Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Paraguay: Calls for reforms to protect rights of women and indigenous

UN - New laws are urgently needed in Paraguay to protect the rights of minorities, in particular women and indigenous people, a top United Nations human rights official has said, calling on the Government to scale up its efforts to stop discrimination and injustice towards these groups.

During her visit to Paraguay, the UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kyung-wha Kang met with leaders from minority groups and civil organizations – which included women, indigenous people, people with disabilities, older persons and Afro-descendants among others – to hear their views on their living situations and the challenges they face on a daily basis.

“I have heard their plight and I have heard of how their everyday lives are made difficult by fear, bigotry and abuse. Many even suffer physical attacks. And I am concerned that the anti-discrimination bill, and important framework to protect them, has not yet been passed as law,” she said during a press briefing on Saturday in Asunción, the capital. “I urge Congress to pass this essential piece of legislation without further delay.”

Ms. Kang said the situation of women is particularly precarious as they are vulnerable to domestic violence, sexual abuse and trafficking for labour and sexual exploitation purposes.

She also pointed to Paraguay’s rate of maternal and infant mortality as one of the highest in the region and said it was necessary for the Government to “adopt concrete measures to tackle these prevalent problems through adequate education programmes and the protection of sexual and reproductive rights, in compliance with international standards and recommendations issued by UN human rights mechanisms.”

During her visit, which concluded last week, Ms. Kang also visited the Maká indigenous community and met with indigenous leaders who expressed concern about their ancestral lands, many fearing eviction, as the Government has forced indigenous owners in the past to leave their properties to make way for soy production.

Ms. Kang said the Government should “increase efforts to ensure that indigenous peoples’ rights are respected, their participation in decision-making processes guaranteed and their right to prior consultation is exercised.”

“I urge the Government to enact comprehensive legislation and policies to address the highly unequal land distribution and thus protect the rights of indigenous peoples and other communities,” she added.