Washington D.C., October 31, 2023.- Twenty days prior to Nicaragua’s withdrawal from the Organization of American States (OAS), the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), in its Concluding Observations, urged the Nicaraguan authorities to retract their complaint against the Organization of American States Charter. The Committee also urged the State to engage in dialogue and take necessary measures to comply with its observations on the promotion and protection of the rights of women and girls in the country.
During the review on 23 October, Ambassador Rosalía Concepción Bohórquez Palacios made a statement calling the Committee “biased” and departed from the review without providing information on budget allocations for the Ministry of Women, the adoption of a national gender equality policy, or measures to ensure that women – particularly those residing in the Autonomous Regions of the Caribbean – benefit from public programs to promote gender equality and eliminating discrimination. The State of Nicaragua has progressively withdrawn from international treaties and has broken commitments to international human rights treaty bodies by not actively participating in their revisions.
Repeal of Laws that Discriminate Against Women
Considering concerning reports spanning the last four years, which have documented 7,000 cases of attacks against women human rights defenders branded as “traitors” and “coup plotters,” as well as the non-implementation of protective measures issued by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in connection with 38 cases of women human rights defenders subjected to intimidation and reprisals, the Committee called on the State of Nicaragua to repeal all legislation that discriminates against women on the basis of their political opinions and their participation in political and public life. Among these laws are the Foreign Agents Law (Law 1040), the Special Law on Cybercrimes (Law 1042), and the Law for the Defense of the Rights of the People to Independence, Sovereignty and Self-Determination for Peace (Law 1055).
The Committee further pressed the State to immediately release the women detained for their dissenting political views and ensure the safeguarding of their right to life, liberty, and physical and psychological well-being during and after their release. As of 31 August, 16 women were deprived of their liberty for political reasons, according to the Mechanism for the Recognition of Political Prisoners.
According to the Committee, the State should adopt a plan of action for the reparation, rehabilitation, and compensation of these women. Additionally, the State should conduct investigations, prosecutions, and convictions of individuals responsible for acts of reprisal and assaults against the women human rights defenders and activists, even if the perpetrators are state agents.
Safe Return of Stateless Women Defenders
In its observations, the Committee also requests the repeal of Law 1145 or the “Special Law Regulating the Loss of Nicaraguan Nationality,” which provides that persons sentenced under Law 1055, the “Law for the Defense of the Rights of the People to Independence, Sovereignty and Self-Determination for Peace” will lose their Nicaraguan nationality and has left more than 317 persons stateless. This includes women political prisoners, renowned feminist and women’s rights defenders and activists, and journalists.
The Committee concluded that the State of Nicaragua should restore nationality in all instances where women have lost it for political reasons and implement measures to reduce cases of statelessness (1961) in accordance with Article 9 of the Convention, prevent statelessness, and formulate a plan to facilitate the secure return of Nicaraguan women desiring to come back to the country.
Justice for Victims of Gender-Based Violence and Mothers of Victims of Repression
Between 2018 and 2021, the number of femicides rose to 57 cases, with 220 cases of attempted femicides. These statistics deeply concerned the Committee, which repeatedly highlighted the restrictive definition of femicide in the Penal Code as problematic, as it applies solely to murders of women within relationship contexts.
The Committee also expressed with concern the closure of the National Commission to Combat Violence and the lack of information on the number and enforcement of protection orders and victim support services, including shelter, psychosocial counselling, and rehabilitation for women survivors of violence.
In response, the Committee called on the State to: broaden the definition of femicide to encompass all gender-related murders; implement a national strategy for the prevention of all forms of gender-based violence against women; restore and strengthen the mandate of the National Commission to Combat Violence; and compile data on the prevalence of gender-based violence against women, disaggregated by age, victim-perpetrator ratios, and other socio-demographic characteristics.
The Committee also demanded that perpetrators of gender-based violence against human rights defenders, journalists, women detained during the 2018 protests, and mothers of fatal victims of protest-related repression be properly prosecuted and convicted. It emphasized the importance of providing adequate remedies, including reparations, to the victims.
Laws that Address Intersectional Forms of Discrimination
Furthermore, the Committee expressed concern about the intersecting forms of discrimination faced by Indigenous and Afro-descendant women in Nicaragua, who encounter limited access to education, employment, economic opportunities, healthcare, and participation in decision-making processes within the State. These challenges are compounded by a heightened risk of gender-based violence, including sexual violence and forced evictions of Indigenous women, particularly in territories such as the Bosawás Reserve and the Mayagna Sauni As Indigenous territory, which frequently experience incursions by non-Indigenous settlers.
In this regard, the Committee urged the State to develop legislation and policies addressing intersectional forms of discrimination against Indigenous and Afro-descendant women and girls. Additionally, it called for effective investigations, prosecutions, and penalties for crimes occurring in ancestral territories, along with the provision of appropriate remedies and reparations for victims.
The Committee stressed the importance of ensuring that Indigenous women obtain land titles and collective control over the land, water, forests, fisheries, aquaculture, and other resources they have owned, occupied, used or acquired.
The Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) reminds the State of Nicaragua that the ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women entails the obligation to submit reports, participate in constructive dialogues with the CEDAW Committee and comply with the recommendations made by the Committee. Therefore, we urge the State to comply with the recommendations made and to establish communications with the Committee in favor of the protection of women and girls and halt the repression and violence against women defenders, activists, and journalists expressing dissenting opinions.
Lastly, Race and Equality acknowledges the invaluable role played by Nicaraguan civil society organizations that, despite significant risks, continue to monitor and document the human rights situation of Nicaraguan women inside and outside the country. Their dedication and reporting significantly contributed to this review and the formulation of valuable Concluding Observations, which serve a roadmap for the State of Nicaragua to fulfill its obligations outlined in CEDAW.