Gender and disability stereotyping in a rape trial violated CEDAW (R.P.B. v. the Philippines)

In 2006, J reportedly raped his neighbour, R.P.B, when she was 17 years old. R.P.B. reported the rape to police and underwent a medical exam. Because R.P.B. is mute and has a hearing impairment, her sister interpreted for her in sign language during the police investigation. State authorities did not provide any interpretation for R.P.B.

Police charged J with rape and, in July 2006, the case was filed in the Regional Trial Court of Pasig City, Metro Manila. In 2011, almost five years later, the trial court acquitted J. It concluded that R.P.B. had failed to prove the sex was not consensual. It also questioned R.P.B.’s credibility because, in its view, she had not responded to the attack in the manner expected (ie she had not summoned “every ounce of her strength and courage to thwart any attempt to besmirch her honour and blemish her purity”). The court was particularly critical of R.P.B.’s “failure to even attempt to escape … or at least to shout for help despite opportunities to do so”, which in its view, “casts doubt on her credibility and renders her claim of lack of voluntariness and consent difficult to believe”. R.P.B. received interpreting assistance during only some of the court proceedings.

R.P.B. later submitted a communication to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee) in which she claimed to be a victim of a violation by the Philippines of articles 1, 2(c), 2(d) and 2(f) of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). She also invoked the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to support her claim.

R.P.B. claimed that the trial court discriminated against her by basing the acquittal on stereotypes and myths and ignoring evidence that explained her behaviour (eg her age and disability and J’s physical strength). In particular, she noted that the stereotypes and myths imposed peculiar evidentiary burdens on, and undermined the credibility of, women rape victims. She noted that these stereotypes and myths also led to prejudice against her as a girl with a hearing impairment and caused the judge to question her credibility as a witness. Among other things, R.P.B. also claimed that the State Party did not afford her access to a competent national tribunal, the court was insensitive toward her as a person with a hearing impairment, and there was a lack of awareness and capacity amongst legal professionals about how to handle cases involving sexual violence cases involving women and girls with disabilities.  

State Party’s observations

The State Party contested the admissibility of the communication on the grounds that R.P.B. had failed to exhaust domestic remedies, as required by article 4(1) of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (Optional Protocol to CEDAW). Specifically, it claimed that R.P.B. had failed to file a petition for certiorari, which, it submitted, was an effective remedy in seeking to have the acquittal set aside. It further claimed that R.P.B. could pursue a civil claim independently of the criminal prosecution. Lastly, it claimed that R.P.B.’s allegation of denial of justice was groundless.  

CEDAW Committee’s decision on admissibility

The CEDAW Committee found that R.P.B. had exhausted domestic remedies and, accordingly, declared the communication admissible.

In doing so, it noted that the decision to acquit the accused was final and there was no possibility of appeal for R.P.B. Citing its views in Vertido v. the Philippines, it further noted that the remedy of certiorari did not need to be exhausted by R.P.B. because it was not available to her. It explained that the remedy was: available only to the people of the Philippines (represented by the Office of the Solicitor General); intended to correct errors of jurisdiction (which a claim of sex discrimination was not); and a civil remedy.  

CEDAW Committee’s views on the merits

The CEDAW Committee concluded that the State Party had violated articles 2(c), 2(d) and 2(f) of CEDAW, read in conjunction article 1 of CEDAW and General Recommendations Nos. 18 and 19.

The rights to equal protection and an effective remedy (CEDAW, arts 2(c), 2(d))

The CEDAW Committee concluded that the State Party’s failure to provide R.P.B. with the free assistance of sign language interpreters denied her equal protection and access to an effective remedy, in violation of articles 2(c) and 2(d) of CEDAW, read in conjunction with its General Recommendation No. 19.

In doing so, it affirmed that:

  • the right to an effective remedy is inherent in article 2(c) of CEDAW
  • for a remedy to be effective, rape and sexual offence cases should be dealt with in a fair, impartial, timely and expeditious manner
  • women with disabilities are a vulnerable group and often suffer intersectional discrimination
  • the provision of sign language interpretation was a fundamental fair trial guarantee and essential to ensure R.P.B.’s full and equal participation in the proceedings.

