COVID-19 Reports on Latin America and the Caribbean: No. 64 (En Español)
In her introductory words, the moderator, Gloria Orrego Hoyos commented on the struggle that “access to public information” has meant in the region, this being a source of power for individuals, peoples and citizens, and how it has been manifested specifically in its relationship with women’s rights, making visible the lack of transparency in the information that concerns them, that empowers them, and that makes possible the development and evaluation of public policies for the exercise and guarantees of their rights.
The 1st presentation was given by Ornella Maza Gigena , lawyer, Director of the Agency for Access to Public Information of the General Defender of the Argentine Nation , who spoke about “ Access to public information and gender in Argentina: progress, obstacles and challenges on the agenda ”.
She began her presentation by temporarily contextualizing the Argentine regulations and institutions that refer to Latin America, mentioning that the country incorporated in 2017 the Law 27,275, which recognized the right to access public information as a fundamental human right. The text linked to it as guarantors of access to public information, began to function only in 2018, establishing a series of questions and structural principles of the system, such as the principle of presumption of publicity, by which all information generated by the the state is considered public, and this is the one that must demonstrate non-publicity, thus breaking the paradigm of state secrecy.
The presenter mentioned that the law also establishes a short process to request information and the obligation to deliver it in full and preferably in electronic formats; Also, active transparency actions, that is, the publication of information on official portals.
The law makes no specific mention regarding gender issues. However it establishes a broad legitimation system, that is, a request for information without any type of requirement. Regarding the institutional situation, Ornella Maza Gigena pointed out that there are still no specific policies in the areas that work on public information, but given the principle of non-discrimination and maximum access, the inclusion of perspective can be facilitated through them. She also emphasized the importance of public information access systems starting to work together with the gender agenda, in order to detect and make visible gaps-barriers-roles-stereotypes linked to it, illustrating their exposure with different examples in which women were disadvantaged in: high positions, job occupation, digital divide, unpaid domestic work, composition of jobs by area.
Finally, the Director of the Agency for Access to Public Information of the General Defender of the Argentine Nation mentioned the challenge and task that all state offices have when it comes to accessing public information, to strengthening and developing the system, building institutions, publishing information on its web portals, generating its own statistics (a task carried out at this time mainly by civil society), generating criteria on the matter for its application, and in gender matters the need not only to serve as a tool to prepare cases of incidence, but also as an autonomous right of women to know, participate in public life, request information and analyze it.
The 2nd presentation was in charge of María José Duran , lawyer, legal advisor of the organization Seeds for Democracy , who spoke about ” Access to public information in Paraguay “, contextualizing the issue within the country’s regulations. Law 5282 of 2014 is the specific norm of access to public information as well as the result of a long citizen struggle in which organizations, social actors, academics, journalists, people who had an important role in advocacy issues were a part of. She also commented that the law had as antecedents to its promulgation the strategic litigation in the courts of various organizations and social actors, which culminated in a ruling of the Supreme Court of Paraguay, in which standards of the protection system of human rights, -the regulatory decree of the law n ° 4064 of the year 2015, and -the one agreed by the Court 1005 of the year 2015 that regulated the judicial procedures to make effective the rights of access to public information, through the guarantee constitutional protection.
The speaker mentioned that the law provides broad coverage to the definition of a source of public information, incorporating all official institutions, powers, state financial entities, universities, departmental and municipal governments. In this sense, everyone has the right of access to public information, without the need to justify the reason for the request. Regarding the principles, she mentioned that of -maximum transparency, that is, access is the rule and secrecy the exception, -the obligation to publish, that is, active transparency, minimum information available without waiting for the citizen to request it, which should be expressed in a simple and understandable language, and – open government, as the fight against corruption using technologies to strengthen governance.
Regarding the obstacles that arise, she mentioned that the government leaves the burden of access to citizens in the face of express or tacit denial of access. Although it can be requested and constitutionally protected and the process is free, technical and legal help is required. María José Duran cited that to date, there are 110 cases prosecuted for tacit denial of information. Other obstacles are: the lack of synergy between the data of one institution and another, the technological gap, the lack of Internet, the lack of knowledge on the part of the population of the right of access, and the lack of national coverage in terms of an official web portal, departmental and local governments without relevant offices on the matter.
