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Message from the OAS Secretary General on International Women’s Day
By OAS
Mar 8, 2013 - 12:47:46 AM

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The United Nations has defined the theme for International Women’s Day 2013 as: “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women,” and has so given us an opportunity to reflect on the advances and challenges in preventing and attending to this dramatic reality. A good way of commemorating this new celebration is perhaps to ask ourselves what has been the impact of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women (Belém do Pará Convention, 1995), 18 years after its entry into force, and whether or not women have the ability to exercise their right to a life free of violence, as stipulated in the Convention.

At first glace, I would say that the Belém do Pará Convention remains an unfulfilled promise:

- The lack of adequate statistical data on violence against women, its care and punishment, continues to be a significant obstacle to our understanding of the depth of the problem, as well as our ability to address it;

- There remain important gaps in the legal framework on women’s rights, particularly in the lack of recognition and protection of sexual and reproductive rights, which continues to be a deep breach in women’s citizenship;

- Existing legislation on multiple forms of violence – femicide, sexual harassment, rape within and outside the context of marriage, violence against trans persons – is an effective guarantee of neither the rights of the victims nor reparation of the damage done.

It is a matter of both concern and shame that the budget dedicated by Latin America and the Caribbean to preventing or combating violence against women remains extremely small – between .01% and 0.1% of public budgets – while other areas receive much more funding.

The data is chilling and indicates that, however strong our current international and national legal framework, if it is not applied, it has no relevance for women, nor does it support the full exercise of their rights.

We must also recognize however, that thanks to the Belém do Pará Convention, States have incorporated physical, psychological, sexual and economic violence into their national norms. The Convention has provided the basis for the organization of campaigns, the implementation of protocols and care services, the issuing of sentences is cases of domestic violence, rape, harassment and other crimes, and numerous other initiatives and activities.

In 2004, the States Party established the MESECVI – the Follow-up Mechanism to the Belém do Pará Convention, in which 28 States have actively participated, showing a high degree of commitment to the eradication of violence against women. The results of this process include 56 national reports and two Hemispheric Reports on the Implementation of the Belém do Pará Convention, which give us an idea of the advances, obstacles and successes in the fight to eliminate violence against women, as well as providing us with a map of the road to follow.

For all of these reasons, on this International Women’s Day I would like to issue a new call for the intensification of efforts to advance towards the goals that we have set ourselves and the consolidation of what we have already achieved, for the identification and replication of good practices, strengthening coordination between government agencies and civil society, follow-up and evaluation of the effectiveness of laws and national plans, development of capacities in the administration of justice, ensuring the commitment of communication media and allocation of the necessary resources to turn our commitment to women’s rights into a reality and fulfill the promise to eradicate violence against women.

As a signal of our commitment, the OAS has included the MESECVI among its funding priorities, and I urge the Member States and Permanent Observers to support these actions. We must unite our efforts to ensure that, on our continent, promises become reality.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at www.oas.org.

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