In discussing the State Party’s failure to ensure equal protection and an effective remedy, the Committee noted, inter alia, the following undisputed facts:

  • the lengthy delays in legal proceedings for R.P.B.’s case
  • the limited evidence considered by the court
  • R.P.B.’s inability to understand the investigation and some court proceedings due to the failure to provide an interpreter
  • the burden of finding interpreters was placed, at least partly, on R.P.B.
  • few rape complainants with hearing impairments benefit from interpreting in the Philippines
  • the lack of relevant standards, procedures and policies in the Philippines on interpretation in cases involving litigants with hearing impairments.

Freedom from harmful stereotypes and myths (CEDAW, art 2(f))

The CEDAW Committee concluded that the decision to acquit the accused was based on gender stereotypes and myths, in violation of article 2(f) of CEDAW.

In so concluding, it affirmed that:

  • States Parties are responsible for judicial decisions that violate CEDAW
  • article 2(f) requires States Parties to take appropriate measures to modify or abolish laws, regulations, customs and practices that discriminate against women
  • stereotyping affects women’s right to a fair and just trial
  • the judiciary must be careful not to create inflexible standards of what women or girls should be or what they should have done when confronted with a situation of rape based merely on preconceived notions of what defines a rape victim
  • there should be no assumption in law or practice that a woman gives her consent because she has not physically resisted the unwanted sexual conduct
  • lack of consent is an essential element of the crime of rape.

Regarding the facts of R.P.B.’s case, the Committee noted:

  • the trial judge had relied on myths and gender stereotypes and, therefore, expected R.P.B. to respond to the attack in a certain way
  • the judge formed a negative view of R.P.B.’s credibility because she did not respond in the stereotypical manner expected of an “ideal victim”
  • stereotyping caused the trial judge to disregard the circumstances of R.P.B.’s case, including why she responded in the manner she did (eg because of her age and disability and the accused’s physical strength) and the fact that she did not consent to have sex with her neighbour
  • this stereotyping resulted in a fundamental miscarriage of justice as well as material and moral damage and prejudice to R.P.B.

Recommendations

The Committee recommended that the State Party provide R.P.B. with reparation and education with interpreting, and R.P.B. and her affected family members with free psychological counselling. More generally, it recommended that the State Party:

  • review its rape law to place lack of consent at its centre by removing any requirement that sexual assault be committed by force or violence and any requirement of proof of penetration
  • ensure the free and adequate assistance of interpreters at all stages of legal proceedings, whenever needed
  • ensure all proceedings involving rape and other sexual offences are conducted impartially and fairly and free from prejudices and stereotypes related to gender, age and disability
  • provide regular training to judges and legal professionals to ensure that court proceedings and decisions are not adversely affected by stereotypes and biases.

Communication No. 34/2011, UN Doc. CEDAW/C/57/D/34/2011 (2014)

Decision 

 

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CEDAW Committee declares sexual harassment communication inadmissible (M.S. v. The Philippines)

M.S. was employed between 1998 and 2000 as Director of the Market and Communications Department of a telecommunications company in the Philippines. On 27 June 2000, she resigned from the company after reportedly being sexually harassed repeatedly by G, the company’s Chief Operating Officer. 

In May 2001, M.S. initiated criminal proceedings in the National Bureau of Investigation against G and S, her immediate supervisor, for sexual harassment and acts of lasciviousness. The Office of the City Prosecutor initially dismissed the complaint for lack of probable cause, but, in April 2003, found merit in her allegations against G. A motion for reconsideration, filed by S and G, was denied in May 2004. However, in March 2005, after G filed a petition for review, the Metropolitan Trial Court dismissed the criminal case because G had died.  

In addition to the criminal proceedings, in December 2001, M.S. initiated unfair dismissal proceedings with the Labour Arbiter. In April 2003, the Arbiter dismissed the case on the basis that M.S. had resigned voluntarily and had not sufficiently substantiated her claim that she was forced to resign due to harassment. M.S. appealed unsuccessfully to the National Labour Relations Commission, but was successful in her appeal to the Court of Appeals. That Court annulled the earlier decisions, finding that M.S. had been constructively dismissed. However, the Supreme Court reinstated the decision of the National Labour Relations Commission that M.S. had not been dismissed unfairly. A motion for reconsideration, filed by M.S, was denied.

