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Commissioners: Rose-Marie Belle Antione, James L. Cavallaro, Felipe González, Emilio Álvarez Icaza, Longoria, Rosa María Ortiz, Tracy Robinson
Petitioners: Colectiva Mujer y Salud, Red Mundial de Mujeres por los derechos Reproductivos (RMMDR), Centro de Investigación para la Acción Femenina (CIPAF), Comité de América Latina y el Caribe para la Defensa de los derechos de la Mujer (CLADEM), Centro de Derechos Reproductivos (CPR), Centro por la justicia y el Derecho Internacional (CEJIL), Red de Salud de las Mujeres Latinoamericanas y del Caribe (RSMLAC)
State: Dominican Republic
Petitioners gathered before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on Monday, March 24, 2014 to express their concerns about women’s rights in the Dominican Republic. Despite the Dominican Republic’s ratification of the Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women (Belem Do Para) nearly twenty years ago, Petitioners alleged that Dominican women continue to suffer gender discrimination and gender-based violence, and that Afro-Dominican women frequently suffer worse discrimination. Petitioners from Colectiva Mujer y Salud, Red Mundial de Mujeres por los derechos Reproductivos, Centro de Investigación para la Acción Femenina, Comité de América Latina y el Caribe para la Defensa de los derechos de la Mujer, Centro de Derechos Reproductivos, Centro por la justicia y el Derecho Internacional, and Red de Salud de las Mujeres Latinoamericanas y del Caribe expressed concerns over a woman’s right to freedom from violence, and cited sexual violence as the most blatant form of violence against women.
Petitioners noted that the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) saw a 107 percent increase in violence against women in the Dominican Republic, and that the Dominican Republic had the third highest rate of femicides in the region in 2013. Despite noting an alleged twenty percent increase in the domestic violence rate in the Dominican Republic, Petitioners claimed that the Assistant Attorney General found that only four percent of domestic violence cases come to light, and that only two percent of the cases end in a guilty verdict. Aside from violence and discrimination at home, Petitioners suggested that workplace violations are significantly underreported out of fear of joblessness and not knowing where to turn. Petitioners further contend that they had asked the State to revise their labor code to meet International Labour Organization standards that deem sexual harassment as grounds for dismissal, but that nothing had been done yet.
Petitioners also focused on the denial of women’s rights, the State’s full proscription of abortion, HIV stigmas, and alleged practices of forced sterilization, the lack of adequate sexual education, and high maternal mortality rates, which petitioners called a violation of the right to life resulting from lack of recognition of gender equality. Petitioners suggested that high maternal mortality rates reflected deep structural flaws, and that many of the aforementioned issues were related to the systematic discrimination against women vis-à-vis reproductive rights. The Petitioners also expressed concerns over the State’s abortion laws, which entirely prohibit the practice of abortion, and over policies that force women to carry unwanted pregnancies to term, especially in cases of rape and incest.
The State assured the IACHR that the Dominican Republic is party to some of the most important instruments ensuring the rights of women, including the Convention of Belem Do Para. Concerning domestic legal frameworks, the State cited various state laws including Article 42 of the 2010 Constitution, which ensures personal integrity for all Dominicans, and prohibits both domestic and gender-based violence. The State further assured the Commission that the State had various prevention programs in place to attempt to eradicate all forms of violence against women.
In response, IACHR Commissioner and Rapporteur for the Dominican Republic Rosa María Ortiz asked the parties how the IACHR should reconcile this data, given the dim picture painted by Petitioners and the more positive data shared by the State. Commissioner Rose-Marie Belle Antoine agreed that during in-country visits, the Commission witnessed sites where young Afro-Dominican women had less access to healthcare and frequently lived in communes with high rates of teenage pregnancy. Commissioner Rosa María Ortiz further demanded to know more about women’s access to justice, and what steps the government was taking to address women’s issues. Despite negative criticism, the State proclaimed that they were not giving up, and would continue to work toward the promotion and protection of women’s rights in the Dominican Republic. Responding to the Commissioners questions, Petitioners refuted the State’s numbers, proposing that there were only two women’s shelters in the entire Dominican Republic, and that the State allocated only two percent of its budget to women. Although the State presented different numbers, suggesting that the index of murdered women decreased between 2011 and 2013, Petitioners criticized government plans as never going beyond the planning stages, and asked the IACHR to ensure state policies that protect against victimization, cruelty, discrimination, and create exceptions the State’s current abortion ban.