Inter-American Court Declares New Right to Comprehensive Sexuality Education

By | September 11, 2020

NEW YORK, September 11 (C-Fam) The Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled that Ecuador is responsible for the suicide of a 16-year old girl sexually abused by her vice-principal because among many other failures, it did not mandate comprehensive sexuality education in the country’s schools.

Paola Guzmán Albarracin’s, a 16-year old girl, poisoned herself in 2002 after she was sexually abused by the vice-principal of her school in Ecuador for two years. She left three letters explaining her suicide attempt. One, addressed to the vice-principal, said she felt “cheated” by him because he had been with other women.

In 2006, the abortion law firm Center for Reproductive Rights asked the court for a broad ruling, imposing a range of new social policies on Ecuador based on international human rights standards developed by UN committees. Now, after several years, the court has decided to grant that sweeping ruling.

The Center for Reproductive Rights argued that the government of Ecuador had violated Paola Guzmán’s international rights based on the recommendations of UN committees that Ecuador must adopt sex education programs. They also argued that Paola Guzmán’s rights to life, personal integrity, personal security, freedom from violence, non-discrimination, judicial guarantees, judicial protection, as well as a right to special government protection due to being a minor had also been violated.

Ecuador conceded that it had failed to protect the girl from sexual abuse. It conceded that it had failed to develop protective policies as well as to aggressively prosecute perpetrators of sexual abuse in its school systems from the outset of the litigation. The government of Ecuador only did not concede all the claims of the Centre for Reproductive Rights.

Ecuador also did not concede to all the findings of fact of the court, complaining that the court was relying on depositions and testimony that the government was never afforded an opportunity to contest.  This did not matter to the court, which sided entirely with the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Following the decision of the Court, the Center for Reproductive Rights is claiming that the Court has imposed a sweeping set of obligations on all countries in Latin America, including to “guarantee that the right to comprehensive education includes access to sexual and reproductive education adapted to the needs of girls and adolescents.”

The abortion law firm also claims the court has ruled that all countries in Latin America must “recognize that adolescent girls have freedoms, among which are sexual freedom and self-control of their bodies” as well and must promote “the empowerment of girls towards challenging patriarchal norms and stereotypes.”

Unlike U.S. Supreme Court rulings, rulings of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights are not supposed to have precedential value. Under the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights, the rulings of the court are only binding on the countries involved in the litigation before it. But in recent years the court has ruled that its own decisions must be incorporated into the laws of all countries and that national courts must follow them as binding precedent.

The Inter-American Court calls this new legal doctrine “constitutionality control.” And it is powerful weapon that social activists of all political stripes would like to make use of to advance their policies when the democratic process fails them. The court has already sought to impose an obligation to homosexual marriage on all Latin America.

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