M.S. then submitted a communication to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee). She claimed she was a victim of a violation by the Philippines of articles 1, 2(c), 2(f), 5(a) and 11(1)(f) of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), read in conjunction with General Recommendation No. 19 on violence against women.

M.S. claimed that the Supreme Court’s decision was based on gender myths and stereotypes. This, she claimed, led to the failure to uphold her rights to non-discrimination in the workplace and workplace health and safety as well as to discriminatory and unequal treatment by the Court. She further claimed that the State Party’s failure to abolish discriminatory customs and practices and eliminate harmful gender stereotyping had impaired her rights to a fair trial and to access an effective remedy for workplace sexual violence.

State Party’s observations on admissibility

It is unclear from the CEDAW Committee’s decision if the State Party contested the admissibility of the communication. However, the State Party did argue that the decision in question was not discriminatory, but, rather, was based on M.S.’s failure to substantiate her claim.

Majority’s decision on admissibility

A majority of the CEDAW Committee found that the communication was insufficiently substantiated and declared it inadmissible under article 4(2)(c) of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (Optional Protocol to CEDAW). 

The majority concluded that M.S.’s main aim was to challenge “the manner in which the national courts, and the Supreme Court in particular, assessed the circumstances of her case and applied national law”. In so concluding, it emphasized that the CEDAW Committee “does not replace the national authorities in the assessment of the facts, nor does it decide on the alleged perpetrator’s criminal responsibility”. The majority went on to explain that 

it is generally for the courts of … States parties … to evaluate the facts and evidence or the application of national law in a particular case, unless it can be established that this evaluation was biased or based on gender harmful stereotypes that constitute discrimination against women, was clearly arbitrary or amounted to a denial of justice [emphasis added].

In the majority’s view, there was nothing to suggest that the examination of M.S.’s case by Filipino courts, including the Supreme Court, suffered from any such defects. Moreover, it concluded that,

even if it could be argued that some aspects of gender-based stereotypes may appear to be indicated in the Supreme Court’s decision, they do not suffice, per se, to demonstrate that they have negatively affected the court’s assessment of the facts and the outcome of the trial, or to corroborate the author’s claims of a violation of articles 1, 2(c) and (f), 5(a) and 11 (1)(f), of the Convention for purposes of admissibility.

Individual (dissenting) opinion of CEDAW Committee member Patricia Schulz 

CEDAW Committee Patricia Schulz issued an individual (dissenting) opinion. Like the majority, she declared the communication inadmissible. However, she concluded that it was an abuse of the right to submit a communication and, therefore, declared it inadmissible under article 4(2)(d) of the Optional Protocol to CEDAW.

In Schulz’s view, M.S. had substantiated her claim for the purposes of admissibility. She had done this, Schulz explained, by identifying passages from the national decisions that pointed to “gender stereotyping in action”. Schulz also noted the failure of the State Party to explain these passages.

Nevertheless, Schulz concluded that M.S.’s delays in initiating proceedings at the domestic level and in submitting her communication to the CEDAW Committee were fatal to her case.

Whilst there is no statute of limitations in the Philippines for sexual harassment proceedings, Schulz concluded that the Supreme Court had rightly determined that, by taking 18 months to initiate such proceedings, M.S. failed to act “expeditiously”. At the same time, Schulz was careful to stress the importance of appropriate limitation periods in sexual violence cases and criticised jurisdictions with short limitation periods. She acknowledged, for instance, that victims in such jurisdictions “risk being denied access to justice if they need a longer time than these statutes foresee to recover from the trauma they have experienced before being able to face a judicial procedure…”.

Schulz also acknowledged that there is no limitations period on submitting communications under the Optional Protocol to CEDAW. Nevertheless, she emphasised the importance of submitting communications in a timely fashion. In Schulz’s view, the five-year delay in submitting the communication and M.S.’s failure to explain why the delay might be considered reasonable abused the right to submit a communication. Schulz explained: “I find that the author should have submitted her communication in a shorter delay than she did, or else she should have explained why she was not able to act more rapidly”.

