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Sexual and Reproductive Rights

    March 09, 2015

    By Dr. Renu Adhikari, Nepal

    Yesterday, the world celebrated International Women's Day. Today, world leaders descend on the United Nations in New York to take stock of how much they have achieved in the 20 years since a historic meeting in Beijing, where they promised to protect and promote the rights of women and girls everywhere. Dr Renu Adhikari will be among the many activists in New York. She tells us what progress she’s seen over the last two decades.

    I have worked on women’s rights for the last 24 years in Nepal. I started out working on trafficking and HIV. I had met a girl who had been trafficked and her story made me re-think whether I should continue being a medical doctor or do something in women’s rights. At that time, I had no idea what an NGO was. Still, in 1991 I created the Women’s Rehabilitation Centre (WOREC) out of my passion for women’s rights.

    March 05, 2015

    By Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director, Amnesty International

    Last month in El Salvador, a young woman walked free after nearly a decade behind bars. Carmen Guadalupe Vásquez Aldana was just 18 when, in 2008, she was sentenced to 30 years in jail. Her crime? Having a miscarriage.

    El Salvador has one of the world’s most draconian abortion statutes. It criminalizes abortion on all grounds, including when the mother’s life or health is in danger, and in cases of rape. Women and girls cannot access an abortion even if continuing their pregnancy will kill them, or if their fetuses are not viable.

    Those who defy the law and seek unsafe, clandestine abortions face horrifying consequences: The World Health Organization in 2008 reported that 9 percent of maternal deaths in Central America are due to such procedures.

    Generally, wealthier Salvadorans can pay for private services or seek adequate medical care abroad. Most frequently, the law’s victims are patients in the country’s public clinics where doctors, fearing criminal prosecution, call the police when a woman arrives in pain.

    January 22, 2015

    El Salvador’s Parliamentary Assembly has pardoned a young woman who had been imprisoned after suffering a miscarriage. The pardon is a triumph of justice and gives hope to other women languishing in jail on similar charges. The pardon came days after Amnesty supporters took to Twitter and Facebook to urge El Salvador's Legislative Assembly to free the woman and others jailed for similar reasons.

    What happened?

    In El Salvador, abortion is always a crime. If you’re poor and have a miscarriage, you may be accused of having an abortion and locked up.

    Just 18 years old when she was jailed, Guadalupe was sentenced to 30 years in prison after suffering a miscarriage in 2007. She was wrongly accused of having an abortion, which is outlawed in all circumstances in El Salvador.

    Guadalupe’s harrowing story is just one example of how the authorities in El Salvador go to ridiculous lengths to punish women.

    January 22, 2015

    A pardon granted by El Salvador’s Parliamentary Assembly to a young woman imprisoned after suffering a miscarriage is a triumph of justice and gives hope to the other 15 women languishing in jail on similar charges, said Amnesty International.

    In 2007 “Guadalupe” received a 30 year jail sentence after authorities wrongly suspected she had terminated her pregnancy. She was only 18 years old.  

    “With this decision, El Salvador has undone a terrible injustice. Guadalupe should have never been jailed in the first place. This release is a triumph of justice and a result of the tireless work by local human rights activists,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

    “This decision must mark a turning point for El Salvador’s retrograde laws which punish women and girls when having medical complications during their pregnancies. It is time for the authorities to review the sentences against all women imprisoned for pregnancy-related complications and end its criminalization of women and girls and its heinous anti-abortion ban.”

    January 21, 2015

    El Salvador’s Legislative Assembly must vote today to overturn horrifying injustice and pardon a woman imprisoned for 30 years after having a miscarriage, said Amnesty International today.

    “Guadalupe” was just 18-years-old when she was imprisoned in 2007. She received a 30 year sentence after authorities suspected she could have actively terminated her pregnancy.  Members already voted on 16 January and “Guadalupe” lost her plea by just one vote. They will vote again today.

    “Today El Salvador has the chance to rectify a terrible injustice perpetrated against this young woman. She has already spent seven long years in prison away from her family and her release cannot come a moment too soon,” said Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas Director Amnesty International.

    Abortion is totally banned in El Salvador, even if the pregnancy could kill the woman. Some women, mainly those living in poverty, who have a miscarriage are automatically criminalized.

    January 21, 2015

    Recently, the Salvadoran authorities refused to pardon Guadalupe, a young woman currently serving a 30-year jail sentence after suffering a miscarriage. One of her chief advocates is Morena Herrera. Here, the ex-freedom fighter, staunch feminist and sexual and reproductive rights campaigner tells us why El Salvador’s abortion ban needs to go.

    “I was a guerrilla fighter. I was an activist for social change since I was young,” says Morena Herrera. When the civil war ended in 1992 and the Peace Accords were signed, she knew that the fight was far from over.

    “Those accords left big holes when it came to women’s rights,” she says. “I realized I had to fight another way. Women’s rights are human rights and they have to be a priority.”

    Since 2009, Morena has been fighting “another way” through the Citizen’s Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion, a collective she heads today.

    November 25, 2014

    Amnesty International supporters worldwide today join the 16 Days against Gender Violence campaign to challenge violence and discrimination against women and girls, including the denial of sexual and reproductive rights.

    The campaign, which runs from 25 November to 10 December, aims to celebrate heroes – women human rights defenders – in every region of the world who fight discrimination and call on governments to prevent, investigate and prosecute discrimination and violence against women and girls.

    November 24, 2014

     
    On 25 November 2014, Amnesty International will mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women by launching a briefing on sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls in Algeria.

    The Algerian authorities took long overdue steps to address sexual and gender-based violence earlier this year when they adopted a decree to provide financial compensation for victims of sexual violence by armed groups in the 1990s internal conflict, during which hundreds – if not thousands – of women were abducted and raped. They have also proposed draft laws, which, if adopted, would make violence against a spouse and sexual harassment in public places criminal offences.

    However, Amnesty International believes the new measures do not go far enough and are symptomatic of a fragmented approach to sexual and gender-based violence.

    October 28, 2014

    El Salvador came under pressure from nine countries at the United Nations last night to amend its repressive and out-dated abortion laws. The effects of these laws amount to institutionalized violence, torture and other forms of ill-treatment against women and girls, said Amnesty International

    A further 12 countries have raised concerns about continued discrimination against women in the country.

    El Salvador was called upon at the United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR) to reform laws that bar access to abortion in all circumstances and send women to prison for having miscarriages or clandestine abortions.

    “We have seen first-hand the devastating impact these laws are having on the women and girls of El Salvador, from women dying during clandestine abortions, to others imprisoned for more than 40 years after having suffered a miscarriage. Now representatives from various countries have joined us in saying enough is enough,” said Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

    October 16, 2014

    Released  08.00 BST - 16 October 2014

    Repressive and discriminatory legislation enacted over the last 18 months in Uganda has led to increasing state repression, violence and homophobic and gender-based discrimination, according to a new report published by Amnesty International today.

    “Rule by Law” – Discriminatory Legislation and Legitimized Abuses in Uganda, launching today in Uganda’s capital city Kampala, details how three pieces of legislation have violated fundamental human rights, fuelled discriminatory abuses and left individuals unable to seek justice.

    “Repression in Uganda is increasingly state sanctioned through the use of blatantly discriminatory legislation that erodes rights guaranteed in the country’s Constitution,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa.  

    “The government must act now to revise these toxic laws, which threaten the core of human rights in Uganda.”

    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).  

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