impede women’s access to
justice. In this regard, the
Rapporteurship plans to count on the support of a group of outside
experts, as well as a wide variety of state sources and representatives of
civil society. In addition to
written requests for information from these sources, the work plan
includes a series of subregional consultations aimed at gathering data for
the project and providing information to the users and potential users of
the inter-American human rights system about the mechanisms it offers for
the protection of the rights of women - particularly the right to judicial
protection and guarantees. Accordingly,
these consultations will include both working meetings and participatory
date, the Rapporteurship has relied on very limited Commission resources
to carry out its mandate, and is currently seeking external funding to
assist in fulfilling the objectives of its work program.
Such funding will be essential to carry out the information
gathering and promotional aspects of this program, as well as to support
the ability of the Rapporteur to consult with experts in the field in the
design and execution of the project.
Further, such funding will be crucial in ensuring intensive follow
up on the implementation of the recommendations to be issued by the
Commission. To date, the Rapporteurship has received funding
from the Unites States, and a generous donation from the Government of
Finland which will support a project on women´s access to justice.
To date, the Rapporteurship has received funding from the Unites States, and a generous donation from the Government of Finland which will support a project on women´s access to justice.
The Commission is a principal organ of the OAS, charged with promoting, protecting, and defending human rights in the Americas. The Commission derives its authority principally from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights, as well as the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and the other regional human rights treaties. The Commission is made up of seven commission members, who are elected in their personal capacity by the OAS General Assembly, and do not represent their countries of origin or residence.