…For the purposes of this Convention, violence against women shall be understood as any act or conduct, based on gender, which causes death or physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, whether in the public or the private sphere.
Article 1, Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women
The Belém do Pará Convention entered into force on March 5, 1995 and was the world’s first binding international treaty to recognise that violence against women constitutes a violation of human rights. It is one of only two legally binding treaties in the world exclusively focused on eliminating gender-based violence (see also Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention). The Belém do Pará Convention combines with other human rights instruments in the OAS to provide the framework for women’s human rights and gender equality in the Americas and has contributed to raising awareness of the severity of violence against women. As a legally binding treaty, the Belém do Pará Convention not only condemns violence against women as an assault on human dignity but also outlines states’ obligations to eliminate it. It has been widely ratified, with all but two OAS member states being states parties (Canada and the United States of America).
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Costa Rica
- Dominican Republic
- El Salvador
- St Kitts & Nevis
- St. Lucia
- St Vincent & Grenadines
- Trinidad & Tobago
Chapter 1 of the Belém do Pará Convention defines violence against women and distinguishes between different spheres where it occurs:
- Violence occurring within the family or domestic unit or within any other interpersonal relationship, whether or not the perpetrator shares or has shared the same residence with the woman, including, among others, rape, battery and sexual abuse
- Violence occurring in the community and is perpetrated by any person, including, among others, rape, sexual abuse, torture, trafficking in persons, forced prostitution, kidnapping and sexual harassment in the workplace, as well as in educational institutions, health facilities or any other place
- Violence perpetrated or condoned by the state or its agents regardless of where it occurs
Chapter II identifies the rights protected under the Belém do Pará Convention and Chapter III is dedicated to the duties of states parties in securing those rights. The wide-ranging provisions of this treaty range from educational campaigns to combat prejudices, customs and other practices based on harmful gender stereotypes, to the provision of specialised services for women subjected to violence. They include preventative measures such as the requirement to train all agents of the state responsible for implementing the policies to prevent, punish and eradicate violence against women, and developing media guidelines to assist in eradicating all forms of gender-based violence and enhance respect for women’s dignity.
The Belém do Pará Convention has been supported through the development of a follow-up mechanism (MESECVI) designed to help states to fulfil their obligations at a national level. It has also been applied through the work of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court on Human Rights.