Commissioners: Jesús Orozco Henríquez, Felipe González Morales, María Silvia Guillén
: Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), Federación Coordinadora Nicaragüense de Organismos No Gubernamentales que trabaja con la Niñez y la Adolescencia (CODENI), Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir (CDC), Amnesty International, Movimiento Autónomo de Mujeres de Nicaragua, Women’s Link Worldwide, IPAS Centroamérica, Asociación de Mujeres Axayacatl, Fundación Puntos de Encuentro, Centro de Mujeres Ixchen, Movimiento Contra el Abuso Sexual, Sociedad Nicaragüense de Ginecología y Obstetricia, Sociedad Nicaragüense de Médicos Generales, Asociación Para el Apoyo de la Nueva Familia en Nicaragua (ANFAM), Alianza de Centros de Mujeres
Respondent State:
State of Nicaragua
Rights of Women

On March 25, 2011, the Inter-American Commission held a hearing regarding the human rights situation of women in Nicaragua.  Commission Vice-President Jesús Orozco presided, joined by Commissioners Felipe González and María Silvia Guillén.

The odds are against women living in Nicaragua, according to the petitioners’ presentation.  On average, there are 940 cases of domestic violence every month, amounting to 31 cases every day.  Sexual violence occurs 400 times each month, or 14 times a day.  Eighty-five percent of the victims are minors, and one in four of them are girls younger than 10 years old.  Of these instances of domestic violence and rape, 80% are committed by boyfriends, family members, stepfathers, or fathers.

“While the cases of violence grow in number and in brutality, impunity is a constant,” affirmed Azaria Solís.  In 2007, she reported, only 25% of reported cases were heard by courts of justice.  She further explained that “the criminal system puts women’s lives at risk” by failing to provide adequate protection to survivors of domestic violence and rape.

The petitioners mentioned the alarming example of a 13-year-old girl who was raped by her own stepfather, and became pregnant as a result of the crime.  After serving only six months of a 13-year sentence for aggravated rape, the abusive stepfather returned to the house and stabbed her to death.  Neither the victim nor her family was notified that he had been released from prison.

The petitioners argued that, once victims of sexual violence or gender-based violence report the crime to the authorities, the process is “loaded with stigma,” and the State fails to provide effective remedies.  Since 2006, when a national law criminalized therapeutic abortions in all cases, even in cases of rape or to save the mother’s life, access to adequate health care joined the litany of problems facing victims of gender-based violence.

Estelle Major of Amnesty International noted that in the past four years, five committees of the United Nations, including the Committee against Torture and the Committee on the Rights of the Child, have reported on the situation of violence against women and girls in Nicaragua.  “Up to this moment, the State of Nicaragua continues to ignore these recommendations,” she said.

The State representatives mentioned public policies as part of a national plan for development aimed at promoting family health, improving living conditions of children, and building awareness through health education for women and children.  The State representatives highlighted Programa Amor, or “Program Love,” a plan with “models based on kindness, respect and love for children” aimed at “restoring the rights of children.”  The representative noted that 90% of the participants in these educational programs are women.  “This subject is a process, but we are working on it,” noted the representative.

The petitioners requested that the Commission realize an on-site visit to Nicaragua and called on the Commission to promote dialogue with the State to enact legislation to protect women incorporating international standards, end the criminalization of abortion for victims of rape, and to devote time to the problem during the next session of hearings.

Commissioner González asked the State to explain the logic and constitutionality of the law criminalizing therapeutic abortion.  To this, the representatives noted that “despite being a secular country, the State cited Catholic religious beliefs” as motives for criminalizing therapeutic abortion.  The State responded that the National Assembly penalized therapeutic abortion through appropriate legislative processes.

Commissioner Mejía, Rapporteur on the Rights of Women, requested more information regarding training and educational programs in Nicaragua to include in upcoming reports regarding gender-based violence in Central America.  The representatives explained that the data on gender-based violence shows little progress, and noted that Programa Amor emphasizes family unity and reconciliation at the cost of finding justice for victims of gender-based violence.  The representativeslamented the State’s recent refusal to accept international aid in adopting best practices, which the State referred to as “outside interference.”

Violeta Delgado, of the Movimiento Autónomo de Mujeres de Nicaragua, told the Human Rights Brief, “Every two hours in Nicaragua a sexual crime is committed.  The victims are 80 to 85 percent women.  The State hasn’t given a firm, categorical response.  To the contrary, the state of impunity has encouraged aggressors to act with greater freedom and to feel they can evade justice.”  She noted that the state’s programs “are missing a legal perspective,” “superimpose family togetherness over human rights,” and are “carried out with a partisan perspective.”

“Today they approved our application for a new Commission hearing, and we will continue to sound the call so that the eyes of the international human rights community are on the human rights situation in Nicaragua, specifically the rights of women and girls.”

Listen to the hearing below. Escucha en español.