Ecuador, Latin American Region · 15 December, 2021

New technologies as a tool for the justice sector to fight against gender-based violence

The president of the Council of the Judiciary of Ecuador, María del Carmen Maldonado, answered some questions to illustrate how new technologies have become a tool for the justice sector to tackle gender violence.

Interview by Jackeline Rojas, Senior Technician in the Gender Equality Area

The measures taken in Latin America and Europe to control the Covid-19 health crisis during periods of social isolation exacerbated different forms of violence against women and girls, as well as against people of sexual-gender diversity, increasing institutional obstacles to address them. The judicial powers postponed work, extended terms and deadlines, and only attended to urgent matters in a less effective manner. This meant that technological modernisation processes had to be accelerated to respond to respond to victims of gender violence quickly and efficiently.

The president of the Council of the Judiciary of Ecuador, María del Carmen Maldonado, answered some questions to illustrate how new technologies have become a tool for the justice sector to tackle gender violence.

How have new technologies helped the justice system to address cases of gender violence in the current pandemic situation?

The Covid-19 pandemic underlined the importance of developing technological tools for judicial services to continue providing care to citizens, protecting health and preventing the spread of the virus. The pandemic further exacerbated the domestic violence phenomenon, with more causes of violence, but a lower rate of entry of cases to the Judicial Branch[1].

This situation forced rapid decision-making, to gradually enable more channels of access to justice services. This was achieved by implementing the Virtual Module of Protection Measures and the development of the tool, a follow-up mechanism on the principle of judicial speed in cases of femicide and violent deaths of women.

What are the main challenges for conducting online trials in cases of gender violence?

From an administrative point of view, the use of technology is not universal, since some sectors in Ecuador have no access due to the lack of internet coverage or lack of resources.

On the budgetary side, there is the challenge of conducting online trials in cases of gender violence and providing assistance to victims through technological tools, which protect them from their revictimisation or pilgrimages in search of protection from vulnerable situations.

Another challenge is to develop channels and service routes that give victims access to justice services without conditions that endanger their integrity and that, without requiring unnecessary effort by the victims, can be served by the administration.

Could you tell us about some of the promising practices that have been identified?

The Council of the Judiciary carried out a representative project[2] to automate judicial processes and information management on violence against girls, boys, adolescents and women, which automates the procedure for providing criminal and administrative protection measures, allowing justice operators[3] protecting rights to submit requests to grant review of protection measures, interacting through Ecuador’s Automatic Judicial Formalities System (SATJE).

Since the implementation of the Virtual Module of Protective Measures, 18,322 protective measures have been delivered through this technological instrument, protecting around 4,700 women, children and adolescents[4].

In this process, coordination with other institutions is a good practice, since it prevents the victim from unnecessary transfers between the agency where protective measures are requested and the judicial unit where this is ratified, protecting their physical integrity, security and personal protection and avoiding their re-victimisation, even before the perpetrator.

Additionally, the Council of the Judiciary, as part of the Comprehensive National System to Prevent and Eradicate Violence against Women, has developed the tool, which consists of a mechanism for monitoring the principle of judicial speed in cases of femicide and violent deaths of women. With this dynamic tool, citizens can permanently and interactively access statistics and judicial processes, in alignment with the implementation process of the Open Justice model that is carried out in coordination with all bodies of the Judicial Function.

What recommendations can you share for conducting online trials in cases of gender violence?

Technology has become a mechanism that evolves continuously to give people better access to services, without the need to have physical contact; technological and communication media have enabled faster and more efficient care systems. However, to make this a common, healthy practice, it is necessary to promote the use of technological tools in the daily actions of judicial officers. The above has been achieved through training and awareness-raising for civil servants who attend to victims of gender violence, with the dissemination of the principles of “non-revictimising care”, which guarantees the right to access justice services without neglecting the human side of the people, which is essential for the efficacy of the justice system.

In terms of online trials in cases of gender violence, much remains to be done. Particularly access to technology for all sectors of the population, a challenge that involves large-scale projects by strategic sectors and government administration. However, despite the limitations of technology coverage, major steps have already been taken, starting with the optimisation of technological infrastructure, regulatory and procedural development consistent with the demands of a health emergency, improving care procedures and training for operators and judicial officials, among others.

The extraordinary nature of this situation showed the importance of having technological infrastructure and trained personnel to guarantee service continuity, thus complying with the provisions of the Inter-American Court in its Advisory Opinion on “Judicial Guarantees in States of Emergency”[5].

Undoubtedly, the health emergency caused the justice systems to throw themselves into guaranteeing citizens’ rights to effective judicial remedies.

 During the pandemic, the Council of the Judiciary of Ecuador, in collaboration with the EUROsociAL+ gender area, developed a “Regional diagnosis of promising practices for the implementation of online trials in cases of gender violence and generating general recommendations”[6].

[1] The number of causes of sexual violence against women or members of the family nucleus increased by 346 cases in 2020, surpassing the number of similar cases in 2019, when 272 were accepted. This increase does not reflect the upsurge in domestic violence. Source: National Directorate of Access to Services, Council of the Judiciary

[2] Within the framework of Area 4 of the Institutional Strategic Plan, which establishes the objective of “Strengthening of investigation and punishment mechanisms in cases of sexual violence”.

[3] Prosecutors, political deputies, national commissioners, mayors and members of the cantonal boards.

[4] The project intends to benefit more than 56,000 victims and complainants who go directly to judicial units or who enter a judicial process annually; and, approximately 25,000 victims of gender violence who go to the Public Prosecutor’s Office, to the cantonal boards for the protection of rights, political positions, and national police stations to request protective measures.


[6] Diagnosis made by María Edith López Hernández, EUROsociAL+ gender expert. The document will soon be available in the EUROsociAL+ library

Pais: Ecuador, Latin American Region
ODS: Gender equality, Peace, justice and strong institutions
Área de Políticas:
Tipo: Interview

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