Press Release

IACHR Publishes Report: “Access to Information, Violence against Women, and the Administration of Justice in the Americas”

November 20, 2015

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) published the report “Access to Information, Violence against Women, and the Administration of Justice in the Americas.” The report aims to provide an introduction to the challenges faced by women in the Americas in gaining adequate access to State-controlled information on violence and discrimination. It also seeks to systematize the international standards that have been developed in the inter-American system on this subject, and to identify good practices in the region with regard to the application of and compliance with those standards.

The right of access to information is closely related to the exercise of other human rights, and in that sense, the failure to comply with the obligations of respecting and guaranteeing women’s free access to information can be understood to lead to various violations of their rights to live free from violence and discrimination.

The IACHR has observed that even in States with institutionalized mechanisms for gathering, processing, and producing information on violence against women, often that information is not adequately disseminated. Likewise, the IACHR has noted that there is a widespread lack of coordination in the region between the various systems that coexist in the States for gathering and producing information, for example records kept by free legal aid offices, data collected by observatories on violence or discrimination, and mechanisms for compiling judicial statistics.

With regard to the main challenges in access to public information on discrimination and violence, the IACHR has reported on a number of occasions that there are deficiencies in the availability, quality, and completeness of public information on violence and discrimination against women. These include the failure to gather complete information in the various State bodies on all the different types of violence and discrimination, as well as the failure to produce comprehensive statistics based on that information and to disaggregate the statistical information by factors such as sex, race, ethnicity, age, social status, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, and other criteria that would make it possible to appreciate the true incidence of violence and discrimination in specific groups of women. The importance of compiling data and producing statistics has been highlighted in the inter-American and the United Nations human rights systems as a fundamental mechanism for designing and evaluating public polices and prevention, assistance, and protection programs on violence and discrimination.

Another priority challenge involves the effective implementation of international standards on access to information in the domestic sphere. In this regard, the IACHR has stated that although the vast majority of countries in the region have constitutional and/or legal regulations in place on this matter, concrete information about the practical implementation and effectiveness of those regulations is not available, which makes it difficult to evaluate the level of compliance with State obligations. 

Access to information in the realm of the administration of justice is an area of special interest for the IACHR. It presents a number of challenges in terms of guaranteeing access to information as a right that facilitates access to justice for women victims of violence and discrimination. In this context, the IACHR notes that the following are priority challenges: ensuring access by women and their family members to information on their pending violence or discrimination cases; the availability of appropriate and sufficient free legal aid services; and access to interpreters and information in other languages for women who do not speak the official State language, among other challenges.

The IACHR underscores the importance of having public information on justice system operations, including data on the number of arrests, prosecutions, convictions, restraining orders, and judgments handed down; the amount of time it takes to decide cases; the gender makeup of the justice systems; the budgets allocated to judicial activities; and the internal accountability mechanisms.

The Commission urges the Member States of the Organization of American States (OAS) to adopt measures to guarantee the availability of high-quality free legal aid services, the training of justice operators and other public employees who are involved with violence-related issues, and the implementation of action protocols for cases in which violence is imminent. The Commission also reiterates its willingness to work with the States in their efforts in this sphere of protection which is so essential for women to be able to fully exercise their rights.

This report was prepared by the Office of the Rapporteur on the Rights of Women, with technical assistance from the IACHR Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression. The Commission thanks the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (ASDI-SIDA) for its support in the execution of this initiative.

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 area. 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. 136/15