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Convention of Belém do Pará 10th Anniversary

Tenth anniversary of the Convention of Belém do Pará: Time for action!

Joint Declaration by Amnesty International and the undersigned organizations.

On the eve of the tenth anniversary of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women "Convention of Belém do Pará" -- the only international treaty in the world specifically on violence against women -- Amnesty International and the undersigned organizations are making an urgent appeal to all member states of the Organization of American States (OAS) with regard to the situation of women in the American continent.

In spite of the fact that the "Convention of Belém do Pará" has received more ratifications than any other treaty on human rights in the hemisphere, we would draw particular attention to the fact that acts of violence against women are serious violations of Human Rights which are far from having been eradicated.

Thousands of women in the region encounter gender-related violence in their daily lives. In the context of armed conflict, women who are fleeing for their lives, refugees and displaced persons, frequently suffer abuse at the hands of the security forces, border guards, smugglers, armed groups and other social actors. In many cases, women and girls who have been recruited as soldiers suffer violence and sexual abuse, even within their own armed groups. In addition, hundreds of women in post armed conflict situations suffer horrendous experiences and never receive proper care.

In the home and in daily life, in times of "peace", violence against women in the region is also a cause for great concern. It is a daily occurrence that women of the hemisphere are victims of different types of violence at the hands of their partners or family members, their employers or other actors, or even of institutionalized violence. A number of studies carried out in recent years have found, for instance, that in some countries in the region as many as 70% of women have suffered some form of gender-based violence. What is more, up to 2003, an average of around 80% of states in the Continent had not outlawed sexual abuse within marriage.1

Similarly, women who raise their voices in favour of the recognition of fundamental rights, the Human Rights Defenders, often have to deal with harassment.

It is often the case that such acts go unpunished. It is not unusual for states to fail to carry out impartial and effective investigations into abuses committed by their own employees. Unfortunately, it is also not unusual that when the perpetrators of such acts of violence are individuals, the "due diligence" required by the Convention of Belém do Pará is absent, and there is a failure to take reasonable steps to investigate and identify those responsible and impose the appropriate sanctions. This is an abuse of fundamental rights, the full magnitude of which is still not clear. This lack of access to justice for women who are victims of violence is thus a shameful reality in the region.

We should not forget that the Inter-American Human Rights System is playing an important role in a context such as the one described. The system has proposed action with regard to the determination of specific obligations for states on the elimination of acts of violence against women; in this respect, the analyses, recommendations and decisions of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and its Report on Women's Rights, and the various decisions of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights are significant. However, such efforts on the part of the supervisory bodies mentioned will never be sufficient to change the situation unless the states parties clearly embrace the commitments laid down in the "Convention of Belém do Pará", adopting, among other measures, standards compatible with that instrument and developing policies to promote a culture which is conducive to the eradica

If the signatories to the Convention of Belém do Pará are seriously committed to promoting and protecting women's rights, it is time to act. As the anniversary of the adoption of the Convention of Belém do Pará draws near, they should delay no more in implementing specific measures to help stamp out violence against women in America in their daily lives once and for all.

For the full list of signatories please see

Stop violence against women. Visit the campaign website and take action at

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