Schulz went on to call for the introduction of a 1-year limitation period (with justifiable exceptions) to submit communications to the CEDAW Committee. In her view, such a period would appropriately balance the needs of victims and States Parties, help to harmonise treaty procedures and protections, ensure legal security for State Parties and claimants, and facilitate the administration of justice.

Communication No. 30/2011, UN Doc. CEDAW/C/58/D/30/2011 (2014) 

Decision (advanced unedited version)

 

Looking to CEDAW: An Opportunity to Protect Women’s and Children’s Rights in Spain and worldwide (Women’s Link Worldwide)

Gema and Paloma Soria copy

Gema Fernández Rodríguez de Liévana and Paloma Soria Montañez of Women’s Link Worldwide discuss Ángela González Carreño v. Spain, a family violence case currently pending before the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee)

Click here to read the post in Spanish.

 

Factual background

After more than 20 years of being subjected to violence by her partner, in 1999, Ángela Gonzalez left her family home with her three-year-old daughter Andrea after an episode of violence that took place in front of the girl.  Ángela feared that the aggressor –Mr. Rascón – would kill her and her daughter or cause them grave harm. 

Ángela reported the violence she had been suffering, both before the police and the courts on several occasions, and initiated divorce proceedings.  During the following four years that she lived separated from the aggressor, Ángela fought tirelessly to protect her daughter from her daughter’s abusive father and used all the means at her disposal to protect her daughter.  She went before the courts repeatedly to ask, amongst other things, for Rascón’s visitation with Andrea to be supervised.  Despite her efforts and belief in the social protection services and the judiciary, the system failed her and her daughter completely.  Rascón was allowed to have unsupervised visits with Andrea.  On 24 April 2003, during one of these unsupervised visits, Rascón murdered his six-year-old daughter and then committed suicide.

Despite filing more than thirty complaints seeking protection, Ángela’s abuser was condemned only once to a misdemeanour for harassment with a fine.  Ángela had requested protection orders repeatedly for herself and her daughter.  The courts granted the protection order for Ángela, but Mr. Rascón violated the order repeatedly, without consequences for him.  A protection order for Andrea was granted only on one occasion, but even this order was withdrawn later because the judicial authorities said “it hindered Mr. Rascón’s visitation rights.”  In withdrawing the order, the judiciary allowed Rascón’s visitation rights to prevail over the right of Ángela to live free of violence and the best interests of the girl child. 

After Andrea’s death, Ángela unsuccessfully sought justice and reparations from the State for the negligence of the authorities that led to the death of her daughter.  Ángela litigated her case through the court system in Spain, filing before both the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court.  At every instance, the courts failed to recognise the authorities’ negligence in Andrea’s death, further violating the rights of both Ángela and Andrea.  

Why the CEDAW Committee? 

In her hunt for justice, Ángela decided to take her case to an international body, the CEDAW Committee.  She wanted the State to be held responsible for the acts that led to her daughter’s death and, even more important to her, she continues her fight in the hopes of having the case lead to systemic changes and guarantees of non-repetition for other women and children victims of domestic and gender-based violence. 

Ángela highly values that the CEDAW Committee is the only international body dealing specifically with women’s rights, including the right of women to be free of discrimination on the basis of their sex/gender.  The CEDAW Committee has developed extremely valuable expertise analysing the context of discrimination in which the facts of individual communications brought before it take place.  This expertise has allowed it to take its views from a gender perspective that enables the identification of harmful gender stereotyping.  Moreover, the CEDAW Committee’s case-law sets an international standard that can have an impact on all 187 State Parties to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

Ángela’s claim under the Optional Protocol to CEDAW 

Represented by Women’s Link Worldwide, Angela’s communication to the CEDAW Committee alleges violations by Spain of articles 2 (general obligations), 5 (stereotyping) and 16 (equality in marriage and family relations) of CEDAW.

Ángela has claimed in her communication that Spanish authorities violated article 2 of CEDAW by failing to act with due diligence, by all means at its disposal and without delay, to prevent, investigate, prosecute and punish the violence committed against her and Andrea by Rascón, resulting in the murder of Andrea.  Moreover, she has claimed that Spain violated article 2 of CEDAW when, following the murder of Andrea, its courts failed to offer Ángela an effective judicial response or adequate reparations for the harm she had suffered as a result of the negligent actions of the State Party.   

