Paola's Case: Inter-American Court of Human Rights

Paola Guzmán Albarracín v. Ecuador


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In a landmark ruling, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights established legally binding standards to prevent sexual violence and harassment in schools throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and held Ecuador responsible for failing to protect Paola Guzmán v Albarracín, an Ecuadorian girl who was sexually abused by the vice-principal of the public school she attended. Although the school authorities found out in time that she had ingested white phosphorus, they let her die by not taking her to a hospital or informing her family. 

The judges found that the suffering caused by the continual sexual abuse is what led Paola to attempt to take her own life. She died in 2002, at the age of 16, and since then her mother sought justice for her daughter. The Court’s decision in the case, Paola Guzmán Albarracín v. Ecuador, clarifies for the first time that the right to education must also include sexual and reproductive education and also recognizes that adolescents and girls have freedoms, among which are sexual freedom and self-control of their bodies, that can be exercised according to their capacity and maturity, which are evolving.

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