Today, President Lenín Moreno of Ecuador, on behalf of the State of Ecuador, held a public act of recognition of responsibility for the sexual violence suffered by teenager Paola Guzmán Albarracín that led her to suicide nearly two decades ago.
The apology was made to Petita Albarracín and Denisse Guzmán, Paola's mother and sister, in compliance with a ruling issued in August by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) that held Ecuador responsible for failing to protect Paola and that set standards to protect schoolgirls from sexual violence throughout the Latin American region.
As part of the measures included in the Court’s ruling, Albarracín and Guzmán were awarded Paola’s high school diploma posthumously and President Lenín issued an Executive Order establishing a National Day for the Fight Against Sexual Violence in Classrooms.
Today’s acts represented the first steps in satisfying the sentence issued by the Court this year in a case brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights and CEPAM-Guayaquil on behalf on Paola’s family.
"Today I accept the diploma in the name of my Paola because it was one of her dreams to graduate from school to continue studying. Although nothing, nothing, can bring back my Paola, this degree recognizes everything that she lived for and everything that the system denied her," said Petita Albarracín. "It was finally proven that my daughter was the victim. With this, my family is at peace."
According to Lita Martínez, executive director of CEPAM-Guayaquil, “The public apology act makes it clear that Paola and all victims of sexual violence are just that, victims, never guilty or responsible for the devastating events that have taken the lives of many girls and adolescents in Ecuador and in the region.”
"A long mourning period of 18 years closes for Petita and Denisse who are starting a new life in which they will actively join the fight for rights and justice," added Martínez.
The Inter-American Court’s ruling will have a wide-reaching effect across Latin America as it requires 25 countries in the region to create policies to prevent sexual harassment and abuse in schools and could impact other States that are part of the Inter-American System of Human Rights.
"Today, Petita Albarracín has achieved justice, and the public act in Ecuador marks the beginning of a process of implementation of the Court's decision that we, along with other civil society organizations, will be advancing and closely monitoring in favor of all girls and adolescents in Latin America and the Caribbean,” said Catalina Martínez Coral, regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Center for Reproductive Rights.
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