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CEDAW: Venezuelan state fails to protect women

Image from Efecto Cocuyo

On May 30, 2023, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) issued its Concluding Observations on the ninth periodic report of Venezuela, after the State party’s combined seventh and eighth periodic reports in 2014.
As usual in this type of treaty bodies reports, positive aspects related to the application of the analyzed convention are reflected, such as legal reforms, as well as the main concerns and recommendations of CEDAW, which significantly exceed the scant progress recorded in the state. Among the critical remarks, are those related to equal access to justice, the prevention of gender-based violence, human trafficking in the face of the migratory crisis, access to sexual and reproductive health and the cessation of state stigmatization and harassment against women with a public profile such as human rights defenders, journalists and opposition leaders.
The CEDAW started with an assessment of the context in which it pointed out the impact of the sanctions against Venezuela while explicitly acknowledging the existence of a humanitarian crisis since 2015. In this regard, the international body “notes with concern the socio-economic impact of the sanctions imposed on the State party by several third States, which exacerbates the deterioration of the economy and the complex humanitarian situation lived in the country since 2015, affecting all spheres of social life, and having a differentiated impact on women and girls.” For the CEDAW, Venezuela cannot justify the breach of its international obligations in the financial sanctions that began in 2017. In 2014 there was already an explosion of the health and food crisis that led to a complex humanitarian emergency because of actions exclusively attributable to the State[1].
Among other substantive aspects, the CEDAW pointed out the existing barriers for women in effective access to justice, particularly migrant women, asylum seekers and refugees often affected by mistrust in the authorities, alongside economic obstacles and the limited availability of free legal aid. The CEDAW reiterated a shared concern in the international human rights system: Venezuela’s withdrawal from the American Convention on Human Rights, which deprives millions of women of access to a regional justice mechanism for abuses. Similarly, it urged the State to ratify the Convention against Enforced Disappearances.
There were also questions about the high incidence of gender violence against women and girls in the country, particularly the persistence of femicides, disappearances and psychological violence, for which there is not even a public record of data collection. Therefore, the State lacks the political will to address these problems. In this regard, the Committee dedicated a section on women victims of trafficking, highlighting the situation in the Orinoco Mining Arc and regretting that the State has not adopted a specific law or published a national plan on the matter. In general, the lack of human, technical and financial resources to ensure adequate support services was noted.
The call to legalize abortion, recognition of gender identity, guarantee affordable access to sexual and reproductive health services, formal employment, education and economic empowerment, as well as political equality, were part of the CEDAW recommendations to the State. A transversal message was the duty to respect and guarantee the rights of women by adopting measures in the Venezuelan context.
Despite the critical assessment of these recommendations, the Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR) prepared a press release that generated reactions from NGOs that contributed alternative reports to the CEDAW review. They sent them a private letter of protest and held meetings with the OHCHR, requesting as reparation the wide dissemination of the recommendations. To date, the OHCHR has not complied with the agreement. AlertaVenezuela joins the call of civil society to comply with what is required and requests the OHCHR to act in harmony with the concerns expressed by CEDAW.