ACCESS TO JUSTICE FOR WOMEN VICTIMS OF
IV. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
294. The IACHR is deeply disturbed by the fact that the majority of acts of violence against women are never punished, which perpetuates the social acceptance of such acts. The Commission is therefore reminding the States of the need to improve the judicial response in order to be fully compliant with their due diligence obligation. With matters as they now stand, women victims of violence are unable to fully exercise and enjoy their rights under the Convention of Belém do Pará, the American Convention, the American Declaration and other international instruments for the protection of human rights. Through this project, the IACHR and its Rapporteurship have confirmed that the next step on the ladder towards advancing the rights of women is to move beyond the realm of formal recognition into the sphere of creating guarantees for its real and effective practice.
295. The analysis and recommendations contained in this report are mainly based on the regional human rights obligations that the American States have voluntarily assumed in the American Convention, in the American Declaration and the Convention of Belém do Pará. Under international law, States have an obligation to practice due diligence to prevent, investigate, prosecute, punish and eradicate violence against women. Ensuring access to adequate and effective judicial remedies is an essential pre-requisite to the fulfillment of this obligation.
296. The recommendations contained in this report are calculated to help design State interventions and actions that will guarantee an appropriate, immediate, timely, exhaustive, serious and impartial judicial response to acts of violence against women. The recommendations have three specific objectives. First, they are oriented to help the States devise a comprehensive State policy, backed up by adequate public resources, to ensure that women victims of violence have prompt access to justice and that the acts of violence are adequately prevented, investigated, punished and redressed. The second purpose of the recommendations is to urge the States to create the conditions necessary so that women are able to use the administration of justice system to remedy acts of violence they suffer and are treated respectfully by the public authorities. The third purpose of the recommendations is to spur the States into adopting public policies calculated to reshape stereotyped concepts of women’s place in society, and to promote the eradication of discriminatory socio-cultural patterns that impair their access to justice.
297. The recommendations are of two kinds: general recommendations and those urging attentiveness and response. The recommendations are geared to problems that arise from the actions of the justice sector, the laws and norms of the States, and state policies. In the recommendations, the IACHR has considered the special needs of groups and social sectors exposed to structural processes of discrimination and violence.
298. The IACHR reconfirms its commitment to work with the American States to find solutions to the problems identified in this report. Some of the measures adopted to deal with this situation evidence an appreciation and recognition of the severity of the existing problems and the commitment on the part of those in the State and the civil society to effectively address the many obstacles that women encounter when reporting acts of violence and discrimination in order to avail themselves of effective judicial protection.
1. Devise a comprehensive, coordinated and properly-resourced state policy to ensure that victims of violence have full access to proper judicial protection so that they are able to remedy the violence suffered, to thereby guarantee that acts of violence are properly prevented, investigated, punished and redressed.
2. Guarantee due diligence so that cases of gender-based violence are promptly, fully and impartially investigated, those responsible are properly punished, and the victims redressed.
3. Build up the capacity of institutions to combat the pattern of impunity in cases involving violence against women, through effective criminal investigations that carry cases to trial, thereby ensuring that the crimes are properly punished and redressed.
4. Adopt public policies intended to reconfigure the stereotypes about the role of women in society and to promote the eradication of discriminatory social patterns that obstruct their full access to justice; these public policies should feature training programs and comprehensive prevention policies.
5. The legislative, executive and judicial branches of government must closely scrutinize all laws, norms, practices and public policies that create differences in treatment based on gender or that can have the kinds of discriminatory effects described in this report.
6. Duly apply the recommendations made by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and those made by United Nations organizations and bodies like the United Nations Rapporteur on violence against women and the Committee that monitors State compliance with CEDAW, and those issued by other international organizations, all in order to clear away the many obstacles that women encounter in terms of access to justice.
Investigation, prosecution and punishment of acts of violence against women
1. Build up the capacity of judicial institutions, such as the public prosecutor’s office, the police, the courts and forensic medicine services, by increasing the financial and human resources they have to combat the pattern of impunity in cases involving violence against women by being able to conduct effective criminal investigations of cases so that they can then be taken to trial, thereby guaranteeing that the violence will be properly punished and redressed. This involves the procurement of the technical equipment needed to do chemical and forensic tests and to compile all the evidence needed to solve the case under investigation.
