In 2017, UNDP Argentina implemented an initiative to start bridging the gap between Deaf women victims of gender-based violence and public policies on access to justice. The initiative was chosen by the UNDP’s Innovation Facility 2017, funded by the Government of Denmark.
In Argentina, practically no organization assisting gender-based violence victims is qualified for providing guidance and support to Deaf women. There is no research or statistical data to assess the size of the problem, either. Therefore, several sensitization activities were conducted in order to start arousing interest among people who have some sort of influence on addressing this problem. The collaboration of the Under-Secretary of Access to Justice of the National Ministry of Justice and Human Rights and the “Sordas Sin Violencia” Program conducted by FUNDASOR and “Enlaces Territoriales para la Equidad de Género” civil society organizations, was an essential step towards addressing this problem.
A workshop was organized in conjunction with the Under-Secretary of Access to Justice and the National Program to Assist Disabled Persons in their Relations with the Administration of Justice (ADAJUS, in Spanish), dependent of such Under-Secretary, to enable public officials and other members of the Deaf community to share experiences and points of view on the barriers that hamper access to justice to Deaf women. Around 50 people who are either members of the Deaf Community or who carry out public policies related to access to justice, the rights of disabled people and the eradication of gender-based violence took part in this event.
The workshop lasted two days, and was carried out on the 1 st and 4 th of December 2017. Due to the complexity of the problem, and in order to assure that the information exchanged was valuable and the problem was discussed as required, participants formed intersectoral and interdisciplinary working groups. Each group comprised members of the Deaf Community, public officers and Argentine-Spanish Sign Language interpreters.
The first day’s goal was to identify the causes leading to, on the one hand, justice services not being prepared to meet the needs of Deaf women victims of gender-based violence and, on the other hand, that Deaf women rarely resort to these services in order to enforce their rights and protect their lives, in spite of their need for assistance.
The second day, some proposals were outlined as to the actions which might contribute towards removing barriers for access to justice; adapting justice services so they may be more suitable for Deaf Women, and making communication more inclusive. In other words, this means that justice services should be provided in appropriated languages, formats and means to be accessible to everyone. It was also discussed about the required resources to achieve that Deaf women are empowered and know about their rights.
“This project presents an extremely innovative idea to build dialogs and bridges with Deaf women victims of intrafamily, domestic or gender-based violence. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities introduces the need to work on reasonable adjustments and to create support systems so that persons with disabilities may exercise their capabilities. It is a paradigm shift. We have to work jointly with judicial officials not only in order to remove obstacles and barriers, but also to build consensus within the community of hearing disabilities and strengthen Deaf women’s capabilities, so that they may be aware of their rights and report violence situations. We are facing enormous challenges. These sort of meetings provide us with inputs to develop policies which enable us to enhance the response levels and to create the marvelous utopia proposed by SDG 16: to build a peaceful, equitable and inclusive society”, pointed out María Fernanda Rodríguez, Undersecretary of Access to Justice.
Raise visibility Based on Real Experience
UNDP has also called the “Sordas Sin Violencia” Program (“Non-Violence to Deaf Women Program” in English) to continue working within the framework of this initiative in order to making visible the hindrances that prevent Deaf women from accessing justice. Discussions, seminars and presentations in different formats are taking place in teachers’ training institutions, Deaf Community associations, hospitals, governmental agencies and civil society organizations. In addition, several presentations have been made to different audiences: the Gender Equality and Human Rights Inter-agency Group of UN Argentina, the City of Buenos Aires Police Department, and the National Senate, to enable members of Parliament to increase their knowledge on this problem.
The “Sordas Sin Violencia” Program shares true stories of real women who have undergone illtreatment and injustice, whose identity is kept secret by the program, namely: a woman who went to several police stations and courts without being able to access an interpreter nor anyone who could assist her in filing a police report; a defense attorney that abandoned his client halfway through her statement because she was taking too long to finish it; a Deaf victim who managed to obtain a panic button device but was unable to communicate with the police in case of an emergency as it required a telephone conversation; questions and forms which are either unintelligible or may not be translated to sign language without changing their meaning. An infinite number of situations which every time they are told reflect a reality that is practically unknown and must be changed urgently.
As Ester Mancera, one of the coordinators of the “Sordas Sin Violencia” Program explains: “Sensitization involves setting the senses in motion; eliminating ideas based on prejudice and replacing them for others based on knowledge. What happens in sensitization activities is shocking. Because in most cases the participants have never had the chance to get to know what a Deaf woman has to go through, as besides experiencing gender-based violence, she has to face a huge communication barrier. Undoubtedly, sensitization activities and meeting spaces which place women’s needs in the spotlight are major tools to build public policies based on the rights of people with disabilities and gender equality.”