Convention of Bélem do Pará
Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women
|Adopted||9 June 1994|
|Location||Belém do Pará, Brazil|
|Entry||5 March 1995|
|Condition||On the 13th day from the date of deposit of the second instrument of ratification|
|Parties||32 (Complete List)|
|Depositary||General Secretariat of the Organisation of American States|
The Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women, known as the Convention of Belém do Pará,Organization of American States (OAS). “Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women (“Convention of Belem do Para”)”. 9 June 1994. Retrieved 20 August 2012. is an international human rights instrument concluded within the Organisation of American States (OAS), which calls for the establishment in the Americas of mechanisms for protecting and defending women’s rights, and for combating violence against women‘s physical, sexual, and psychological integrity, whether in the public or the private sphere.
The Convention was adopted on 9 June 1994, at the 24th regular session of the General Assembly of the OAS in Belém, the capital of the state of Pará, Brazil , and it entered into force on 5 March 1995. As at August 2012, it has been ratified by 32 of the 35 States of the OAS ( Canada , Cuba and the Gender Equality in the Gender Equality in the United States of America of America of America are not parties). The adoption and widespread ratification of the Convention of Belém do Pará in the middle of the 90ʼs represents a landmark in the struggle to protect the rights of women, particularly because it received more ratifications than any other treaty on human rights in the hemisphere,Amnesty International (7 June 2004). “Tenth anniversary of the Convention of Belém do Pará: Time for action!”. Retrieved 17 August 2012. and it is the first treaty in history that specifically covers the issue of violence against women.Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) (2006). “Position Paper Nº 2 – Evaluation of the Statute of the Mechanism to Follow-Up on the Implementation of the Convention of BdoP”. Retrieved 19 August 2012. The bodies responsible for overseeing compliance with the Convention are the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, both of which are organs of the OAS.
Table of Contents
- 1 Background
- 2 Substantive Provisions
- 3 Inter-American Mechanisms of Protection
- 4 References
- 5 See also
- 6 External links
- 7 Feedback
The Convention of Belém do Pará was drafted by the Comisión Interamericana de Mujeres, or the Inter-American Commission of Women (CIM). Established in 1928, CIM was the first inter-governmental agency established to ensure recognition of human rights of women, and with a Delegate for each member state within the OAS, it has become the principal forum for debating and formulating policy on women’s rights and gender equality in the Americas.Organisation of American States (OAS). “Inter-American Commission of Women”. Retrieved 20 August 2012. The ICM is a specialised organism of the OAS, of permanent character, in accordance with that found in Chapter XVIII of the Charter of the OAS and article 1, chapter 1 of the Statute of the ICM available at: http://www.oas.org/en/CIM/about.asp. Retrieved 20 August 2012.
The Convention states in its preamble that violence against women “is a manifestation of the historically unequal power relations between women and men”, and recognises that the right of every woman to be free from violence includes the right to be free from all forms of discrimination. This reflects the uniform concern felt throughout the Americas for the seriousness of the problem of violence against women, its connection with the discrimination women have historically suffered, and the need to adopt comprehensive strategies to prevent, punish, and eliminate it.The Rapporteurship on the Rights of Women of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (2011). “Legal Standards on Gender Equality in the Inter-American Human Rights System” (See: Background information to Questionnaire). Retrieved 20 August 2012. Another remarkable quality of the Convention is that it offers extensive strategies and enforcement mechanisms that go beyond the realm of those offered by the United Nations Declaration, inasmuch as the strength of the Convention can be enhanced by creatively combining it with norms contained in other instruments of the Inter-American Human Rights system.Solon Helal, Isabella (16 July 2002) “The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women”. Jurisfemme – Volume 21, No. 2. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
Through the adoption of the Convention, the countries of the Americas have become forerunners in the development of international law that aims to protect women, and it assures them a life free of violence. In fact, until the adoption in 2011 by the Council of Europe (CoE) of the Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence ,More information available at: Council of Europe (CoE). “Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence”. Retrieved 20 August 2012. the Convention of Belém do Pará was the only international treaty in the world that specifically addressed the issue of violence against women.
