The Afro-descendant population comprises 30 percent of Latin America, but its people continue to fall victim to exclusion, racism and discrimination, according to a new report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
The report, “The Situation of Persons of African Descent in the Americas”, which was released Jan. 18, found that “as a consequence of the structural discrimination, afro-descendant persons live, in general, in the poorest areas and with the most precarious infrastructure, and they are more exposed to crime and violence.”
It said that these communities also have “serious obstacles” to finding adequate health, education services, as well as housing and employment, especially for managerial and upper-level positions.
“Commission concludes that persons of African descent face major obstacles for the exercise and guarantee of their civil and political, economic, social, and cultural rights,” it said.
Afro-descendant women are among the most poorly paid and mainly work in informal work for less pay, lack social benefits. Their unemployment rate is also higher than the region´s average.
The Commission also reported the “racial profiling”, tactic that considers the Afro-descendants prime suspects and more likely to be arrested and sentenced than the rest of the population.
The report said that Afro-descendants face two major issues. “On one hand, if Afro-descendants live in poor neighborhoods, wear cheap clothes and do not drive or drive vehicles of low economic value, they help perpetuating the stereotype that links race and poverty,” said the Commission. “On the other hand, Afro-descendants with better economic resources that could have access to other neighborhoods, other kind of clothes or to driving more expensive cars would rather not do so, because that ´ostentation´ would only mean more problems of detention or police inquiries as those officers assume that those are stolen articles. “
The Commission recommended that governments take measures to stamp out racial discrimination and effectively guarantee rights for Afro-descendants, as well as finance anti-discrimination programs and, particularly that against women.
“Indeed, human rights instruments of the international and inter-American systems have recognized the need for affirmative action measures to remedy or compensate for the effects of past situations of structural discrimination against certain groups, and to avoid the perpetuation of such discrimination,” said the report. “Regardless of the terminology used to describe such measures at the international level (e.g., ‘positive measures,’ ‘affirmative action,’ ‘positive discrimination,’ ‘reverse discrimination’), international treaty monitoring bodies have recognized the need for these measures as a means of guaranteeing substantive equality and the enjoyment of fundamental rights of people and social groups that been at a disadvantage historically or victims of ongoing prejudices.”