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From monitoring to demanding women’s rights in Latin America. The time is now.

FRIDAY FILE: In December 2011, the Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defense of Women’s Rights (CLADEM) launched the campaign For a State that fulfills its duties towards women’s human rights[1].

AWID spoke to Elba Núñez Ibáñez, CLADEMS’s Regional Coordinator, about the goals and scope of this campaign.

[1] The Campaign is conducted by an Alliance including Inter-American Platform for Human Rights, Democracy and Development (PIDHDD), International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Red-DESC) and the Afro-Latin American, Afro-Caribbean and African Diaspora Women’s Network.

By Gabriela De Cicco

AWID: What is the goal of this Campaign and why are you launching it now?

Elba Núñez Ibáñez (ENI): We begin from the belief that we must demand that States address their obligations in terms of women’s human rights. We asked ourselves why States across the region that have ratified international instruments still do not comply with their obligations and commitments. These obligations are monitored by the United Nations (UN) System Committees and CLADEM has been involved in this monitoring process. In coordination with several other organizations we have managed to monitor States compliance with their commitments to women’s human rights. Through our Monitoring Program, CLADEM has systematized the Committees’ recommendations and concluding observations[1] and we found a series of pending issues and outstanding obligations that States have systematically failed to comply with, which are affecting women’s lives and hampering their development.

We believe that, as women, we cannot just accept the indifference of the States, given the serious setbacks that are happening, like the prohibition on using emergency contraception pills (ECPs) in Honduras or the absolute criminalization of abortion in Nicaragua. We also acknowledge favorable contexts towards achieving commitments, like the re-opening of forced sterilization cases in Peru after the out of court settlement in the case MM vs Peru; the full Parliamentary discussion with approval by one chamber of the bill to decriminalize abortion or the repeal of the provision in the Argentinian penal code that allowed a rapist to avoid imprisonment if he married the victim. While there are some favorable contexts in the region, to the extent that citizens and organizations are aware of the outstanding obligations and demand their fulfillment, we think this Campaign can have political influence and contribute to advocacy.

The Campaign includes several outreach, mobilization and advocacy actions that CLADEM will develop during the year in 14 countries across the region where consolidated networks exist: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, [Commonwealth of] Puerto Rico, and Uruguay. In each national context, through our national networks and alliances, we will evaluate how to make demands of the three State branches. Different situations and contexts could be more open and that will allow us to achieve public commitments from the authorities to meet particular obligations.

AWID: What are you demanding from States?

ENI: We demand that they guarantee equality between women and men through the elimination of discriminatory laws and practices and the ratification of CEDAW’s Optional Protocols by those countries that have not yet done so. In addition, that they support equality and shared responsibility in care work to eradicate poverty, guaranteeing equal opportunities for women and men and that they guarantee a life free from violence for women and girls. We demand sexual autonomy and reproductive autonomy and access to sexual and reproductive resources and services. We also demand access to secular, intercultural, non-sexist and non-discriminatory education, something we have been fighting for through our previous advocacy campaign “Campaign for a Non-Sexist and Non-Discriminatory Education”. All this will enable the implementation of public policies providing full guarantees for women, as well as access to justice and the justiciability of their claims.

AWID: What are the Campaign’s main topics and how did you define them?

ENI: From the systematization and review done by CLADEM with the support of Susana Chiarotti[2], we could identify and reflect on those issues that have been consistently addressed in concluding observations by the Committees’ monitoring the instruments[3].

The three main topics that came out of systematizing the gender-sensitive jurisprudence we have achieved and also from our analysis of compliance with outstanding obligations were: women and girls’ right to a life free from violence; sexual and reproductive autonomy; and secular, intercultural, inclusive, non-sexist and non-discriminatory education. Within the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR), we will focus on the situation of domestic workers, the right to housing and the wage gap between men and women.

AWID: Why do States not fulfill their obligations to guarantee access to and exercise of women’s rights?

ENI: There is a lack of political will by some States to fulfilling their obligations. We see they have not repealed discriminatory laws and they have failed to design and implement public policies guaranteeing equality and non-discrimination for women, and allocating adequate budgets. Another reason is the serious influence of some fundamentalist groups, particularly religious ones, which hamper the progress towards and fulfillment of these obligations. For example in Paraguay where, up to now, they have managed to stop the passage of a Sexual, Reproductive and Maternal-Perinatal Health Bill and the enforcement of the Guiding Education Framework for sexuality education in the school system, by conducting massive disinformation campaigns. Another example is the presidential veto to the abortion law in Uruguay, the prohibition to use ECPs in Honduras and the absolute criminalization of abortion in Nicaragua.

AWID: How will the Campaign be implemented and how will you monitor its influence?

ENI: Form December 2011 to December 2012 CLADEM’s national networks and allied organizations are developing advocacy plans per country that will allow us to prioritize different pending obligations in each one of the countries, using sensitization, lobbying and demonstrations as strategies. We have planned to organize public actions and issue statements around key dates to make the claims visible and at the same time demand fulfillment of these commitments, bringing our voices also to international spaces, including Río +20, Economic Commission for Latin America and Caribbean (ECLAC), Cairo +20, to highlight the lack of fulfillment by the different countries, according to their specific contexts.

The idea is to monitor and evaluate the progress indicators, including public commitments by the three State branches, inclusion in State agendas, progress in Parliamentary discussions on the issues related to our claims and public policies that take our concerns into account. We will broaden alliances to add voices to strengthen our advocacy, because we know that when others learn about the campaign and that there are outstanding obligations, they will become enraged and join the Campaign.

AWID: What will happen regarding the campaign after December 2012?

ENI: Based on the progress made during the first stage of the Campaign we will be able to refine and strengthen the strategies in the coming years. If we manage to go deeper in our advocacy, exchanging learning and experiences that have proven successful and achieved a high impact with other networks, we will also be able to closely analyze the progress made by States across the region in fulfilling their obligations regarding women’s human rights. That is, if discriminatory laws have been repealed, if others have been passed to advance rights or if gender-sensitive policies have been expressed in public budgets whenever there has been a public committed to do so.

[1] Including their decisions and resolutions, and the out of court settlements resulting from litigation before the Inter-American and universal human rights systems.

[2] A member of Cladem Argentina and of CLADEM’s Consultative Board

[3] The United Nations (UN) system committees that we monitored were the CEDAW Committee – overseeing the enforcement of the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women; the Human Rights Committee (HRC), monitoring the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), monitoring the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) that oversees the Convention on the Rights of the Child; and the Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) monitoring the International Convention against All Forms of Racial Discrimination. In the Inter-American system (OEA) we monitor implementation of the Belem do Para Convention and the observations issued by the Committee of Experts on Violence (CEVI).

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