2. Take immediate steps to ensure that the public officials involved in prosecuting cases of violence and discrimination against women (including prosecutors, police, judges, court-appointed attorneys, administrative personnel and forensic medicine professionals) are properly educated about women’s rights so that they apply the domestic and international laws to prosecute these crimes properly and so that the integrity and dignity of the victims and their relatives are respected when the complaints are filed and during their involvement in the judicial process.
3. Take measures to institutionalize collaboration and information sharing among the authorities in charge of investigating acts of violence and discrimination, particularly between the public prosecutor’s office and the police.
4. Design protocols to facilitate and promote the effective, uniform and transparent investigation of acts of physical, sexual and psychological violence, which include a description of the detailing of the evidence and an itemization of the minimum evidence that needs to be gathered to properly substantiate a case: scientific, psychological, physical evidence and testimony. Multidisciplinary investigation of these crimes needs to be encouraged.
5. Systematically organize the decisions that regional and international agencies for the protection of women’s human rights make on the investigation and prosecution of cases involving violence against women, and make this information accessible to public officials in the justice systems at the national and local levels.
6. Develop educational programs for the public, from a formative and early age, in order to cultivate a respect for women as equals, the recognition of their particular needs, and their right to live free from violence and discrimination.
7. Identify and institutionalize new types of training for civil servants in all sectors (justice, security, health and education) to fully address women’s right to live free from violence and ensure that in performing their functions, public servants are fully respectful of women’s physical and psychological integrity.
Precautionary and preventive protection
1. Devise and institutionalize training programs geared toward all state officials involved in monitoring and supervising protective measures and measures intended to prevent acts of violence against women -particularly in the case of the police-, to instruct them about the need to ensure proper enforcement of and compliance with these measures and the consequences of non-compliance and non-enforcement. Sanction state officials who do not properly monitor these measures.
2. Strengthen policies aimed at preventing acts of violence and discrimination against women through a comprehensive approach that includes the justice, education, and health sectors and that covers the various manifestations of violence and the contexts in which they occur.
3. Take measures and launch information campaigns targeting the general public to educate it about the duty to respect women’s civil, political, economic, social, cultural, sexual and reproductive rights, the legal services and judicial remedies available to women whose rights have been violated and the legal consequences for offenders.
4. Design and implement judicial resources of a precautionary nature - simple, quick and accessible - that can function as an ideal and effective remedy, to prevent situations of violence against women.
Treatment of victims by judicial protection bodies
1. Provide effective guarantees so that women victims are able to report acts of violence; for example, take measures to effectively protect complainants, survivors and witnesses, and measures to protect their privacy, dignity and integrity when filing their reports and throughout the criminal proceedings.
2. Circulate information nationwide about the judicial resources available to women victims of violence, taking into consideration the diversity of the target public in terms of race, ethnicity and language.
3. Ensure that women victims of violence and members of their families are able to obtain complete and accurate information promptly and are treated respectfully when seeking information on the judicial process into the facts denounced.
Resources within the administration of justice system
1. Create adequate and effective judicial bodies and resources in rural, marginalized and economically disadvantaged areas so that all women are guaranteed full access to effective judicial protection against acts of violence.
2. Increase the number of court-appointed attorneys available for women victims of violence and discrimination.
3. Create units specializing in women’s rights within the public prosecutor’s offices, the police and the courts, with specialized expertise and sufficient resources to ensure that the gender perspective is guaranteed when addressing cases brought by women who are seeking an effective remedy against acts of violence.
4. Create and improve systems for recording statistical and qualitative data on incidents of violence against women within the administration of justice systems. Strengthen data records on cases of violence against women to ensure that they are uniform, reliable and transparent.
5. Devise mechanisms to achieve uniformity among the national systems for reporting acts of violence against women.
6. Implement measures so that the data systems more adequately reflect the situation at the national and local levels, taking special care to include reports on violence in rural and marginal areas.
7. Take measures so that data systems are able to disaggregate the data by sex, age, race, ethnic origin, and other variables that make someone more vulnerable to acts of violence and discrimination.
