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The Rapporteur on the Rights of Women (the “Rapporteur) was created by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (the “Commission”) in 1994 to analyse the compliance of member states’ laws and practices (on women’s rights) with the general obligations set forth in the core Inter-American human rights instruments, such as the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, the American Convention on Human Rights and the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women (Belém do Pará Convention). One of the seven commissioners of the Commission is appointed to serve as the Rapporteur for a term of 3 years, once renewable. This means that the Rapporteur is responsible to the Commission and serves a supportive function, as opposed to a fully independent expert. The Office of the Rapporteur ensures that a gender perspective is included in member states’ planning, decision–making, and public policy implementation.

The Rapporteur on the Rights of Women is responsible for:

  • Advising the Commission on its processing of individual petitions, cases and requests for precautionary and provisional measures related to their mandate
  • Undertaking country visits to investigate human rights conditions
  • Conducting thematic reports and studies
  • Developing recommendations to member states
  • Organising seminars, workshops, and specialised meetings
  • Raising awareness of human rights issues
  • Receiving information from individuals and civil society
  • Providing the Commission with annual reports on their work
  • Contributing to the development of international human rights law

How does it help tackle violence against women?

The Rapporteur on the Rights of Women places special emphasis on the immediate need to eliminate all forms of violence against women and gender-based discrimination, as proscribed by the Belém do Pará Convention. Because much of the Rapporteur’s work focused on the laws and practices of member states, access to justice and ending impunity for gender-based crimes has been a key area of concern. For example, from 2005 – 2009, the Rapporteur gathered information on the achievements and challenges women face in accessing justice for violence against women and discrimination. Through a series of regional and sub-regional meetings with experts and circulation of questionnaires to states on access to justice and violence against women, the Rapporteur was able to produce a report identifying specific barriers to ending gender-based violence within the justice system.

The Rapporteur supports the work of the Commission to tackle violence against women through:

  • Country inquiries: Carrying our country inquiries and on-site visits to investigate VAW and the status of women in member states
  • Preparing reports: Preparing special thematic reports on VAW and the rights of women
  • Case assistance: Assisting in the preparation of reports on cases involving VAW and in the development of new jurisprudence with a gender perspective
  • Receiving information: The Rapporteur often obtains information from CSOs through promotional activities (e.g. seminars, workshops and specialised meetings) and has held thematic meetings to gather information on particular issues, including VAW.

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You can also access the Rapporteur’s report ‘Access to Justice for Women Victims of Violence in the Americas’, and other reports

CourtCaseCase Study: Maria Da Penha Maia Fernandes v. Brazil (2001)

Maria da Penha Maia Fernandes was asleep in her home when her husband, Marco Antonio Heredia Viveiros (M.V.), shot her in the head. After enduring years of domestic violence, she was left paralyzed from the waist down and suffering from severe physical and psychological trauma. After surviving the attempt on her life and undergoing numerous surgeries, Maria returned home. Two week later, M.V. tried to electrocute her while she was bathing.

For 15 years, Maria’s case remained in the Brazilian justice system without reaching a final conclusion. M.V. remained free the entire time. With the help of the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJILJ) and the Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defence of Women’s Rights (CLADEM), Maria brought her case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Throughout its analysis, the Commission referred to information produced by the Rapporteur on the Rights of Women. This included the 1997 “Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Brazil: The Human Rights of Brazilian Women” (Chapter VIII) and the 1998 “Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on the status of women in the Americas.  Ultimately, the Commission found that Brazil had failed to meet its human rights obligations and was responsible for the human rights violations Maria suffered. Specifically:

iconLockWant more? Read about Maria’s story and the Commission’s recommendation on our ‘Landmark Cases’ page


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