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Sexual and Reproductive Rights

    October 14, 2014

    By Shiromi Pinto

    Yoshi Garcia is a Salvadoran activist and self-styled “DJ with a conscience”. Aged 24, her interest in gender equality issues started when she was around 14. Since then, she has joined numerous campaigning organizations, including Agrupaçion (the Citizen’s Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion) and Jovenes Voceras y Voceros en los DS y DR (Youth Voices for Sexual and Reproductive Rights). Here, she tells us how she became a passionate advocate against El Salvador’s total abortion ban.

    October 09, 2014

    Hundreds of pregnant women and girls are dying needlessly in South Africa, partly because they fear their HIV status may be revealed if they access antenatal care services, according to a major report published by Amnesty International today.

    Struggle for Maternal Health: Barriers to Antenatal Care in South Africa, details how fears over patient confidentiality and HIV testing, a lack of information and transport problems are contributing to hundreds of maternal deaths every year by acting as barriers to early antenatal care.

    “It is unacceptable that pregnant women and girls are continuing to die in South Africa because they fear their HIV status will be revealed, or because of a lack of transport or basic health and sexuality education. This cannot continue,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

    “The South African government must ensure all departments work together to urgently address all the barriers that place the health of pregnant women and girls at risk,” said Salil Shetty.

    September 25, 2014

    Originally Released  25 September 2014 13:30 GMT

    The government’s repressive and outdated total ban on abortion is blighting the lives of women and girls in El Salvador, pushing them to unsafe, clandestine abortions or forcing them through dangerous pregnancies, Amnesty International said today. Those terminating their pregnancies could face years in prison.

    Amnesty International’s recent report, On the brink of death: Violence against women and the abortion ban in El Salvador, charts how the country’s restrictive law results in the deaths of hundreds of women and girls who seek clandestine abortions. The criminalization of the practice has also resulted in those suspected of undertaking an abortion facing long prison sentences. 

    “The horrific repression that women and girls in El Salvador face is truly shocking and akin to torture. They are denied their fundamental right to make decisions about their own bodies and are severely punished if they dare to do so,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International, who launched the report in San Salvador today.

    September 24, 2014

    Remember Beatriz?

    She nearly died last year because the government of El Salvador refused to let her terminate the pregnancy that was making her fatally ill—a pregnancy in which the fetus was unlikely to survive because it was missing large parts of its brain.

    Every year, thousands of women and girls are denied their human rights by El Salvador’s total abortion ban. It doesn’t matter whether they are 10 years old and pregnant because they were raped, or whether the pregnancy is a risk to their lives: El Salvador’s abortion laws force them to carry the pregnancy to term.

    Women who have a miscarriage can be jailed for up to 50 years for aggravated homicide, because the state suspects them of having a clandestine abortion.

    With no comprehensive education about sex and relationships, and obstacles to accessing contraception, El Salvador has the highest teen pregnancy rate in Latin America. And more than half of all deaths of pregnant teens in the country are due to suicide.

    September 19, 2014

    Ireland’s latest guidelines on abortion are mere window-dressing that will confuse health professionals and endanger women’s lives and rights, said Amnesty International.

    “The only thing these guidelines really clarify is the incredibly restrictive and unworkable nature of the existing law,” said Elisa Slattery, sexual and reproductive rights researcher at Amnesty International.

    “Drawing up burdensome guidelines to implement a highly restrictive law that is out of kilter with international human rights standards is an exercise in futility. Issuing guidelines to poor legislation isn’t enough; we need a completely different approach.”

    The guidelines issued today by the Department of Health are intended to ensure that a pregnant woman or girl can access a lawful abortion when there is a “real and substantial risk” to her life.

    This is the only exception permitted under the Irish law known as Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act 2013 (the Act).  

    June 19, 2014

    Chile’s commitment to decriminalise abortion in cases where the pregnancy was the result of rape, the woman’s life is in danger and when the foetus is not viable is a positive step forward to ensure and protect the rights of women and girls in the country, said Amnesty International today.

