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After 20 years, on Tuesday, December 3rd 2019, the Chilean Senate approved the Optional Protocol for the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (1999), which activates the 1979 United Nations CEDAW Convention, which had been ratified by Chile in 1989 and is recognized as the navigational chart for women’s rights.
This is a historical milestone in the fight for women’s human rights and against all forms of discrimination, as it breaks with the confinement which women have historically felt in their position of participation, and offers them full equality.
It must be recognized that this is an international human rights tool, which is specific in situations of discrimination against women, and is applicable in any case of serious and systematic violations of rights that are stipulated in the Convention. It also allows an individual or groups of individuals to report to the Committee and even to be visited in the field, so that the situation can be assessed, and recommendations can be made, which, depending on the situation, will be either: reimbursement, compensation and/or rehabilitation for the victim.
In this sense, it is important and relevant to implement the Protocol in Chile in order to confront the actions of the current social unrest, since situations such as the one condemned by Human Rights Watch on November 26th are already happening:
“Police officers appear to be more likely to force women and girls to undress than men, according to NHDR statistics and interviews conducted by Human Rights Watch. A Chilean human rights lawyer told us about a case where, despite the fact that men and women had been detained in the same circumstances, the police forced only women to remove their clothes. She also mentioned other cases where police officers touched women’s genitals after forcing them to remove their clothes.”
It will also have an impact on the implementation of existing national legislation, since it places violence against women in the private sphere, while the idea is to move it into the public sphere, which requires the adoption of the bill on the right of women to a life free of violence, which is currently being considered by the Senate. This agreement also makes it possible to observe women’s decision-making capacity, in accordance with the legislation that decriminalizes abortion on three grounds and seeks measures to combat intersectional discrimination against “women with disabilities, indigenous women, women of African descent, migrants and lesbian, bisexual, bisexual, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LBTI) women”, as part of the Concluding Observations delivered by the CEDAW Committee after examining the State of Chile (2018).
But without a doubt, it will be a tool to promote and protect women’s rights, through equality and dignity and without discrimination.