The Inter-American Court of Human Rights recently heard its second reproductive rights case, IV v. Bolivia. This case deals with the sterilization of a migrant Bolivian woman who did not give prior informed consent to the doctors who performed her sterilization. The judgment will be released in the coming months, and is expected to be the first Inter-American Court case to apply the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women (“Convention of Belém do Pará”) to a woman’s reproductive rights case. This is especially exciting because the Court’s first reproductive rights case, Artavia Murillo et al. (“In vitro fertilization”) v. Costa Rica failed to examine women’s reproductive rights violations through the Convention of Belém do Pará, which ultimately resulted in reparations that were gender-free. The IV v. Bolivia case presents an opportunity for the Inter-American Court to connect gender stereotyping to forced sterilization. It also provides a forum for the Court to expand upon its gender-based analysis in previous women’s rights cases in order to frame reproductive violations within a violence against women framework.
Ciara O’Connell (University of Sussex) and representatives from Dejusticia, Diana Guarnizo-Peralta and César Rodríguez Garavito, submitted an amicus curiae brief in this case in order to emphasize the need to repair gender-based harm in reproductive rights cases. The amicus reviews the Inter-American Court’s jurisprudence in relation to gender stereotyping, and in doing so highlights the advancements and shortcomings in how the Court defines the role of women in society. The amicus suggests that the sterilization of “IV” was not an individual violation, but rather, this case is emblematic and represents a culture of gender-based discrimination and “paternalistic control” within the Bolivian medical sector. The final elements of the amicus suggest specific reparation measures designed to address gender discrimination and stereotyping, and the need to comply with international standards on informed consent.