The Challenge of Domestic Implementation of International Human Rights Law in the Cotton Field Case
Caroline Bettinger-Lopez, The Challenge of Domestic Implementation of the International Human Rights Law in The Cotton Field Case, 15 CUNY. L. Rev. 315-334 (2012)
21 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2013 Last revised: 19 Jun 2014
Date Written: 2012
Human rights advocates and scholars have witnessed great normative development in the field of international women’s human rights in recent decades. Several international bodies -- among them, the Committee on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the European Court of Human Rights, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights -- have found that gender-based violence, including domestic violence, can constitute impermissible discrimination under international law. International treaties and jurisprudence have begun to recognize that such discrimination can take on "multiple" or "intersectional" forms when it affects marginalized populations, such as indigenous, poor, or minority women and girls. Sexual orientation and gender identity have been found to be protected classes under international law, and sexual violence has been found to be a form of torture when perpetrated by state agents. International human rights bodies have also examined the question of how states might best respond to structural discrimination and stereotypes, and have incorporated their conclusions into comprehensive reparations orders. These bodies have begun to comprehensively examine the concept of state duty to act with the "due diligence" necessary to prevent, protect, investigate, sanction, and offer reparations in cases of violence against women and discrimination perpetrated by state and non-state actors, particularly in a context where these problems are pervasive and impunity is the norm.
The development of these standards marks great progress for the international women’s human rights movement. While normative development remains an ever-present and evolving goal, the greatest challenge today’s movement faces is that of implementation -- that is, "the process of putting international commitments into practice." The efficacy, authority, and credibility of an international court or human rights body, it has been noted, are measured principally by the implementation of its judgments and other opinions resembling jurisprudence.
In this essay, I explore normative developments in the landmark Cotton Field case before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights -- developments envisioned and championed by Professor Rhonda Copelon, the brilliant scholar and human rights champion, among others -- and describe Copelon’s vision for how those norms might be put into place in Mexico. I then briefly summarize the state of implementation of the court’s decision and offer closing thoughts on the road ahead. As I discuss, the challenges of domestic implementation remain abundant, though important steps have been taken in a positive direction.
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