Washington, D.C.-

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), within the framework of its Coordination and Timely and Integrated Response Room to the crisis in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic (SACROI COVID-19), calls on States to incorporate the gender perspective in the responses to the crisis and to combating sexual and intra-family violence, as well as the discrimination that affects women in this context. In particular, the Commission highlights the need to adapt the political and legislative measures to respond to the crisis to the needs of women and girls, considering the multiple structural factors that perpetuate discrimination against women and girls and increase their risk situation in the present context.

The IACHR expresses its deep alarm at the figures that have shown the increase in reports of domestic violence after the establishment of the measures of confinement and social distancing adopted by the authorities to contain the contagion of COVID-19 in the countries of the region. . In this regard, the Commission has learned, through its permanent monitoring, of the significant increase in these figures in countries such as Brazil and the United States, which are repeated in other countries in the region. In Brazil, the Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights registered a 17% increase in complaints of gender-based violence after measures to contain the epidemic. Likewise, in the United States, security teams in the country reported an increase in the number of calls to report domestic violence. The Portland, Oregon, police, for example, released data that accounts for the 27% increase compared to previous months.

In this regard, the IACHR calls on the states of the region to strengthen response services to gender-based violence, particularly intra-family violence in the context of confinement and social isolation. This, through the development of alternative complaint mechanisms, the expansion of the offer of shelters for victims of domestic violence and the strengthening of the capacity of security agents and justice actors to offer timely responses in the context of the pandemic.

Furthermore, the Commission observes, with extreme concern, that, in the context of domestic confinement and the decrease in the movement of people on the streets, acts of sexual violence and violations against women, girls and adolescents have increased. In Peru, for example, authorities have reported that, during the first 17 days of confinement, 34 women, including 27 girls, were victims of sexual abuse. According to the available information, these numbers represent an increase in this type of violence in the country.

The IACHR calls on the States to fulfill their due diligence duty, promptly and thoroughly investigating the facts, judging and punishing those responsible, and repairing the victims and their families. These procedures must contain a gender focus and comprehensive protection for victims. In the context of the pandemic, in addition to comprehensive sex education initiatives, states must promote massive campaigns by the media and social media focused on the dissemination of information on the mechanisms available for reporting and supporting victims. In the same sense, States must keep their sexual and reproductive health services, including the distribution of contraceptive methods, prenatal and postnatal care, services to prevent sexually transmitted infections and those for the termination of pregnancy within the possibilities that enshrines its legal order.

In the framework of the pandemic, the Commission highlights that the loss of income and reduction of economic activity is an additional factor to the increase in the levels of inequality and poverty that affects women, particularly women heads of households. The IACHR highlights the need for a specific focus on the 126 million women workers in the informal economy, as well as domestic workers, rural women and sex workers, and other groups disproportionately affected by the pandemic, such as migrant women, women in street situation and trans women. Such policies must have a human rights perspective and focus on the specific needs of these women. In this sense, States must adopt measures aimed at overcoming the disproportionate impact of the economic crisis on women, promoting their socioeconomic reintegration through measures of relief or economic support, through the expansion of their social protection networks and oriented towards promoting sustainable development.

On the other hand, the Commission calls on States to provide due protection to women health and social work professionals, acting in the first line of response to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), worldwide, women represent 70% of people employed in the health sector, and also affirms that women disproportionately occupy front-line roles in the world's struggle to treat infected people, as well as carry out care tasks within the framework of social isolation measures. In this context, women have, in addition to the risks of contagion and the mental burden of their professional work, unpaid family care work, including caring for girls, boys, the elderly and people with disabilities.

  1. Incorporate the gender perspective from an intersectional approach in all the responses of the States to contain the pandemic, taking into account the different contexts and conditions that potentiate the vulnerability to which women are exposed, such as economic insecurity, age , migrant or displaced status, disability status, deprivation of liberty, ethnic-racial origin, sexual orientation, identity and / or gender expression, among others.

  2. Reformulate the traditional mechanisms of response to gender violence, adopting alternative communication channels as well as emergency care lines, as well as promoting the strengthening of community networks in order to expand the means of reporting and protection orders within the framework of the period of confinement and mobility restrictions. Likewise, ensure the availability of shelters and shelters for women victims of domestic violence, in which conditions exist to adopt measures to prevent contagion.

  3. Develop care protocols and strengthen the capacity of security agents and justice actors involved in the investigation and punishment of acts of domestic violence, as well as carrying out the distribution of guidance materials on handling such cases in all institutions. state.

  4. Guarantee the availability and continuity of sexual and reproductive health services during the pandemic crisis, increasing, in particular, measures for comprehensive sex education and the dissemination of information in accessible media and with adequate language, in order to achieve the women in their diversity.

  5. Strengthen food security policies and social safety nets with a gender perspective, including minimum income and health care supply policies focused on the specific need of these women in fighting the crisis generated by COVID-19.

The IACHR is a principal and autonomous organ of the Organization of American States (OAS), whose mandate arises from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission is mandated to promote the observance and defense of human rights in the region and acts as an advisory body to the OAS in this area. The IACHR is made up of seven independent members who are elected by the OAS General Assembly in their personal capacity, and do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

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