OAS Rapporteur Emphasizes Access to Info for Women

24 March 2016

The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has called for improved access of information for women and better government data on issues affecting women.

The recommendations and considerable supporting research are included in an annual report (in English and in Spanish) from Special Rapporteur Edison Lanza, who presented the report March 17 to the Commission. It is the second year in which women’s issues have been a focus in annual report. The 386-page report also includes evaluations of mangy aspects of freedom of expression and access to information in 26 Latin American countries.

On Argentina, where a new effort has begun to pass access legislation, “The Office of the Special Rapporteur observes that Argentina continues without adopt a federal law which will guarantee the access to public information held by the State, this situation deprives people of having an accessible, effective and appropriate remedy to ensure the right of access to public information in that important statewide.”

The report recounts the IACHR’s efforts to help draft a FOI law in Costa Rica and cautions against regressive legislation in Honduras. The section on Haiti describes a lack of cooperation. In Mexico, the report cites concerns about “obstacles that remain in guaranteeing access to information associated with human rights violations.” (See previous Freedominfo.org report.)

Regarding Venezuela, the report says: “There is no law on access to public information in Venezuela; there are very high barriers to obtain public management data.” Concerning Guatemala: “Access to public information in Guatemala continues to pose difficulties, despite the fact that the Law on Access to Public Information has been in effect since 2009.”

Access to Information and Women

The chapter on access to information and women has a wide scope, covering “the challenges women face in gaining adequate and effective access to State-controlled information on the prevention of and protection from violence and discrimination, as well as on access to justice for victims.” Gathering information was done through a variety of means, including an IACHR questionnaire to states and civil society “with the goal of collecting relevant information on the main roadblocks faced by women in obtaining adequate access to State-held information concerning violence and discrimination.”

The report reviews the legal underpinnings for access to information in Latin America, linking these with womens’ rights. One summary paragraph says:

According to the Commission, access to information as an instrumental right for the effective exercise of women’s rights to live free from discrimination and violence requires the fulfillment of three main obligations: (i) the obligation to collect and produce information, (ii) the obligation of active transparency, and (iii) the obligation to respond to requests for information made thereto, and to offer a recourse that satisfies the right of access to information.

The report’s findings highlight information gaps:

The IACHR has found in several instances that specific problems exist in regards to the availability, quality, and integrity of public information on violence and discrimination against women. Among the problems illustrated in the information received by the IACHR are the failure to compile complete information on all forms of violence and discrimination in the various organs of the State, the failure to produce comprehensive statistics based on that information, and the lack of any breakdown of statistical information by factors such as sex, race, ethnicity, age, disability, social condition, and other criteria that would make it possible to take stock of the actual impact of violence and discrimination on specific groups of women.

The report highlights some merging good practices, but goes on to say, “The IACHR has observed that even in those States that have institutionalized mechanisms for the compilation, processing, and production of information on violence against women, often the dissemination of such information is insufficient.”

Commenting more specifically on access to information laws, the report says “IACHR observes with concern the scarcity of information about the implementation of access-to-information laws in the area of discrimination and violence against women.”

Progress has been made in some countries to incorporate the inter-American system’s standards on access to information into the domestic legal regimes, the report says. “However, it has observed that in several Member States there continue to be difficulties in regulating the exceptions to the exercise of this right and in the implementation of some laws, particularly with regard to the training of public employees and the citizenry in order to eradicate the culture of secrecy and provide citizens the tools to effectively monitor state activities, public administration and the prevention of corruption, all essential to the democratic process.”

The report explores access to information on reproductive matters and the availability and accessibility of judicial information on violence and discrimination against women. There is information received from the states “on efforts being made with a view to strengthen respect for and guarantees of the right of access to information for women victims of discrimination and violence.”

The 11 recommendations begin:

  1. Bring the domestic legal order concerning access to information, violence against women, and discrimination into line with the inter-American and international standards that the States have undertaken to observe.

 

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