    The reforms were announced as part of Chile’s adoption of the recommendations made under the United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR), before the Human Rights Council today. Abortion is currently completely illegal in Chile.

    “By planning to decriminalise abortion, Chile is showing its willingness to respect and protect women and girl’s rights to life and non-discrimination,” said Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

    “While the proposed reforms currently only refer to decriminalising abortion in three instances, Chile is finally acknowledging the need to bring its legislation on abortion into line with international human rights standards, which is a welcome first step in the right direction.”

    June 13, 2014

    Tajikistan must immediately cease a campaign of harassment and violence against people accused of “moral crimes”, Amnesty International said today. Police have seized more than 500 sex workers and a number of men suspected of ‘homosexual behaviour’ since 6 June.  

    In a series of midnight sweeps in the capital, Dushanbe, police picked up those they suspected of sex work or other “moral crimes” – including a pregnant woman and three men suspected of being gay.

    They were bundled into police vans and several reported being beaten by police.

    “These midnight raids, disguised as a campaign to ensure public morality, are in truth an exercise in discrimination and ill-treatment,” said Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia.

    “Reports of police beatings, threats, sexual violence and invasive forced medical procedures suggest the Ministry of Internal Affairs needs to address the abuses allegedly meted out by officers as a matter of urgency.”

    June 09, 2014
    Lahecen El-Filali (L) holds a photo of his daughter, Amina El-Filali, as he attends a news conference with his wife Zahera Lmealme and his other daughter, Hamida, in Rabat March 21, 2012.

    Amina Filali committed suicide by swallowing rat poison in March 2012. She was 16 years old. Her desperate act showed the depth of her pain and despair: she must have felt that nobody was there to help her.

    We soon learned that Amina had been raped in her small Moroccan town, by a man she was then forced to marry. Imagine being married to your rapist, to be forced to see that person all the time – it would be devastating. 

    He married her because Moroccan law allows rapists to escape prosecution by marrying their victim, if she is aged under 18.

    Amina’s death caused an outcry in Morocco and throughout the region. What shocked people most was that this marriage was sanctioned by law, as well as by a judge who authorized it. It revealed that the state was complicit in covering up a rape. And instead of protecting her as the victim of a crime, the law victimized Amina a second time. 

    This kind of legislation doesn’t just exist in Morocco, but also in Algeria and Tunisia. 

    SHAME IS A POWERFUL FORCE 

    This legal environment prevents women and girls from reporting rape. A victim is not considered as a survivor of a grave act of violence.

    June 09, 2014

    When Amnesty launched My Body My Rights, our global campaign on sexual and reproductive rights, earlier this year, we were met by unfavourable headlines in the Moroccan media. It’s time to set the record straight, writes Aurelia Dondo, North Africa campaigner.

    Our message was clear. Women and girls have the right to live free from sexual violence and have the right to bodily integrity. These rights are known in international law as sexual and reproductive rights. They are universal human rights and governments must ensure they are respected, protected and fulfilled. But some within the Moroccan media were quick to distort the message.

    By depicting Amnesty International as an imperialist organization encouraging sexual misconduct, these media outlets twisted the debate and muddied the issue. In doing so, they disregarded the plight of the survivors of sexual violence we are campaigning for.

    May 28, 2014

    By Jackie Hansen, Women’s rights campaigner

    Canada pledged $2.85 billion from 2010-2015 to reduce maternal and infant mortality in the global South as part of the G8’s Muskoka Initiative. This week, Canada has invited world leaders, the UN, and civil society to Toronto for the “Saving Every Woman Every Child: Within Arm’s Reach” summit on maternal, newborn, and child health (MNCH) to explore the impact of the Muskoka Initiative and chart the path forward.

    Back in 2010 when the Muskoka Initiative funding was first announced, Amnesty International, along with other organizations, was critical of the initiative for excluding support and funding for safe abortion services. Amnesty International’s research shows that to reduce maternal mortality rates, women must have access to a full range of sexual and reproductive services.