In addition, Ángela has claimed that the State Party’s reliance on harmful gender stereotypes when responding to the violence she and her daughter experienced and when determining the visitation rights of the batterer, violated article 5(a) of CEDAW. 

Finally, Ángela has claimed that the State Party failed to fulfill its due diligence obligation to protect her rights in article 16 of CEDAW, since no remedy was provided after she repeatedly reported the violation of her right to equality in the economic maintenance of Andrea by Rascón.  

Ángela’s expectations 

Ángela’s struggle has always been fueled by her desire to ensure that what happened to her and her daughter doesn’t happen again to any other woman or child.  She is therefore looking to the CEDAW Committee to adopt broad reparation measures and to issue general recommendations to the State Party that can bring about structural changes that will better protect women and children suffering from domestic violence.  Ángela also hopes that her case will clearly identify gender stereotyping as a root cause of violence and discrimination and help to highlight how such stereotyping negatively affects women’s right to access justice.  She hopes that the CEDAW Committee’s views in her case will help to highlight concrete measures that the State Party can adopt to eliminate wrongful gender stereotyping by the judiciary and other state institutions.

Finally, Ángela hopes that her case will help to highlight the significant gaps between Spain’s laws and the protections available to women in practice in respect of domestic and gender-based violence, including through the implementation of those laws by the judiciary and other state institutions.  In her opinion, real, prompt and effective protection for victims of domestic violence and her children is still lacking in Spain, in large part due to wrongful gender stereotyping. 

Status of proceedings

Ángela’s case was filed in September 2012.  Since then, the Spanish Government has submitted its observations on the admissibility and merits of the communication and Ángela has commented on those observations. 

Why did Women’s Link Worldwide take this case?

Women’s Link Worldwide is an international human rights non-profit organisation working to ensure that gender equality is a reality around the world.  With this aim, it strives to advance women’s rights through the implementation of international human rights standards and strategic work with courts, including strategic litigation.

Ángela’s communication to the CEDAW Committee is the first domestic violence case from Spain to be examined by an international body.  Women’s Link Worldwide became involved in the case because it wanted to assist Ángela in her pursuit of justice.  It also became involved in the case because it provides a unique opportunity to review and improve implementation of Spain’s domestic violence law (Protection Measures against Gender Violence Act), which although considered to be a robust law has not been implemented effectively in practice.  

Women’s Link Worldwide hopes that the provisions of CEDAW that require the Spanish Government to end discrimination against women will arm the CEDAW Committee well to make strong recommendations requiring structural changes that will help to prevent similar violations to those suffered by Ángela and her daughter Andrea.  Such recommendations could include directions on how to implement Spain’s current law on domestic violence at all levels (courts, social services, and police) in order to ensure that victim’s rights are guaranteed and a gender perspective is central to any considerations of domestic violence.

Women’s Link Worldwide also became involved in Ángela case because it is illustrative of the problems facing many women in Spain.  In other words, the facts of the case are not unique or isolated to Ángela and Andrea.  In Spain, just like in many other countries, there is a high incidence of violence against women and a lack of adequate responses by the authorities when women try to seek protection and remedies.  In 2004, specific legislation on domestic violence was adopted to ensure protections for victims of domestic violence, but implementation of these laws is greatly lacking.  Judges are reluctant to enforce these laws because of their own biases, regardless of the victim’s rights, and there is no mechanism holding them accountable to do so.  At the same time, the lack of judicial investigation leads to a high rate of cases that are dismissed.

Women’s Link Worldwide was also attracted to Ángela case because there is compelling evidence about the harms of judicial stereotyping.  The application of gender stereotypes by authorities, judges and courts is one of the most significant barriers for the elimination of gender discrimination in Spain and in other countries, and undermines women’s ability to access justice when their human rights are violated.  Judicial gender stereotyping is also one of the main obstacles for gender justice that Women’s Link Worldwide works to eliminate.

Violence against women, the absence of legal protections for the children of victims of domestic violence and judicial gender stereotyping are present in almost all countries in the world.  Women’s Link Worldwide invites the CEDAW Committee to consider Ángela’s communication as an opportunity to address some of these issues, with a view to having a global impact and furthering develop States Parties’ positive obligations to eliminate wrongful gender stereotyping in its domestic violence case-law.

