This statement by ARROW was submitted to the 53rd session of the Human Rights Council Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression. Watch the video statement here.
My name is Evelynne Gomez and I am making this statement on behalf of the Asian Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women, ARROW.
We commend the Special Rapporteur for the report on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, particularly in how it highlights the often overlooked interlinkages between the right to information and sustainable development, as well as the need to guarantee the effective participation of youth, women, Indigenous communities, human rights defenders, and civil society actors, amongst other marginalised groups, in order to ensure that no one gets left behind.
Of particular importance, and as noted in the report, “Some Governments and private actors restrict access to information on reproductive and sexual health and rights, including safe abortion, in contravention of international human rights law.” At the policy level, we see that the stifling of freedom of expression, opinion and information, is carried out via the enactment and implementation of laws from colonial era penal provisions such as sedition, obscenity acts, penal codes, and national security measures in the form of criminal defamation and cyber security legislations. This further impedes the right to freedom of expression and access to information, including on sexuality.
We call on States to take the following actions:
- Ensure that women, girls, and young people in all their diversities have access to safe and accurate information that is not impeded or restricted, which includes sexual and reproductive health and rights.
- Ensure sexual and reproductive health and rights information does not discriminate against groups such as unmarried women, young people, indigenous, gender non-conforming, persons with disabilities, or any other groups or individuals. It is the core obligation of States to ensure the repeal of laws, policies and practices that criminalise or undermine access to sexual and reproductive health services.
- Repeal restrictive laws and regulations relating to the expression of sexual orientation and gender identity which have contributed to increased stigma and harassment in healthcare settings.
- Ensure that defamation and blasphemy is not a criminal offence, and therefore any mention of defamation and blasphemy within the Penal Code must be repealed in their entirety, as well as laws that criminalise people who speak out or protest peacefully.