Press Release

IACHR Presents Report on Access to Information on Reproductive Health

December 21, 2011

Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) publishes today the Report Access to Information on Reproductive Health from a Human Rights Perspective, which identifies and analyzes the regional and international human rights standards regarding access to information on reproductive health.

The IACHR believes that the obligation to provide information proactively (also called the obligation of active transparency) lays the groundwork for the States' obligation to provide public information that is essential for people to be able to exercise their fundamental rights or satisfy their basic needs in this area. This is particularly relevant when the information has to do with issues related to sexuality and reproduction, since such information helps people be prepared to make free and informed decisions. Access to information is closely linked to the attainment of other human rights; thus, a failure to respect and guarantee this right for women can lead to an infringement of other rights, such as their right to personal integrity, the right to privacy, rights of the family, and the right to be free from violence and discrimination.

Women in the Americas face face various barriers in gaining access to information on health, particularly in the area of sexual and reproductive health, including family planning services. Women who have historically been marginalized based on their race, ethnicity, economic status, or age are those who face the most barriers in access to information on health, and these barriers become even greater when the information has to do with matters related to sexual and reproductive health. In particular, women who are poor, indigenous, and/or of African descent, women who live in rural areas and migrant women, are the ones who face greater obstacles in their access to information on sexual and reproductive health. In some cases, the barriers are of such a magnitude that they may constitute violations of women's rights to personal integrity, privacy, and family life, and the right to be free from violence and discrimination.

In addition, the Commission has received information about distortions in the information on reproductive matters provided by public servants for the purpose of dissuasion. It has also processed petitions regarding the practice of sterilizing women without their consent in some OAS Member States, a practice that in some cases has led to their deaths.

The IACHR hopes that the recommendations included in this report may contribute with the efforts on the part of the States in order to eliminate barriers and effectively guarantee and protect this right of women without discrimination. Some of these recommendations are: to guarantee confidentiality in access to information on sexual and reproductive health; to ensure health professionals’ obligation to inform; to ensure that the information provided is adapted to the audience that needs it; to establish protocols for effective access to information in cases involving conscientious objection; to establish systematic policies for training and capacitating government officials; and to ensure that national budgets contemplate producing reliable statistics on sexual and reproductive matters, broken down, at the least, by sex, gender, ethnicity, and age.

This report was published with the support of the Governments of Spain and Finland.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this matter. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.


No. 131/11