Women's Rights within the Inter-American System.

Author:Goncalves, Tamara Amoroso

The study, Women's Human Rights and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights: An Analysis of Cases Admitted between 1970 and 2008, systematically examined 1,141 documents published by the Commission. These were documents related to individual complaints and they included decisions on admissibility, decisions on the merits of the cases, and friendly settlement agreements.

Beginning with the jurisprudence created by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the study analyzed the status of litigation on women's human rights in Latin America. In looking at how these cases are litigated internationally, one also sees how various movements, social groups, and civil society organizations define and propose a human rights agenda for the region.

Looking at all of the 1,141 cases submitted in the period analyzed, we find that 63.7% (727) pertain solely to male victims and 12.2% (139) solely to female victims. Of these cases, 55 involved violations of women's right to equal treatment. The study considered as "cases specifically on women's human rights" those in which violations or violence were directly related to the woman's gender, i.e., in which being a woman in some way contributed to the occurrence of the Violations or put the Victim at greater risk. This was a methodological choice to demonstrate women's greater vulnerability in certain areas. The cases were organized under three themes: violence against women, sexual and reproductive rights of women, and other forms of discrimination.

Debate on women's human rights within the IACHR revealed conflicts between the public and the private spheres and, in particular, questions involving the scope of the state's capacity to intervene in the lives of individuals. Actions taken by states to guarantee human rights in private relationships raised new discussion of how human rights are defined and protected.

For states, this debate highlighted the challenge of balancing individual and state actions and measures in both private and public spaces in order to guarantee and promote human rights. Where gender issues are concerned, states are often called on to intervene in private spaces, challenging the way in which human rights are perceived, defended, and exercised.

Of the 38 cases related to sexual and reproductive rights examined in the study, 28 involved sexual violence, five involved problems in exercising maternity rights. Of these, four cases involved abortion rights, two involved...

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