    April 09, 2014

    By Jackie Hansen, Major Campaigns and Women's Rights Campaigner

    "Our health, our bodies, our rights, our future—in your hands now” is the message that Amnesty International sent to United Nations Secretary-General Ban-Ki-Moon during a handover of 281,102 petition signatures in New York today.

    I like to think that my body and my health are in my own hands, thank you very much. My grandmother and my mother fought hard to make sure that I could grow up in a world where I can receive information about family planning, where getting married is a choice, and where I am in control about making decisions about my sexuality and reproduction.

    But much as I like to think that I am the sole master of my destiny, I have spent enough time in the halls of the United Nations to know better. This week, governments from around the world have come together at the United Nations in New York at the 47th Session of the Commission on Population and Development. Throughout this week they will talk about big global issues like young people’s access to comprehensive sexuality education, and the many ways and forms in which people create families. They will leave New York with agreement on a document that will re-affirm the rights that we have to make decisions about our sexuality and reproduction. And that is no small thing.

    April 08, 2014

    The Philippine Supreme Court’s decision on Tuesday to uphold a landmark reproductive health law as constitutional is an important victory for millions of Filipino women and girls, Amnesty International said.

    The court’s decision, which will require the government to provide free contraception to millions of the nation’s poorest women, is being welcomed by activists across the country.

    “Today’s Supreme Court ruling is a victory for the independence of the judiciary and means that millions of women and girls have a right to access medical services and information they need,” said Hazel Galang-Folli, Amnesty International’s Researcher on the Philippines.

    “The Philippine authorities must resist all ongoing efforts to roll back the country’s landmark law on sexual and reproductive rights. Caving in to pressure would mean denying women and girls their human rights.”

    February 20, 2014

    Widespread and systemic gender discrimination in Nepal has led to hundreds of thousands of women suffering from a reproductive health condition that leaves them in great pain, unable to carry out daily tasks and often ostracized from their families and communities, Amnesty International said in a new report today.

    Uterine prolapse – a debilitating condition where the uterus descends from its normal position into the vagina - is rooted in discrimination that has severely limited the ability of women and girls to make decisions about their sexual and reproductive lives. Harsh working environments, early marriages and having too many children all contribute to the condition.

    “This is an urgent human rights issue. Widespread uterine prolapse in Nepal goes back to the ingrained discrimination against women and girls that successive governments have failed to tackle adequately,” said Madhu Malhotra, Director of Amnesty International’s Gender, Identity and Sexuality and Identity Programme.

    August 21, 2013

    A flogging sentence against a 15-year-old rape victim in Maldives has been annulled, but the girl should never have been prosecuted at all, Amnesty International said.

    A Maldives High Court today quashed a sentence of 100 lashes and house arrest against a 15-year old girl for the “offence” of extra-marital sex. The girl, who was convicted of “fornication” in February this year, had reportedly also been sexually abused repeatedly by her step father.

    “Annulling this sentence was of course the right thing to do. We are relieved that the girl will be spared this inhumane ‘punishment’ based on an outrageous conviction, which we hope has also been quashed,” said Polly Truscott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia-Pacific Director.

    “No one should ever be prosecuted for sex outside marriage in the first place. And victims of sexual abuse need counselling, not punishment. The government must make sure that she has continuing access to appropriate support services.

    June 28, 2013
    We’re deep in Pride season here in Canada. People are out and loud and proud and celebrating. But in many parts of the world, simply the perception that a person is LGBTI can lead to insecurity, lengthy prison sentences, or worse. This week Amnesty International released a report on rising homophobia in sub-Saharan Africa. It documents policies that criminalize same sex conduct, and practices that make being out and proud dangerous—even in places like South Africa, which has anti-discrimination laws and marriage equality.

    Here are the stories of some of the brave LGBTI activists in sub-Saharan who at great personal risk agreed to be interviewed by Amnesty International for this report:

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