8. Keep reliable, up-to-date statistics that include all the actors that perpetuate discrimination and violence against women.
9. When designing public policies, incorporate the problems mirrored in the official statistics on the various manifestations of violence and discrimination against women.
10. Use the gender perspective when processing the information that state agencies in all sectors compile on incidents of violence and discrimination.
11. Set in motion efforts to design a single format for compiling data on incidents of violence and discrimination, which can then be used by all sectors –government, administration of justice, health, international organizations, academia, and civil society, among others- and run pilot experiments to assess its effectiveness.
12. Institutionalize means and methods to share information within a diversity of sectors –centers and state entities that deal with this topic, the victims, their communities, the private sector, academia, international organizations and civil society organizations- and facilitate collaboration and circulation of information between producers and users.
13. Undertake efforts and initiatives to get the available information to the general public in a format that is responsive to the needs of a variety of audiences and populations of differing economic and educational levels, different cultures and different languages. The safety and privacy of the victims should be paramount in this reporting process.
Special needs of indigenous and Afro-descendant women
1. National policies intended to advance the rights of all women must make provision for the specific needs of indigenous and Afro-descendant women and have a full command of how their special needs are to be addressed in the workings of the administration of justice systems.
2. Design and adopt culturally relevant policies, with the participation of indigenous and afrodescendent women, aimed at preventing, investigating, and punishing acts of violence and discrimination committed against them and providing them with redress.
3. Adopt measures and communication campaigns targeted at these communities, the State and society in general, calculated to make them aware of the problems that these women face and thereby build a commitment to take action to correct their problems and ensure that their human rights are respected, which includes their right to adequate and effective judicial recourse when their human rights are violated.
4. Develop initiatives to compile information, statistics, research and other studies that reflect the specific situation of indigenous and afrodescendent women, to be used as the basis from which to craft public policies aimed at preventing, punishing and eradicating the acts of violence and discrimination committed against them.
5. Make respect for the cultural identity and ethnicity of peoples, their language and uniqueness an integral part of the legal framework and institutional policies.
6. Implement and strengthen measures intended to set up a multilingual state system in countries with multicultural and linguistically diverse populations. Create free, impartial and culturally relevant translation services that are sensitive to the users’ vision of the natural order.
7. Create systems and methods premised upon a culture of expertise to investigate and prosecute cases of violence and discrimination against women.
Laws, policies and government programs
1. Amend the content of the existing body of civil and criminal law that protects the rights of women, in order to ensure that it comports with the principles upheld in the American Convention, the Convention of Belém do Pará and the CEDAW, as well as other international human rights instruments.
2. Implement existing national legislation and public policies destined to protect women from acts of violence and discrimination and from their political, economic, and social consequences, and to earmark sufficient resources, and to enact the necessary regulations to ensure their effective implementation nationwide.
3. Create and/or bolster training programs for civil servants in the justice system and police force, to instruct them in the effective use of the existing laws and public policies, through measures intended to guarantee that those programs are able to sustain themselves and are institutionalized.
4. Identify and create benchmarks and inter-institutional systems to monitor implementation of the laws and policies designed to prevent and eradicate violence and discrimination against women.
5. Create inter-institutional mechanisms of coordination and dialogue among the national and local programs and services serving women victims of violence and discrimination. These mechanisms must enable coordination among all the national programs and between national programs and local programs.
6. Earmark greater State resources to the entities responsible for providing legal, psychological and social services to women victims of violence.
7. Implement public policies and create institutions that address the discrimination and violence that women in rural, marginalized and economically disadvantaged areas experience. Form multidisciplinary task forces to determine the scale of the problem of gender-based violence and discrimination in these areas and identify basic strategies to address it.
8. Take the necessary steps to complete ratification and implementation of the American Convention, the Convention of Belém do Pará, and the Optional Protocol to the CEDAW.
9. Create mechanisms to increase the participation of women in electoral systems, in public office, and especially, in the administration of justice systems. Guarantee, through adequate mechanisms, the nomination of women to trial level courts, to Supreme Courts and Constitutional Courts.
10. Nominate women to positions in the organs of the inter-American human rights system, such as the IACHR and the Inter-American Court, to achieve a more balanced representation of men and women.