Yet, as noted by Amnesty International in 2004, despite the international commitment towards the eradication of violence against women that the Convention represents and its widespread ratification in the Americas, ten years after the adoption of the Convention acts of violence against women in the region were far from having been eradicated. This would be a concern shared also by the Inter-American System for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and would propel the same to give a mandate to CIM to undertake the measures necessary to establish the Follow Up Mechanism to the Belém do Pará Convention (See below).
Definition and rights protected
Chapter I of the Belém do Pará Convention, titled “Definition and Scope of Application”, defines violence against women 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) and is understood to include physical, sexual and psychological violence (Article 2). Under Chapter 2, titled “Rights Protected”, the Convention establishes that “Every woman has the right to be free from violence” (Article 3) – including the right of women to be free from all forms of discrimination and the right of women to be valued and educated free of stereotyped patterns of behaviour and social and cultural practices based on concepts of inferiority or subordination (Article 6) – and “the right to the recognition, enjoyment, exercise and protection of all human rights and freedoms embodied in regional and international human rights instruments” (Article 4). The States Parties recognise that violence against women prevents and nullifies the free and full exercise of her civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights (Article 5).
Duties of the states
In line with the chapter’s title, Chapter III outlines the “Duties of the States” and makes it an obligation for State Parties “to pursue, by all appropriate means and without delay, policies to prevent, punish and eradicate such violence” with special emphasis on the introduction of the necessary domestic legislation and administrative mechanisms (Article 7). However, it does not stop there. It proceeds to outline and define the States Parties’s duty “to undertake progressively specific measures”, including programs:
- to promote awareness and observance of women’s rights;
- to modify, through educational programs, social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women and prejudices, and customs and stereotypes based on the idea of the inferiority and superiority of the sexes;
- to promote the education and training of all those involved in the administration of justice, police and other law enforcement officers amongst others;
- to provide appropriate specialised services for women who have been subjected to violence, through public and private sector agencies, including shelters, counseling services, and care and custody of the affected children;
- to promote awareness, through education, with respect to the problems of and remedies for violence against women;
- to provide women who are subjected to violence access to effective readjustment and training programs to enable them to fully participate in public, private and social life;
- to encourage the media to develop appropriate guidelines in order to contribute to the eradication of violence against women in all its forms, and to enhance respect for the dignity of women;
- to ensure research and the gathering of statistics and other relevant information relating to the causes, consequences and frequency of violence against women, in order to assess the effectiveness of measures to prevent, punish and eradicate violence against women and to formulate and implement the necessary changes; and
- to foster international cooperation for the exchange of ideas and experiences and the execution of programs aimed at protecting women who are subjected to violence (Article 8).
In adopting these measures, the States Parties are required to take special account of the vulnerability of women to violence by reason of, among others, their race or ethnic background or their status as migrants, refugees or displaced persons, and of the vulnerability of women subjected to violence while pregnant or who are disabled, of minor age, elderly, socio-economically disadvantaged, affected by armed conflict or deprived of their freedom (Article 9).
Inter-American Mechanisms of Protection
In order to ensure that the State Parties fulfil their obligations under the Convention, specific mechanisms of protection have been set up. These mechanisms fall under two main branches, that is, (1) mechanisms found in the Convention of Belém do Pará itself, and (2) an additional mechanism called the “Mechanism to Follow Up on Implementation of the Convention” or MESECVI, created by a separate statute in 2004.
Mechanisms Found in the Convention of Belém do Pará
In accordance with Chapter IV of the Convention of Belém do Pará, titled “Inter-American Mechanisms of Protection”, once States adopt or ratify the Convention, OAS supervision of these assumed obligations consists of two areas of action relating to human rights promotion and protection: 1) the Inter-American Commission of Women (CIM) and 2) the Inter-American System, consisting of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
The CIM’s supervisory role is a result of the States Parties’ treaty obligation to update the CIM through periodic reports, issued every two years,In accordance with GA Resolution 1456 of 1997, the States resolve: “[t]o instruct the Permanent Secretariat of the Inter-American Commission of Women, in order to ensure follow-up of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women, to report to the General Assembly every two years on progress made in its application and on experiences and results achieved through the initiatives and programs pursued in the member states to combat violence against women.”. AG/RES. 1456 (XXVII-O/97). “on measures adopted to prevent and prohibit violence against women, and to assist women affected by violence,as well as on any difficulties they observe in applying those measures, and the factors that contribute to violence against women” (Article 10). On the basis of such reports, the CIM may develop policy and make recommendations to State Parties in the area of womenʼs rights and gender equality, in line with its mandate and objectives.See Article 2 of the Statute of the ICM available at: http://www.oas.org/en/CIM/about.asp. Retrieved 20 August 2012.
