Commissioners: Rose-Marie Belle Antoine, Rodrigo Escobar Gil, Rosa María Ortiz, Tracy Robinson
As Argentina continues to build gender inclusive legal systems and to train power actors within the State, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) asks: where are civil society actors and local level education? On March 15, 2013, the IACHR held a thematic hearing on the Situation of Human Rights of Women in Argentina. Government representatives, led by Anna Pastarino, requested the hearing and were the sole presenters on developments, asking for the exchange of best practices and requesting continued international cooperation to better implement women’s rights nationally. Argentina focused on the work that the Supreme Court and Office of Women have done to educate and train power actors such as judges, attorneys, and government officials.
First, representatives from Argentina highlighted the state’s obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence Against Women (Convention of Belém do Pará). The Office of Women has two goals. The first goal is to implement more nuanced gender training programs in state institutions so that they are better equipped to handle cases involving sexual exploitation, trafficking, and discrimination. The second goal is to reform the relationships within legal institutions with the purpose of implementing gender equality and providing increased access for women to high level legal positions as judges and attorneys. This is done mainly through mainstreaming gender in judicial statistics as well as developing quota systems for women in high level legal positions.
The state of Argentina as well as civil society organizations in Argentina have been parties to similar thematic hearings on human rights for women in the past. The 144th Period of Sessions on March 28, 2012 brought the Consejo de Organizaciones Aborígenes de Jujuy to the IACHR to discuss the theme of discrimination against indigenous women in the Americas. In 2006, Argentina was involved in two hearings on the situation of women deprived of liberty and the general situation of the rights of indigenous women in the Americas. Human rights for women, especially vulnerable populations such as indigenous women, continue to be a persistent problem within Argentina. During Friday’s hearing, the IACHR commended Argentina for its work with influential political and legal professionals, but again addressed the state’s need for gender sensitive local outreach, education, and law enforcement, especially serving indigent populations and indigenous peoples.
Argentina requested recommendations from the IACHR to facilitate its work in gender equality. In conjunction with the work of the Office of Women, Argentina offered to exchange best practices with other countries in the region including providing and accepting suggestions to better implement the rights of women.
Commissioner Rosa María Ortiz asked Argentina what role civil society organizations play in the process of training and educating legal actors. While she agrees with the state that top to bottom cooperation is helpful for addressing gendered legal issues, it only addresses part of the process. Commissioner Ortiz suggested Argentina use civil society actors as a valuable resource that is currently being under-utilized by the state. Commissioner Rose-Marie Belle Antoine joined the conversation by asking what mechanisms the state envisions for enhancing the administration and access to justice for vulnerable communities such as indigenous peoples. Legal aid mechanisms, local education for women to know their rights, and data collection on whether current mechanisms are efficient and effective are essential to the proper implementation of women’s rights, she said. Commissioner Rodrigo Escobar Gil questioned Argentina’s use of quota systems for judicial seats as a means for creating gender equality in legal professions and asked that Argentina provide other methods of including women in higher level professional positions. Commissioner Tracy Robinson also questioned how Argentina analyzes the effectiveness of existing training programs and how the state ensures accountability of those who have been trained.
Argentina responded to the Commissioners’ questions about lack of participation by civil society organizations and local education by stating that because men make up the majority of high level influential legal jobs in the country, the state needs to focus on top-down education, training and inclusion. The Commissioners and Argentina thanked each other for their time and looked forward to exchanging more information on how to progress with implementing programs aimed at furthering women’s rights within the region.