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Sexual and Reproductive Rights

    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:

    May 30, 2013

    Yesterday's decision by the Constitutional Chamber of El Salvador's Supreme Court of Justice to deny Beatriz her appeal for access to a therapeutic abortion is "shameful and discriminatory", Amnesty International said.

    “This decision violates Beatriz's human rights" said Esther Major, Amnesty International's researcher on El Salvador.

    “To have subjected Beatriz to this lengthy drawn-out process, taking seven weeks to come to a decision which affects a person whose life is in imminent danger, is cruel, inhumane and degrading".

    The Court has also ordered the health authorities to "continue monitoring the petitioner's state of health and to provide her with the..appropriate...treatment...[since]...health professionals are the only ones with the knowledge and necessary experience...to alleviate their patients' suffering and address any complications which may arise..."

    March 22, 2013

    A new law passed by the Indian Parliament aimed at addressing sexual violence, while positive in some respects, has several deficiencies and also violates India’s international law obligations, Amnesty International said.

    The upper house of the Indian Parliament passed the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 on 21 March 2013, meaning that the law will come into effect once it is signed by the President.

    The lower house approved the law two days earlier, with less than half of its members present and voting.

    “The new law does have some welcome features,” said G. Ananthapadmanabhan, Chief Executive of Amnesty International India. “It commendably criminalizes several forms of violence against women including acid attacks, stalking and voyeurism. It is more sensitive to the needs of disabled persons, provides for certain victim-friendly evidentiary procedures and removes the requirement of government permission for prosecution of public servants accused of rape and some forms of sexual violence.

    March 19, 2013

    A ruling by the Philippines’ Supreme Court to halt a new law on reproductive health is a leap backwards for human rights in the country, Amnesty International said.  

    The Act Providing for a National Policy on Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health, known as the RH Law, provides for access to contraception and reproductive health information for adults.

    It came into force in January 2013, amid opposition from Catholic clergy. The Supreme Court, however, has now delayed its implementation pending a new hearing on 18 June.  

    “The law is a historical milestone in the protection of women’s rights in the Philippines as it strikes down some longstanding barriers for women’s access to sexual and reproductive health,” said Isabelle Arradon, Amnesty International's Deputy Asia-Pacific Director.

    “It is disappointing that there is another delay in protecting these basic human rights.”

    The RH Law does not merely focus on fertility-related concerns, but also addresses HIV and AIDS, breast and reproductive tract cancers, and menopausal and post-menopausal conditions.  

    Ireland must ensure that its domestic law and policy on access to abortion is in line with international human rights law, said Amnesty International today (17.11.2012).

    The organization – which has written to Irish Minister for Health James Reilly - is concerned the tragic case of Savita Halappanavar illustrates a gap in Irish law and policy on the most basic human rights level - that is a woman’s right to access abortion where her life is at risk.

    This right has already been established as a Constitutional principle by the Irish Supreme Court Amnesty International also expressed its concern about the lack of clarity as to whether or not a specific legislative framework is required.

    “International human rights law is clear about the right of a woman to access a safe and legal abortion where her life is at risk,” said Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International in Ireland.

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