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Human Rights Court to Hear Groundbreaking Case on Sexual Violence in Bolivia

On March 29th-30th, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) will hear the case Brisa De Angulo Losada v. Bolivia, a groundbreaking case on sexual violence in Bolivia. The case alleges that Bolivia violated the rights of Brisa De Angulo by effectively denying her justice after she was repeatedly raped and tortured by an adult family member in 2002 in Bolivia. This is the first time that the IACtHR will hear a case pertaining to the human rights violations of an adolescent victim of incest.

Unlike the majority of cases, Brisa De Angulo’s groundbreaking case is now before the highest court in the region. This case provides the IACtHR with the opportunity to boldly expand and deepen jurisprudence on sexual violence against children and adolescents.

Brisa and her legal team are asking the court to mandate Bolivia develop a comprehensive strategy to address sexual violence, especially incest, including changing the rape law to one based on consent, broad prevention measures, and measures to ensure effective administration of justice based on guidelines that reflect international best practices. 

You will be able to watch the hearing live; make sure you’re following Equality Now and the Inter-American Court on social media for the link on the day:
Inter-American Court of Human Rights: Twitter (English) or (Spanish) | Facebook | YouTube
Equality Now: Twitter | Facebook | YouTube

Three Criminal Trials, No Justice: What happened to Brisa De Angulo?

When Brisa was fifteen she was repeatedly raped by her adult cousin who was living with her family at the time. After eight months of sexual and emotional abuse, Brisa told her parents what she had been enduring. While they were immediately supportive and believed Brisa, others in her family and community were not as empathetic.

Many in Brisa’s community and extended family blamed her and were mad that her family was seeking justice against her rapist. They argued that by bringing her case to trial, Brisa would “bring shame” to the family name since the abuse was perpetrated by a family member. During this time, Brisa attempted suicide twice, and her family home was stoned and set on fire.

Despite these intimidation tactics, Brisa’s case made it to criminal trial. However, the judge and prosecutor painted Brisa as complicit in her own abuse. The judge even implied that Brisa couldn’t have been raped because she didn’t scream and the prosecutor tried to make her feel guilty for potentially ruining her abuser’s life if he was sent to prison.

In all, Brisa endured three trials in Bolivia but her rapist has yet to be held accountable for any of his crimes. The inability to access justice through the Bolivian legal system led Brisa to file her case before the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR).

What is the State of Bolivia charged with?

The State of Bolivia is effectively charged with violating:

  1. Its duty to successfully and with due diligence prevent, criminalize and prosecute rape in accordance with international legal standards using a gender-sensitive and victim-centered approach, taking particular care where the victim is a child or adolescent;
  2. Its duty to have as its primary concern the best interests of the child and to act accordingly including in any courts of law;
  3. Its duty to provide effective judicial remedies to victims of human rights violations and to ensure all legal procedures in cases involving allegations of gender-based violence against women are impartial and fair;
  4. Its duty to eliminate discrimination against women, including gender-based violence against women and ensure that the principle of equality before the law is given effect.

What action are we demanding on sexual violence from the Government of Bolivia?

Together with Brisa and the rest of her legal team, we’re demanding the government acts to end sexual violence, including:

Law and Procedure Reform

  1. Eliminate Statute of Limitations for all sexually based offenses. 
  2. Codify incestuous sexual violence as a crime in the legal code when perpetrated by an adult against a child under age 18.
  3. Base the entire statutory scheme for sexual crimes on consent (rather than on intimidation, physical violence, and psychological violence) and the various presumptions against consent.
  4. Promote the use of plea bargaining (i.e., the full admission of guilt in exchange for a less-than-maximum sentence) in cases of sex crimes against children and adolescents.

Operationalization of Justice 

  1. Prioritize the best interest of children and adolescents when managing crimes against sexual liberty
  2. Develop and implement policies and practices for capturing and recapturing those suspected and convicted of sex crimes against children.

Development of up-to-date and High-Quality Professionals and Services 

  1. Train and accredit justice system actors in:
    • holistic management of sex crimes against children and adolescents.
    • the new paradigm of forensic interviewing and forensic medical examination.
  2. Create a justice observatory for cases of sexual violence against children and adolescents.
  3. Establish specialized protection systems child and adolescent victims of sexual violence
  4. Provide specialized support services to child and adolescent victims of sexual violence and their families (security, protection, therapy) even after trial. 

Prevention 

  1. Institute mandatory training programs in educational centers that cover:
    • children and adolescents’ rights
    • the dynamics of sexual violence
    • social norms that contribute to sexual predation
    • how to get help for suspected or confirmed sexual violence

How you can support Brisa’s Case