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1948 Signature of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).  The foundation for the universality of human rights that legally bind Member States to respect and uphold the inalienable rights of all peoples and all nations.
1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Entered into force on 23 March 1976.
1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. Entered into force on 3 January 1976.
1975 The First UN World Conference on Women in Mexico City
1980 The Second UN World Conference on Women in Copenhagen
1981 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) entered into force. The Convention reaffirms the principles of the UDHR and emphasizes the eradication of all forms of discrimination against women.
1985 The Third UN World Conference on Women in Nairobi
1990 The Commission of Women (CIM) publishes the "Conclusion and Recommendations of the Inter-American Consultation on Women and Violence".
1992 The UN Committee to End Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) adopts  "Recommendation No. 19 on Violence Against Women." This Recommendation declares that violence against women is a form of discrimination against women, reflecting and perpetuating their subordination, and requires that States eliminate violence in every sphere. All Countries that have ratified the CEDAW are required to prepare reports to the UN Committee every four years and to include information about the law and incidence of gender violence as well as the measures undertaken to redress and eliminate it.

Latin America and the Caribbean is the first and only region in the world in which all countries have ratified (CEDAW). However, many countries have not yet translated CEDAW and the General Recommendations into legislation nor have they implemented policies, adopted positive actions to eliminate de facto discrimination or met their obligation.

1993 The World Conference on Human Rights (Vienna) historically recognizes that violence against women and girls constitutes a severe violation of rights; that women’s rights are human rights, whether perpetrated in the public or private sphere, calls for gender integration as well as the development of gender-focused mechanisms on international, regional and national levels to eliminate violence and discrimination against women.
1993 The UN General Assembly approves the "Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women".
1994 The UN Commission on Human Rights adopts a resolution calling for gender integration at all levels of human rights and programmatic activity on the international, regional and national levels.
1994 The UN Commission on Human Rights appoints the first UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women to a three-year term with a mandate that permits her to receive complaints and initiate investigations on violence against women in all countries, which are members of the UN. Her first report provides an overview of gender violence, while her second focuses on domestic violence and sexual slavery.

At the regional level, on 9 June 1994, the Organization of American States (OAS) adopted the Inter-American Convention to Prevent, Punish and Eradicate Violence against Women (also called Convention of Belem do Para), a new international instrument that recognizes all gender-based violence as an abuse of human rights.  This constitutes the central piece of legislation on gender violence in Latin America and the Caribbean. This Convention provides an individual right of petition and a right for non-governmental organizations to lodge complaints with the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights. The Convention has been ratified by 29 countries (ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA, ARGENTINA, BAHAMAS, BARBADOS, BELIZE, BOLIVIA, BRASIL, COLOMBIA, COSTA RICA, CHILE, DOMINICA, ECUADOR, EL SALVADOR, GUATEMALA, GUYANA, HAITI, HONDURAS,  MEXICO, NICARAGUA, PANAMA, PARAGUAY, PERU, REPUBLICA DOMINICANA, ST. KITTS AND NEVIS, ST LUCIA, ST.VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES, TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO, URUGUAY,VENEZUELA). Furthermore, the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women adopted by all States represented in the UN General Assembly stipulates in Article 4 that "States should exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate and, in accordance with national legislation, punish acts of violence against women, whether those acts are perpetrated by the State or by private persons." Under the Convention, CIM has the responsibility to take positive measures to advance implementation of Belem do Para while the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) has the power to hear complaints against States who ratify it.


The International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo recognized that reproductive rights are human rights and that gender violence is an obstacle to women’s reproductive and sexual health and rights, education and participation in development and calls upon States to implement the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

1994 Approval of the Regional Programme of Action for Latin America and Caribbean Women, 1995-2001 during the Prepatory Conference (Mar del Plata, September 25-29, 1994). In Area V, Human Rights, Peace and Violence, three objectives are determined: 1) To consolidate the full respect of human rights for all women of the region, giving priority to the elimination of violence and discrimination based on sex, and to the rights of women who are the poorest and to women refugees, taking racial and ethnic considerations into account; 2) To promote actions that reveal all types and forms of violence against women, as well as actions that lead to the elimination of violence; 3) To educate the media about the impact of broadcasting a culture of violence, in order to change prevalent negative images of women

The IV World Conference on Women in Beijing devotes an entire section in the Beijing Platform for Action. Chapter IV. Strategic Objectives and Actions, D. Para 112 states that "violence against women is an obstacle to the achievement of the objectives of equality, development and peace. Violence against women both violates and nullifies the enjoyment by women of their human rights and fundamental freedoms. The long-standing failure to protect and promote those rights and freedoms in the case of violence against women is a matter of concern to all States and should be addressed."  The emergence of State responsibility for violence in society delineated in the Beijing Platform for Action obligates States to condemn and adopt policies that eliminate violence against women. 

However, the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action has not been adequately addressed in terms of violence against women in many countries in the Latin American and the Caribbean region.

1996 The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) considers the proposal to create an optional protocol (OP) to the Women’s Convention. The OP –an amendment to the Convention requiring ratification by States – is needed to create an individual complaints procedure allowing women to challenge discriminatory state policies and practices.

UN Commission on the Status of Women (March) will review four key human rights sections of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action: Human Rights of Women; Violence against Women; Women and Armed Conflict; and the Girl Child. 


UN Commission on Human Rights (June) will review the implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.  Also, marking the five-year anniversary of the World Conference on Human Rights.

1998 Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.(10 December 1998)


UNDP Against Violence Home Page

For more information, please contact Aparna Mehrotra, Focal Point for Women, Tel: (212)963-6828 Fax: (212) 963-9545, e-mail:

Management and direction: Aparna Mehrotra
Website  design
: Lola Salas
Writing, editing& proofing: Aparna Mehrotra, Dana Burde, Rini Banerjee and Tanaz Pardiwala
Graphic: Joan Miró
(detail) from folder by Isis International