Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2000


This essay originated with a panel on Alternatives to the Regular Courts that took place during the first Legal and Policy Issues in the Americas conference sponsored by the University of Florida Levin College of Law. Some of the possible alternatives to the courts, in the trade field, that have been discussed include mediation, arbitration, constitutional courts and binational dispute panels. This essay reflects upon another alternative to domestic courts that progressively and increasingly is also being invoked in the trade context: international and regional human rights regimes.

I specifically will review the Inter-American Human Rights System to ascertain the influence of human rights norms on domestic law in Latin America. The essay interrogates the impact the Inter-American regional system has had on local laws, using the changed location of women as an example that reveals the richness of this alternative to the regular courts.

In undertaking such analysis, an invaluable source is the Report on the Status of Women, 1998 by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The report analyzes the compliance of member states of the Organization of American States (OAS) with the international obligations set forth in the human rights treaties and declarations as they apply to the status of women. Specifically, the relevant “Law” that the Report considered were the regional instruments that establish a set of basic rights and obligatory standards of conduct to promote and protect those rights as well as the organs that monitor the rights. Thus, in the first part, the essay reviews the legal framework of the Inter-American regional system as well as some of its international parallels to set forth the range of protected rights, especially as they pertain to women. Next, focusing on culture, the piece studies the cultura Latina to show both its characteristics and the incongruity of some cultural tropes with the goal of women's equality, autonomy, and self-determination. The third part scrutinizes how the Inter-American regional system has created a framework within the landscape of the cultura Latina that promotes women's equality. The work concludes that the human rights model presents an invaluable alternative to domestic courts, especially in instances in which such courts might be prone to entrench dominant cultural paradigms that are inapposite to racial, ethnic, social, and gender rights mandates of the human rights framework.