In Paraguay, a woman who reported being a victim of sexual harassment has been forced into exile after civil and criminal prosecution.
This November 1st, the Association of Technology, Education, Development, Research and Communication (TEDIC) and the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) will file a petition before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) against the Paraguayan state for discrimination, lack of access to justice, and lack of judicial independence in the case of Belén Whittingslow.
The Inter-American Human Rights System (IAHRS) is comprised of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and Inter-American Court of Human Rights, whose mission is to protect human rights in the Americas. Through the case system, it is possible for a person whose rights have been violated and who has not received a response in their country to file a case for the violation of their rights against the State that committed the violation. The filing of the petition is the first step for the IAHRS to protect the victim’s rights.
The victim, in addition to being sexually harassed by a person in a position of power, was re-victimized by the Paraguayan justice system. She was not respected by the guarantees of due process, was denied access to justice within the process she initiated — due to sexual harassment and other events — and was denied the right to present evidence from her mobile device due to dismissal based on discriminatory arguments. In addition, she was involved in a criminal proceeding, without evidence against her, for purchasing university grades. Her defense was cancelled and she was declared in absentia. An order for her arrest was filed and she was denied access to the files of her case, for reasons that are not established by law.
Belén was implicated in two legal proceedings against her, which continue to date, as a criminal defendant for allegedly “producing an inauthentic document” and as a civil defendant on behalf of her aggressor, who is claiming the payment of 450,000 USD in damages. When her capture was ordered unjustly, Belén was forced to seek refuge in a neighboring country.
The case of Belén Whittingslow reflects the situation of gender-based violence, discrimination, stigmatization and lack of access to justice suffered by women seeking justice and reparation in the region, which is why it is essential for the IAHRS to hear the case and make a statement.