Statement

Women of Expression

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ARTICLE 19

09 Mar 2012

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On the occasion of International Women´s Day, ARTICLE 19 is sharing a series of initiatives it has undertaken aimed at increasing women's voice in decision-making and in the monitoring of public policies in Brazil. 

“ARTICLE 19 is committed to practice what it advocates: freedom of expression for all, across national boundaries, but also across the social, economic, cultural and political barriers that prevent yet too many people from accessing and imparting information, their information. The silencing of women is particularly prevalent. It takes many forms and shapes. It has dramatic implications not only for women’s lives but for entire communities. Below is a sample of ARTICLE 19 projects aimed at addressing the silencing of women and strengthening their opportunities to speak out on issues of vital public interest” says Dr. Agnes Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director.       

WOMEN OF EXPRESSION

Today, on, March 9th ARTICLE 19 is launching Women of Expression 2012 – Women adapting to climate change in Brazil.

The threats from climate change are not gender-neutral and it is essential that gender be incorporated into strategies to address climate change. In order to reach adaptation strategies and policies that are truly gender-sensitive, women’s voices need to be heard. To make their voices heard, women need information about their rights and the policies that affect their daily lives. This ARTICLE 19 project seeks to foster the exercise of communication rights to challenge women’s vulnerability to climate change.

According to Paula Martins, ARTICLE 19's Director for South America, “The project will allow women living in poverty to receive improved information on climate change, especially from official sources. It will also empower women to demand from relevant authorities and decision makers the planning and implementation of adaptation strategies and policies that are gender-sensitive.”

In February 2012, ARTICLE 19 initiated the project through a series of workshops with women in rural communities in the north of Brazil. A number of other activities will take place in the upcoming months. ARTICLE 19 will carry out consultations, capacity building, advocacy and dissemination activities with communities significantly challenged by the negative impacts of climate change and special focus will be given to difficulties disproportionally imposed on women.

The next workshops will involve communities living near risky and disaster-prone areas, especially those affected by flooding, droughts, changes in the sea level and landslides - all problems exacerbated by climate change.

To know more about the project and the women involved in climate change research and those who face the most challenging effects of it, visit the Women of Expression.

GRASSROOTS LEGAL ADVOCATES

Knowing your rights and how to exercise them is key for women living in situations of high vulnerability. Information is central to learning about the functioning of the State and how to engage in issues of public interest. The right to information is an instrumental right that can provide women with improved tools to seek justice and equality and to combat violence. The new Brazilian Access to Information Law requires the State to pro-actively provide improved information to women and also allows women to more easily demand information that is not made available voluntarily.  

Having this in mind,  ARTICLE 19 - in partnership with the Sao Paulo Women's Union and the Dandara Center for Legal Advocates, is developing a training module on how the right to information can be exercised - where, when and how to request information and what to do when information is denied. The module will be part of the Grassroots Legal Advocates programme which offers women with no formal education a comprehensive course of basic legal procedures, notions of constitutional law, human rights including women's rights, and some knowledge of the functioning of the state. They then provide first-hand legal counselling in their communities, normally very poor and violent neighbourhoods in large urban centres all over Brazil. 

To know more about the Grassroots Legal Advocates and the Sao Paulo Women’s Union, please watch these videos: 

30 Anos da União de Mulheres de Sao Paulo

and

Anjos da Justiça

LACK OF INFORMATION ABOUT VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN IN BRAZIL

Lack of or limited information about violence against women can lead to inadequate or deficient public policies in the area, can seriously restrict academic research and studies, as well as compromise the work of women's rights organizations.

The Brazilian Law on Violence against Women (also known as Maria da Penha Law) requires the creation of a nationwide databank on violence against women coordinated by the Ministry for Justice with data collected by each of the 27 Public Prosecutor's Offices in each of the states of the Brazilian Federation. Unfortunately, however, six years after the adoption of Law Maria da Penha there is still no access to such databank and no figures are available on the total of cases of aggression, abuse and threats suffered each year by Brazilian women. 

To address this major failure, and contribute to the implementation of the Law on Violence against Women, ARTICLE 19 has presented information requests to all 27 Public Prosecutor's Offices demanding the total number of legal procedures for which the law has been applied, the types of aggression and ensuing key legal developments. The information were requested in electronic format and ensure respect for privacy issues (anonymity of the cases).

Only eleven offices replied to our request, and the vast majority did not respect the legal deadlines. The silent treatment received from the other sixteen provides an idea of the challenges Brazil will now face in the implementation of both Maria da Penha Law and the new Access to Information Law with regard to information needed to prevent and combat violence against women. Most offices that answered the call for information explained that their states do not have a unified system for collecting information on cases of domestic and gender violence and such data is decentralised in databanks maintained by health, police and justice authorities. 

To learn more about this problem and discuss possible strategies to modify this situation, please read the full report and contact us with suggestions and/or recommendations.    

“The full commitment and resources of governments but also of civil society and the Media around the world is required to counter gender-based censorship. It is not a one day thing. It should not just be the responsibility of one Minister, of one public department, of one single journalist or of women’s organizations. The task and challenges are too formidable.  They require for all of us, including civil society organizations with a variety of focus and mandates, to make a long-term political and policy commitment to speak up against gender-based censorship and  devote resources to end it”, concludes Dr. Callamard.