In gender matters, the obstacles are related to the absence of public data or the non-disaggregation of them, thus avoiding the visibility of situations or conditions of women. Another obstacle is access to justice in matters of violence, often linked to structural limitations, but to a greater extent to the attitude of the operators who question complaints. The normative and institutional framework exists. However, discriminatory practices still persist for access to protection services, with access to information not being an exception either. Therefore, it is a great challenge to include gender issues in public policies with a gender perspective and in justice, being evidenced in the situation experienced during the quarantine, in which victims of violence and aggressor were seen in the obligation to live together 24 hours a day, thus exposing the absence of a planned state response for comprehensive care that meets the needs and severity of the problem.
The 3rd presentation was in charge of Ana Lima , lawyer and feminist, consultant in human rights and gender, National Coordinator of CLADEM Uruguay , who shared information on ” The access of women, girls and adolescents to their rights during the pandemic “. She noted that in Uruguay feminist and human rights organizations actively participated in gender issues, norms that they addressed and protected from different angles. She also provided an overview of the application of the normative body in society, especially how women, adolescents and girls have exercised their rights during the pandemic.
The exponent commented that the recent government of her country is contrary or reluctant to the agenda of women’s rights, especially sexual and reproductive rights, causing under the COVID-19 scenario a deepening of inequalities with women, hindering the objectives of the 2030 agenda. In relation to domestic violence and the situation of child pregnancy, data collection has been slowed down or access to them has become increasingly difficult.
Ana Lima also mentioned the systematic dismantling of specialized teams in the Ministry of Women, putting at risk the proper approach to these areas for the attention of gender-based violence. She indicated that the change of political orientation in the Ministry of Health affects the struggles, and that despite the declaration of emergency in their country due to the death of women, the National State is failing to comply with the pertinent regulations, especially the creation of judicial offices of concern, claiming the Supreme Court does not have resources to specialized courts. She also added that the government reported that crimes against women have decreased during the pandemic, but this information contrasts with the data provided by different aid services for women victims of domestic violence.
Finally, the national coordinator of CLADEM Uruguay took advantage of the space to think and demand concrete actions from governments, with a gender perspective, that strengthen the care system, and that allow a better dialogue with Civil Society, which works with data generated through research and networking.
The 4th. exhibition was in charge of Graciela Romero, Legal advisor and Coordinator and legal advisor of the unit of access to public information. Her presentation was titled “ Right of access to public information with a gender perspective: data and action plans of the region ”. She sought to synthesize the main data in relation to access to public information with a gender perspective in Uruguay and in the region, presenting the main results of the project of the RTA “Transparency and gender model” and the DAIP and gender Action Plan of the region.
In her presentation, she showed how the concept of public information and its access acquire different meanings according to the educational level of the people. In general, the most economically disadvantaged groups in society do not associate public information with information that the state can produce and / or possesses, and they say they do not feel legitimized or authorized to require it.
Regarding the use of the internet, there are no gender differences. Regarding the information sought, stereotypes are marked. Women consult more about services, social and health programs, and men more about financial, employment and political issues. Access difficulties are present in certain sectors such as indigenous, rural, poor, elderly and disabled communities.
The presenter pointed out the importance of adopting public policies, which might cause changes in society, and generate capacities in those who can claim the rights of those who are beneficiaries, that is, beyond political changes they feel confident in claiming them. She also pointed out the need to create public policies taking as reference the Model Law 2.0 of the OAS, which incorporates the gender perspective and intersectionality.
Regarding the presentation of the RTA project, Graciela Romero commented that it was divided into two phases. The 1st constituted the diagnosis of the situation, and the 2nd the elaboration of action plans, pilot test and evaluation indicators. The purpose of the project is to introduce the gender perspective in the production, availability and publication of public information.
Finally, the Legal Advisor commented that the preparation of the 1st. version of the “Manual of Good Practices to incorporate gender perspectives in public information object of active transparency”, will also include intersectionality, given that women do not constitute a homogeneous but heterogeneous block, which can be broken down into different dimensions such as: race, social issues, immigration, disability status, gender identity, among others.
As common characteristics between the different persentations, the following can be mentioned :
Existence of regulations in the countries that make up the LATAM region, regarding Access to Public Information.
Said regulations do not specifically mention gender issues.
Difficulty in public data on gender issues or disaggregation of the same or lack of synergy between institutions to share or develop data together.
Stigmatizations and gender stereotypes.
Civil society provides relevant data and information.
Challenge and task of the states, in building institutional framework on gender issues, publishing information on their web portals and generating their own statistics (both tasks partially fulfilled so far).
The need for public policies that allow people who claim rights, such as Access to Public Information, to feel legitimized and authorized.
In short, that the right recognized by the letter of a law, be socially consolidated.