Sexual and Reproductive Rights
The Legislative Assembly of El Salvador has a historic opportunity to reject the criminalization of abortion and protect the health and lives of millions of women throughout the country, said Amnesty International in light of a debate which could result in the first steps being taken towards the end of criminalization of abortion in the country.
“The total ban on abortion is, quite simply, a form of torture which puts the lives of millions of women and girls at risk every day,” said Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.
Abortion has been criminalized in all circumstances in El Salvador since 1998, even when the pregnancy is the result of rape, incest, or where the life of the pregnant woman or girl is at risk. Many women and girls have lost their lives or been imprisoned due to the total abortion ban.
Ahead of a debate in the Honduran congress today over the country’s criminalization of abortion, Amnesty International’s Americas Director Erika Guevara-Rosas said:
“By criminalizing abortion, the Honduran Penal Code is incompatible with human rights standards and must be modified without delay.”
“Preventing women from exercising their human rights by stopping them from being able to make decisions over their own bodies only puts their health and lives in danger.”
As part of a wider debate on the country’s Penal Code, the Honduran Congress will debate proposed changes that would allow for abortions when the health of the pregnant woman is at risk, when the pregnancy was the result of rape and in cases of foetal impairment that is incompatible with life.
In a report last year, Amnesty International documented many abuses – some of which may amount to torture — faced by women across the Americas as a consequence of the criminalization of abortion services in some countries in the region.
In 1998, El Salvador instituted a complete ban on abortion, with lengthy prison sentences for women accused of having abortions. It has led to women who experience pregnancy-related complications like miscarriage because accused of having an abortion, charged with “aggravated homicide,” and sentenced to prison terms of up to 40 years.
Alongside organizations like Agrupación Ciudadana, Amnesty has long called for El Salvador’s total ban on abortion to be overturned because it unjustly criminalizes women and denies them access to safe and legal abortion services in case of rape, incest, or life-threatening medical conditions. The result? Many women, like Teodora del Carmen Vásquez, are in prison for having a miscarriage, and El Salvador has a high rate of maternal deaths because of complications from illegal abortions.
By Jackie Hansen, Women’s Rights Campaigner
Annually since 1991, women’s rights activists from around the world have joined together to take action as part of the 16 Days of Activism to end Gender-based Violence campaign. Women and girls continue to experience violence directed at them because of their gender. Indigenous women and girls experience higher rates of violence than any other group of women and girls in Canada. The federal government has launched a National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. This is a laudable effort and one that Indigenous womens’ organizations, Amnesty International and many others long called for, but action to end violence against Indigenous women and girls must not be delayed until the Inquiry finishes its work two years from now.
The UN Human Rights Committee’s ground-breaking decision that Ireland’s law prohibiting and criminalizing abortion violated the human rights of a woman who had a diagnosis of fatal foetal impairment will advance women’s rights in Ireland and beyond, said Amnesty International today.
The UN Committee’s ruling today said Ireland’s laws prohibiting abortion violated the rights of Amanda Mellet, a dual citizen of Ireland and the USA, as it denied her an abortion despite her receiving a diagnosis of fatal foetal anomaly in 2011. The Center for Reproductive Rights filed the complaint to the UN Human Rights Committee in November 2013 on Ms Mellet’s behalf.
It is the first time that an international human rights body has found a state in violation of its human right obligations for criminalizing and prohibiting abortion.
I want to thank everyone who supported me and who never left me alone, everyone who believed in me and always said that I was innocent even though you did not know me. This was very special to me.
A court's decision today to release a woman who spent four years in jail in El Salvador for miscarrying her pregnancy is a great victory for human rights, said Amnesty International.
María Teresa Rivera, 33, was jailed in 2011 and sentenced to 40 years in prison for “aggravated homicide” after having a miscarriage.
"The release of María Teresa is yet another step towards justice in a country where women are treated as mere second class citizens," said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.
“She should have never been forced to spend one second behind bars. Her release must be a catalyst for change in El Salvador, where dozens of women are put in prison because of an utterly ridiculous anti-abortion law which does nothing but put the lives of thousands of women and girls in danger.”
María Teresa was arrested in a hospital after her mother-in-law found her in her bathroom almost unconscious and bleeding heavily. Staff at the hospital reported her to the police and accused her of having an abortion.
Amnesty campaigner Karen Javorski takes us inside one of El Salvador’s most notorious prisons to meet Teodora del Carmen Vásquez and María Teresa Rivera, women jailed after pregnancy complications.
Teodora shares a cell with 70 other women. For María Teresa, it is 250. Cramped together like this, the women often have to sleep on the floor under the building’s hot tin roofs.
This is Ilopango prison on the outskirts of San Salvador, capital of El Salvador. I’m here with my Amnesty colleagues, and our local partners, to visit Teodora del Carmen Vásquez and others from “Las 17”, a group of Salvadoran women who are in prison after suffering pregnancy-related complications.
The women speak to us in an outdoor area just beyond the prison patio– the only place we are allowed to enter. The heat is intense and the mosquitos swarm, but at least we can catch the breeze outside. Inside, as Teodora and María Teresa tell us, it’s a different story: severe overcrowding, intense heat and strict rules that are both impractical and cruel. And yet you wouldn’t know it from the building’s fairly nondescript exterior.
Today, people all over the world are marking St Patrick’s Day and honouring what it means to be Irish. The Eiffel Tower is glowing green in France and in the USA, President Obama is hosting the Irish Prime Minister at the White House’s annual celebration.
Burkina Faso's Ministry of Justice, Human Rights, and Civic Promotion has affirmed the government's commitment to eradicating early and forced marriage.
The ministry plans to raise the legal age of marriage for girls to 18 years and to ensure that forced marriage is clearly defined in Burkina Faso's criminal code.