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Colombia: The Right to True and Accurate Information

A decision is expected at any time on a Colombian Constitutional Court case revolving around women's fundamental right to information on sexual and reproductive health care. Back in May the Center for Reproductive Rights submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in the case filed by Women's Link Worldwide (WLW), an international human rights organization advocating for gender equality. Toward the end of 2011, WLW submitted a tutela (a legal mechanism for the immediate protection of fundamental rights that enables people to file cases without a lawyer before any judge, who then must decide the case within 10 business days) against the Procuraduría General de la Nación (a government institution in charge of guaranteeing the protection of fundamental rights) for publishing inaccurate and biased information on sexual and reproductive rights. The tutela was signed by 1201 women. WLW argues that the Procuraduría violated the right to information regarding reproductive health issues while threatening other human rights. The Constitutional Court selected WLW's tutela for review on January 31, 2012.

The Center for Reproductive Rights prepared the amicus brief in defense of women's reproductive rights to support the arguments set forth by WLW and submitted it to the Constitutional Court on May 10. The brief argues that information made public by the Procurador General de la Nación and two of his deputies jeopardizes Colombia's responsibility to comply with international human rights obligations, as spelled out in treaties, conventions, and covenants that the government has ratified.

The Center's brief argues that the aforementioned officials compromised the health and well-being of women in several ways:

  • They published a wide range of information that distorts the truth about the legal framework in which abortion has been decriminalized as well as the effects of emergency contraception and misoprostol, a drug used in medication abortions. National law and jurisprudence from Colombia's Constitutional Court requires the government to make available factual information.
  • They violated the government's obligation of active transparency-to provide complete information that is necessary for the exercise of other rights, established through international human rights standards.
  • They violated women's right to information specifically regarding their health issues, tantamount to a violation to their right to health. This transgression threatens the fulfillment of other aspects of the right to health and, consequently, the rights to life, integrity, and equality.

The Center joins WLW in urging the Colombian Constitutional Court to protect the rights that have been violated or threatened by the biased information disseminated by the public officials of the Procuraduría General de la Nación.

We strongly urge the Court to define the scope of responsibilities of public officials regarding the guarantee of women's sexual and reproductive rights, especially with respect to information on sexual and reproductive health, and that those responsibilities include the obligation to provide only true and accurate information that will benefit the health and dignity of all Colombian women.