In its statement about the case, the first time the Inter-American Court applied the Convention of Belm do Par, the Court declared that "....these women, in addition to having their personal dignity violated, were also victims of sexual violence because they were naked and covered with just a sheet, and surrounded by armed men who apparently were members of the State security forces." The governments of the hemisphere have the unavoidable responsibility to select women committed to human rights and democracy and, in particular, women committed to the fight against discrimination and violence against women, for high-level domestic and international judicial positions.

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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
                                                                        women’s representation
                                                                   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  
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