Paloma Soria Montañez has a law degree from the University of Malaga, Spain and a Masters in International Solidarity Action in Europe from the University of Carlos III, Madrid, Spain. She is Senior Attorney and coordinator of the International Gender Crimes and Human Trafficking programs at the organization Women’s Link Worldwide, where she works from 2006.

Gema Fernández Rodríguez de Liévana graduated with a law degree from the University Complutense, Madrid and holds a postgraduate degree as part of the doctoral program ”International Relations: European Union and Globalization” from the same university. She works as a litigating attorney at Women’s Link in trafficking in persons, intersectional discrimination and sexual and reproductive rights.

 

Click here more information about the work of Women’s Link Worldwide. 

 

This post has been published with the permission of Ángela

 

Mirando al Comité CEDAW: una oportunidad para proteger los derechos de las mujeres víctimas de violencia y de sus hijos en España y en todo el mundo

Gema and Paloma Soria copy

Gema Fernández y Paloma Soria, de Women’s Link Worldwide, presentan y debaten el caso Ángela González Carreño v. España, un caso de violencia de género pendiente de decisión por el Comité para la Eliminación de la Discriminación contra la Mujer (Comité CEDAW). 

Click here to read the post in English.

Hechos del caso

En 1999, tras 20 años de sufrir violencia por parte de su pareja, Ángela González abandonó el domicilio familiar con su hija de tres años, Andrea, después de un episodio de violencia que tuvo lugar delante de la niña. Ángela temía que el agresor – el Sr. Rascón– pudiera matarlas o causarles un daño irreparable.

Ángela denunció en varias ocasiones, tanto ante la policía como ante los tribunales, la violencia que sufría e inició el proceso de divorcio. Durante los cuatro años que vivió separada del agresor, luchó incansablemente para proteger a su hija de su padre violento y utilizó todos los medios a su disposición para ello. En repetidas ocasiones acudió a los tribunales para solicitar, entre otras cosas, que las visitas del padre tuvieran lugar únicamente bajo supervisión. A pesar de sus esfuerzos, de su confianza en la justicia y en los servicios sociales, el sistema le falló por completo a ella y a su hija y se autorizó al agresor a tener visitas con Andrea sin ningún tipo de supervisión. El 24 de abril de 2003, durante una de esas visitas no supervisadas, el Sr. Rascón asesinó a su hija de seis años de edad y luego se suicidó.  

A pesar de las más de treinta denuncias que Ángela había presentado en busca de protección, el agresor fue condenado sólo una vez con una multa por una falta de acoso. En numerosas ocasiones, Ángela había solicitado órdenes de protección para ella y su hija. El Juzgado concedió una orden de protección para Ángela, que fue violada en varias ocasiones por el agresor sin ninguna consecuencia para él, y sólo en una ocasión concedió una orden de protección para Andrea, que más tarde fue retirada argumentando que “obstaculizaba el derecho de visitas del Sr. Rascón”. La justicia permitió, de esta manera, que los derechos del maltratador prevalecieran sobre el derecho de Ángela a una vida libre de violencia y sobre el interés superior de la niña.

Después de la muerte de Andrea, Ángela buscó, sin éxito, justicia y reparación por parte del Estado por la negligente actuación de las autoridades que condujo a la muerte de su hija. Ángela litigó su caso ante los tribunales españoles y llegó hasta el Tribunal Supremo y, después, al Constitucional. Uno tras otro, los tribunales fallaron en reconocer la negligencia de las autoridades y negaron su responsabilidad en la muerte de Andrea, ahondando en la violación de derechos de Ángela y de su hija.

¿Por qué el Comité de la CEDAW?

En su búsqueda de justicia, Ángela decidió llevar su caso a un organismo internacional y eligió el Comité CEDAW. Quiere que se declare la responsabilidad del Estado por los actos que dieron lugar a la muerte de su hija y, lo que es más importante para ella, continuar su lucha con la esperanza de que el caso genere cambios en el sistema y se obtengan garantías de no repetición para otras mujeres, niñas y niños víctimas de violencia de género.

