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The Inter-American Court and Commission
have advanced women’s rights
internationally and domestically
throughout the hemisphere.
Now if they can just do more to further
in the judicial system.
BY SUSANA VILLARÁN DE LA PUENTE
osa trembled as she began telling me her story. It was 2004, and we
were in a hotel room in Guatemala City where, as the Rapporteur for
Women’s Rights on the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights,
I received testimony about femicide cases. Of the many tragic stories I
heard, this one particularly stood out.
In December 2001, Rosa found the inert and abused body of her
teenage daughter, María Isabel. The 15-year-old had been beaten and
left for dead. Her distraught mother sought help from local authori-
ties, only to be continually rebuffed. One ofﬁcial even sniffed that her
daughter was just a “nobody,” so there was no point bothering about her now. As
she told me her story, Rosa trembled more from rage than fear.
I couldn’t blame her. It was the kind of rage that starts deep inside, as a
woman from Ayacucho, Peru, told me as she recounted a similar story, “when
there is not enough justice for us.” The litany of abuses against women, such as
those I have met in Mexico, the Colombian Chocó region, in the Sierra Nevada
of Colombia’s Santa Marta, in Comuna 13 of Medellin, or in Buenos Aires, ought
to arouse similar anger from all of us.
Rosa and María Isabel may ﬁnally get the justice they deserve through the
Inter-American system. The case is now on the docket of the seven-member Inter-
American Court of Human Rights (Court). The Court will also hear evidence on
the infamous femicide cases of Ciudad Juárez in Mexico, or in Guatemala where,
in the past three years, at least 600 women have been brutally murdered. These
cases illustrate the achievements of the 50-year-old Inter-American Commission
on Human Rights (Commission) in opening a path to justice for hundreds of thou-
sands of women and human rights victims in our hemisphere.
A M E R I C A S Q U A R T E R LY . O R G ILLUSTRATION BY LUBA LUKOVA SUMMER 2009 Americas Quarterly