Sexual Violence In Latin America And The Caribbean Takes Center Stage At The Inter-American Commission On Human Rights

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(PRESS RELEASE) Human rights advocates for reproductive health, child and adolescents and human rights advocates testified this week in Montevideo, Uruguay on the failure of governments to condemn sexual violence and provide access to justice for adolescents and girls.

The Center for Reproductive Rights was one of 11 organizations that spoke this week before members of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) – a principal human rights body for the Americas.

Every year roughly 185,000 women and girls experience sexual violence, yet only 11% of cases are reported. A declaration signed by more than 100 organizations was presented at the hearing that calls on the Commission to hold states accountable to ensuring that human rights-based policies are in place to provide access to justice of survivors of sexual violence and ensure girls and women can exercise their sexual and reproductive rights.   

Said Catalina Martínez Coral, regional director for Latin America &, the Caribbean at the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“Too many young girls and women who experience sexual violence are oppressed, stigmatized and denied access to justice.

“Survivors of sexual violence should never feel alone or silenced and it’s time for states to provide channels for women and girls to get the medical services and support services they need without fear.

“The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights must call on states to take meaningful action to prevent sexual violence and prioritize reproductive health and rights.”

At the hearing, video testimonies depicted the harsh reality survivors of sexual violence face. The lack of reproductive health services worsens these effects, perpetuating other forms of violence and discrimination. Girls must endure the burden of unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions and a higher risk of contracting STD’s/HVI. Carrying to term pregnancies has harsh effects on girl’s health. For example, according to the World Health Organization, teenage pregnancy is one of the main causes of maternal and infant mortality.

The declaration presented at the hearing calls on the IACHR to recommend states to adapt current policies as well as adopt policies to prevent cases of sexual violence. The declaration specifically calls for the elimination of legal and administrative barriers to sexual and reproductive health services and the development of specific protocols to provide redress for victims of sexual violence, including reparations.

In 2015, the IACHR heard the case of Paola del Rosario Guzmán Albarracín, an Ecuadorian teenager who was sexually abused repeatedly by her school’s vice-principal and later committed suicide after discovering she was pregnant. The Center and local partner Centro Ecuatoriano para la Promoción y Acción de la Mujer (CEPAM Guayaquil) filed Paola Guzmán Albarracín v. Ecuador before the Commission in September 2006, in order to hold the Ecuadorian government accountable for its failure to address sexual violence in schools and to ensure access to justice for sexual assault survivors. This case is still pending.