Ángela valora al Comité de la CEDAW por ser el único mecanismo de denuncia internacional que se ocupa específicamente de los derechos de las mujeres, incluyendo el derecho a no ser discriminadas por razón de sexo o de género. El Comité tiene una especialización muy valiosa analizando el contexto de discriminación en el que se producen los hechos de las comunicaciones que se le presentan, adoptando una perspectiva de género que le permite identificar la aplicación de estereotipos de género negativos en la práctica judicial. Por otra parte, la jurisprudencia del Comité CEDAW establece estándares internacionales que pueden tener impacto en los 187 Estados Partes de la Convención sobre la eliminación de todas las formas de discriminación contra la mujer (CEDAW).

La comunicación de la autora en virtud del Protocolo Facultativo de la CEDAW

La comunicación de Ángela, representada por Women’s Link Worldwide, alega la violación de los artículos 2 (obligaciones generales de los Estados en materia de discriminación contra las mujeres), 5 (estereotipos) y 16 (igualdad en el matrimonio y en las relaciones familiares) de la CEDAW.

Ángela afirma en su comunicación que las autoridades españolas violaron el artículo 2 de la CEDAW al no actuar con la debida diligencia, con todos los medios a su alcance y sin dilación, para prevenir, investigar, juzgar y castigar la violencia ejercida por el maltratador contra ella y Andrea, lo que resultó en el asesinato de la niña. Además, alega que España violó el artículo 2 de la CEDAW cuando, tras la muerte de Andrea, los tribunales no le ofrecieron una respuesta judicial efectiva ni una adecuada reparación por los daños sufridos por la actuación negligente del Estado.

Además, Ángela argumenta que la utilización de estereotipos de género negativos por las autoridades del Estado Parte al responder a la situación de violencia que ella y su hija sufrían así como en el proceso de determinación de los derechos de visitas del maltratador viola el artículo 5.a de la CEDAW.

Por último, Ángela afirma que el estado Parte falló en cumplir su obligación de debida diligencia en la protección de sus derechos en virtud del artículo 16 de la CEDAW, puesto que no le proporcionaron ninguna solución después de haber denunciado reiteradamente la violación de su derecho a la igualdad en el mantenimiento económico de su hija por parte del agresor.

Expectativas de la autora

La lucha de Ángela ha estado siempre marcada por su deseo de que lo que les pasó a ella y a su hija no vuelva a sucederle a ninguna otra mujer, niña o niño. Con ese objetivo, espera que el Comité adopte medidas amplias de reparación y que dirija recomendaciones generales al Estado capaces de generar cambios estructurales en el sistema con el fin de mejorar la protección ofrecida a las mujeres que sufren violencia por parte de sus parejas o ex-parejas y a sus hijos e hijas. Del mismo modo, desea que su caso sirva de ejemplo sobre cómo los estereotipos de género son una de las causas de la violencia y la discriminación y que visibilice la forma en la que éstos afectan negativamente el derecho de las mujeres a acceder a la justicia. La decisión del Comité CEDAW en su caso puede ayudar a poner de manifiesto medidas concretas que el Estado Parte puede adoptar para eliminar la utilización de estereotipos de género dañinos por las autoridades judiciales y otras instancias del Estado.

Igualmente, Ángela quiere que su caso sirva para poner de manifiesto la existencia de importantes brechas entre la protección prevista en las leyes españolas de violencia de género y la protección que realmente se ofrece a las mujeres, así como los fallos en su aplicación efectiva por parte de las autoridades y del poder judicial. En su opinión, hay todavía una falta de protección real, rápida y eficaz para las víctimas de violencia de género y sus hijas e hijos debido, entre otras razones, a la vigencia y aplicación de estereotipos negativos de género.

Estado del procedimiento

El caso se presentó en septiembre de 2012. Desde entonces, el gobierno ha emitido sus observaciones sobre la admisibilidad y el fondo de la comunicación y Ángela ha respondido a dichas observaciones.

¿Por qué litiga Women’s Link este caso?

Women’s Link Worldwide es una organización internacional de derechos humanos sin ánimo de lucro que trabaja para asegurar que la igualdad de género sea una realidad en todo el mundo. Con este fin, luchamos para promover los derechos de las mujeres por medio de la aplicación de las normas internacionales de derechos humanos y el trabajo estratégico con los tribunales, incluyendo el litigio estratégico.