The supervisory functions of the Inter-American System is two-pronged. In the first place, such functions fall under the capacities of the Inter-American Court insofar as States Parties as well as the CIM may request Advisory Opinions from the Court regarding the interpretation of the Convention (Article 11). In the second place, such functions fall under the capacities of the IACHR insofar as it has the faculty to receive and transmit complaints of a State Partyʼs violations of the obligations established in article 7 of the Convention. Such complaints may be presented by any person, group of people or non-governmental entity legally recognized in one or more States of the OAS: “Any person or group of persons, or any nongovernmental entity legally recognised in one or more member states of the Organisation, may lodge petitions with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights containing denunciations or complaints of violations of Article 7 of this Convention by a State Party, and the Commission shall consider such claims in accordance with the norms and procedures established by the American Convention on Human Rights and the Statutes and Regulations of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for lodging and considering petitions” (Article 12).
According to a Position Paper issued by the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) in 2006, although since the Convention’s entry into force the CIM had received State Party reports pursuant to the Convention, the impact of the follow-up on State obligations arising out of the Convention was restricted by the limited resources, the lack of a full debate about these reports as well as the failure to conduct an independent verification and in-depth evaluation of them, among other reasons. The Paper states that the adoption of the Convention of Belém do Pará also did not have the impact that had been anticipated with relation to the complaints procedure falling under the functions of the IACHR, partly because within the first ten years there had been a limited number of cases presented to the IACHR, and partly because of the lack of resources of the IACHR Executive Secretary, and the composition of the Inter-American System organs. In summary, both the CIM and IACHR had significant difficulties in developing their mandate and contributing to the realisation of the commitments assumed by the great number of OAS States that have ratified the Convention of Belém do Pará.
This had already become clear within five years after the Convention entered into force, when CIM conducted research that found that the Convention’s objectives were not being achieved.The Inter-American Commission of Women (CIM) of the Organization of American States (OAS), the International Centre for Criminal Law Reform (ICCLR), and the United Nations Latin American Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders (ILANUD). Final Report (July 2001). [www.oas.org/en/cim/docs/Violence_in_the_Americas[EN].pdf “Violence in the Americas, A Regional Analysis Including a Review of the Implementation of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women (Convention of Belém do Pará)”] Retrieved 20 August 2012. Accordingly, it was given a mandate to undertake the measures necessary to establish the Follow-Up Mechanism to the Belém do Pará Convention.
Mechanism to Follow Up on Implementation of the Convention (MESECVI)
On 26 October 2004, upon the OAS Secretary General’s convocation of the Conference of State Parties, the Statute of the Mechanism to Follow up on the Implementation of the Convention of Belém do Pará (MESECVI) was approved.Organization of American States (OAS). Statute of the Mechanism to Follow up on the Implementation of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence Against Women, “Convention of Belém do Pará”. Approved at the First Conference of States Parties held in Washington D.C. October 26, 2004. Available at: http://www.oas.org/en/MESECVI/about.asp. Retrieved 20 August 2012. MESECVI is an independent, consensus-based system to examine the progress made in achieving the objectives of the Convention. It affords a methodology for systematic, ongoing evaluation, through a forum for the exchange of experiences and technical cooperation between the States Parties to the Convention and a Committee of Experts (CEVI), in order to examine the impact of the Convention on the region, the achievements of the states parties in preventing, punishing, and eradicating violence against women, and existing challenges in the implementation of related public policies.Organisation of American States (OAS). “What is MESECVI?”. Retrieved 20 August 2012.
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