Freedom of Expression

Press Release R214/18

On the International Day of Access to public information, the IACHR's Special Rapporteur for freedom of expression evaluates:

The compliance of State obligations regarding "Access to information, violence against women and the administration of justice in The Americas"

September 28th, 2018

Washington, D.C. - On the International Day of Access to public information, the IACHR's Special Rapporteur for freedom of expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights highlights the progresses that have been made in the region in order to address the barriers that prevent women from fully exercising this right, under conditions of equality and non-discrimination and calls on States to intensify these efforts.

In May 2018, the Special Rapporteur for freedom of expression distributed a public consultation questionnaire to the States and civil society, based on the thematic report "Access to information, violence against women and the administration of Justice in the Americas" published by the IACHR on March 2015. The States of Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru and St. Vincent and the Grenadines responded to this questionnaire and provided information on the measures taken in this matter. In addition, the Office of the Special Rapporteur received information from the Office of the Procurator for the Protection of Human Rights from El Salvador, the Commission on Human Rights of Mexico City, the Presidential Secretariat for Women of Guatemala and from civil society organizations of five different countries in the region.

The findings of this public consultation show that the States of the Americas have made important efforts to improve and strengthen the normative framework and the creation of mechanisms to ensure better accessibility conditions and exercise of the right to Information to women. Without prejudice of the progress made so far, challenges still persist.

Among the advances recorded, the office of the Special Rapporteur highlights the measures taken by Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Trinidad and Tobago, Peru and Mexico, who have enacted between the years of 2015 and 2018 different rules aimed at creating mechanisms and systems for collecting information regarding violence against women. It also emphasizes the implementation of systems of registration and dissemination of information including those of Guatemala and Bolivia where the diversity of the target audience is taken into account according to their diverse races, ethnicities and languages providing the information in the original languages of the ethnic groups of these countries.

The consultation showed that, although the states have constructed or have databases to generate statistics on all forms of violence and discrimination against women (physical, economic, psychological, and obstetrical), including the causes, consequences and frequency of these acts, in most of the cases these information systems are not updated or consolidated. As a result of these flaws, information on violence against women and its erradication is produced in a fragmented or incomplete manner. Also, in most of the States a unified system of information of gender-based violence against women has not been put in place.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur insists on the need to urgently include in the information systems data pertaining to the various forms of violence against women, including those that are not as forefront like psychological, economic, and obstetric violence. Similarly, States are reminded that it is of the utmost importance to take measures in order to disseminate information in a quantitative and qualitative manner, that such information must be presented in a complete, clear and comprehensive manner and kept up to date periodically, indicating factors such as sex/gender, race, ethnicity, age, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability among other criteria in order to be able to calculate and measure the actual incidence of violence and Discrimination against women in each of these territories. Likewise, the Office of the Special Rapporteur recommends that, in order to fully understand the prevalence and real incidence of all forms of violence against women, it is essential that the information systems include statistical data generated through surveys, which are consider as "one of the most effective and reliable methods of measurement".

The consultation also highlights various actions undertaken by States aimed at disseminating information and providing advice to women on their rights to a life free of discrimination and violence, such as the telephone helplines that operate in countries like Colombia, Argentina and Peru, which provide containment, information and advice to women who are experiencing acts of violence.

However, civil society organizations report worrying limitations on the part of women to access information regarding their rights to a life free from violence and discrimination. In Countries like Chile, Honduras, Argentina, Costa Rica, and Uruguay many women report that they still are ignorant to the content and scope of their rights, the ways to make them effective, and the protection mechanisms that they have available in order to prevent the risk of being abused or assaulted.

The Special Rapporteur recommends that all States continue to conduct campaigns of mass dissemination of information regarding the right to public information and to train women and civil society organizations on the mechanisms available to make requests of information to the States. It is recommended to design these initiatives in a special way so that it can reach girls and adolescents, older women, indigenous women, women who belong to ethnic minorities, women with disabilities, migrant women, asylum seekers or refugees; women victims of trafficking and other forms of exploitation; LGBTI people, among others, in order to be able to provide to all of them with the information they need to exercise their rights in a freely and effective way.

Since its universal access is not yet guaranteed, the Office of the Special Rapporteur reiterates that the proactive dissemination of information on violence and discrimination against women cannot be limited to the use of Internet portals. States should complement the use of Web sites with the development of other communication channels including the special needs of certain groups of women such as girls and adolescents, women with disability, indigenous women, Afro-descendent women and rural women.

In the same way, States are reminded that it is their duty to ensure that victims have full access to information regarding the progress of the investigations, the judging and the sanctioning of the violence that affects them. In this regard, the Office urges the States that do not yet have such standards to adopt policy frameworks aimed at ensuring that information on judicial proceedings for cases of violence and gender-based discrimination are available in other Languages different than the state official and that women have free access to interpreters and legal aid services. At the same time, women should be guaranteed to know about the rights recognized by these standards.

Finally, the Special Rapporteur appreciates and recognizes the role that civil society organizations from several countries in the region have played in producing information on violence and gender-based discrimination against women, both to visualize the prevalence of this phenomenon and its impact on women's rights, as to urge the authorities to fulfil their obligations on the subject.

You can access the report on the questionnaire conducted by the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression on the following link