La comunicación de Ángela al Comité CEDAW es la primera vez en la que un caso de violencia de género de España va a ser examinado por un organismo internacional. Women’s Link se implicó en el caso porque quería apoyar a Ángela en su búsqueda de justicia y porque el caso ofrece una ocasión única para revisar y mejorar la implementación de la ley de violencia de género española (Ley Orgánica 1/2004, de Medidas de Protección Integral contra la Violencia de Género) que, aunque se considera una norma integral y robusta, no se ha implementado de manera efectiva en la práctica.

Women’s Link espera que las disposiciones de la CEDAW, que requieren al gobierno español que ponga fin a la discriminación contra las mujeres, provean al Comité de las herramientas necesarias para adoptar recomendaciones contundentes que produzcan cambios estructurales y que ayuden a prevenir violaciones de derechos similares a las sufridas por Ángela y su hija Andrea. Esas recomendaciones podrían incluir indicaciones sobre la manera de implementar la actual ley española de violencia de género en distintos niveles (tribunales, policía y servicios sociales) para asegurar que los derechos de las víctimas son protegidos y que la perspectiva de género preside cualquier consideración relativa a la violencia de género.

Women’s Link se unió a la causa de Ángela, asimismo, porque los hechos del caso son representativos de una situación que enfrentan muchas mujeres en España. No se trata de hechos únicos ni aislados. En España, al igual que en muchos otros países del mundo, hay una alta incidencia de violencia contra las mujeres y una falta de respuesta adecuada por parte de las autoridades cuando ellas buscan protección y soluciones. En 2004, se adoptó legislación específica sobre violencia doméstica en España para asegurar la protección de las víctimas de esta violencia; sin embargo, la aplicación de la norma es deficiente. Algunos jueces y juezas son reacios a hacer cumplir la ley a causa de sus propios prejuicios, independientemente de los derechos de la víctima, y no hay ningún mecanismo para hacerlos responsables por ello. Igualmente, la falta de una adecuada investigación judicial conduce a una alta tasa de procedimientos que son archivados.

Women’s Link también se sintió atraída por el caso de Ángela porque existen pruebas contundentes de los daños que causan los estereotipos de género. La aplicación de este tipo de estereotipos por las autoridades y los tribunales constituye una de las barreras más importantes para la eliminación de la discriminación por género en España y en otros países, y mina la capacidad de las mujeres de acceder a la justicia cuando se vulneran sus derechos humanos. Los estereotipos de género en el ámbito judicial son, también, uno de los principales obstáculos para la justicia de género que Women’s Link trabaja para enfrentar y eliminar.

La violencia contra las mujeres, la falta de consideración como víctimas a los hijos e hijas de las mujeres que sufren violencia de género –con la consiguiente desprotección– en las legislaciones nacionales y la utilización de estereotipos de género negativos en el ámbito judicial están presentes en casi todos los países del mundo. Women’s Link invita al Comité CEDAW a que considere la comunicación de Ángela como una oportunidad para abordar estas cuestiones con vistas a generar un impacto global y a avanzar en el desarrollo de las obligaciones positivas de los Estados para eliminar los estereotipos de género en su jurisprudencia sobre violencia doméstica y de género.

 

Paloma Soria Montañez es licenciada en Derecho por la Universidad de Málaga, España, y tiene un Máster en Acción Solidaria Internacional en Europa por la Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, España. Es abogada senior y coordina las líneas de trabajo de Trata de Seres Humanos y Crímenes Internacionales de Género en la organización Women’s Link Worldwide, donde trabaja desde 2006.

Gema Fernández Rodríguez de Liévana es licenciada en Derecho por la Universidad Complutense de Madrid y posee un Diploma de Estudios Avanzados del programa de doctorado ‘Relaciones Internacionales: Unión Europea y Globalización’ de la misma universidad. Trabaja como abogada en Women’s Link en las líneas de Trata de Seres Humanos, Discriminación Interseccional y Derechos Sexuales y Reproductivos.

 

Más información sobre Women’s Link en womenslinkworldwide.org

 

Este post ha sido publicado con la autorización de Ángela