MADRE Statements

Report Released Today - From Forced Sterilization to Forced Psychiatry: Violations of the Human Rights of Women with Disabilities and Transgender Persons in Colombia

Posted on: Monday, September 30, 2013

Keywords: Colombia

Today, human rights organizations submitted a joint shadow report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (the Committee). The report titled, From Forced Sterilization to Forced Psychiatry: Violations of the Human Rights of Women with Disabilities and Transgender Persons in Colombiaby fourteen organizations including MADRE, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), the International Women’s Human Rights (IWHR) Clinic at CUNY School of Law, and a coalition of Colombian organizations which includes PAIIS Law Clinic at the University of Los Andes in Bogota will be considered during the review of the Government of Colombia’s compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) to be held at the UN in Geneva on October 2, 2013. 

This report addresses four major areas of concern: (1) the negative impact of laws that rob women with disabilities of their right to make informed legal decisions including those related to their sexual and reproductive rights; (2) the persistence of sexual violence and gender-based discrimination in the context of armed conflict; (3) systematic discrimination against transgender people, (4) the lack of access to adequate health care for pregnant women with HIV, women assaulted with chemical agents and transgender people. 

The report includes the perspective of individuals who have suffered under these policies, as well as providing an in-depth evaluation of widespread human rights violations. 

“Under Colombia’s unrestricted guardianship law, women and girls with disabilities are regularly subjected to surgical sterilization without their informed consent under the guise of a protective measure,” said Lisa Davis, MADRE Human Rights Advocacy Director and Clinical Professor of Law for the International Women’s Human Rights Clinic at CUNY School of Law.  “State institutions and, at times, even well-meaning families justify the practice as a means to prevent unwanted pregnancy. While this acknowledges that these women and girls are subject to sexual exploitation, it denies them sexual and reproductive agency. It does nothing to lessen a woman’s vulnerability to rape, sexual harassment, or other forms of sexual violence.”

Additionally, the report illustrates the prevalence of police abuse against transgender individuals. Survivors of such abuse characterize it as aggressive and habitual as well as largely unreported.  The report outlines the difficulty transgender people face in accessing gender-affirming healthcare, which often compounds discrimination in accessing education and employment and leaves gender non-conforming people vulnerable to violence. 

“The Colombian government has failed to recognize, address and resolve persistent human rights violations of transgender people,” said María Mercedes Gómez, Regional Program Coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean at IGLHRC. “The government continues to require pathologization of transgender people as a condition for accessing the right to health, prevent transgender people from enjoyment of education and employment opportunities by creating obstacles in the civil registration process and issuance of identity documents, and ignore patterns of impunity in cases of murders of trans women in the country, beginning with refusal to officially document the gender identity of the victims.” 

“Women with disabilities and pregnant women with HIV are being sterilized without their consent. Transgender persons must be diagnosed with gender dysphoria in order to access basic civil liberties, such as a properly issued government identification. Finally we are seeing a dramatic increase in acid attacks as a form of gender violence,” said Andrea Parra, Director of PAIIS, a human rights clinic in Colombia. “The Colombian government has refused to acknowledge these abuses in its report to the Committee and we want to make sure it’s known.”

 The shadow report urges the Committee to recommend that Colombia adopt measures that

(1) Guarantee full legal capacity of women and girls with disabilities with safeguards for supported decision-making; (2) ensure that effective measures are adopted to prevent all forced sterilizations of women and girls with disabilities, including women with HIV; (3) implement policies aimed at eliminating discrimination against transgender persons with regards to their registration and identity documents; and (4) adopt the necessary measures for transgender persons to have access to gender-affirming healthcare, inclusive education and decent work. 

Andrea Parra, Director of the Program of Action for Equality and Social Inclusion (PAIIS) at the University of Los Andes School of Law will present remarks from the shadow report to the Committee.   

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Collaborating organizations that prepared the shadow report include: Asdown Colombia, Entre Transitos,  Procrear, Fundamental Colombia, Grupo de Apoyo Transgenerista (GAT), International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), MADRE , the International Women’s Human Rights Clinic (IWHR) at CUNY School of Law, Profamilia, Rostros sin Ácido, Sinergias Alianzas Estratégicas para la Salud y el Desarrollo Social, Taller de Vida, and the University of Los Andes through the Alberto Lleras Camargo School of Government and PAIIS, a human rights clinic 

Available for Interviews 

Andrea Parra, Director of the Program of Action for Equality and Social Inclusion (PAIIS) at the University of Los Andes School of Law (al.parra241@uniandes.edu.co) 

Lisa Davis, MADRE Human Rights Advocacy Director and Clinical Professor of Law for the International Women’s Human Rights Clinic at CUNY School of Law (ldavis@madre.org)


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