Ipas and partners stress harms of criminal abortion laws in Latin America

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Inter-American Dialogue, a leading U.S. and foreign policy think tank, this week brought together Ipas and partners to raise awareness of a persistent human rights concern: Across Latin America, laws that make abortion a crime are violating women’s basic human rights. According to new research, laws in the region increasingly require or encourage health providers to report women to the police if suspected of having an abortion.

“Latin America continues to have the most restrictive abortion laws in the world, which violate the human rights of women and health providers who are arrested, prosecuted and jailed for alleged abortion-related crimes,” says Ipas Senior Policy Advisor Bia Galli, who spoke at The Dialogue’s event. Joining Galli were representatives from the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Commission of Women, and Georgetown University’s O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law.

Five countries in Latin America—Chile, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and the Dominican Republic—ban abortion under all circumstances, even to save a woman’s life. Where laws are less restrictive, women still face significant legal obstacles to accessing safe abortion services.

“Laws criminalizing abortion in the region have a devastating impact on Latin American women’s health and lead to violations of their human rights, particularly their right to physical, mental and social health,” says O’Neill Institute Executive Director Oscar Cabrera, who also spoke at the event.

Women who seek life-saving health care risk arrest

A new Ipas report, “Betraying women: Provider duty to report,” reveals an alarming trend of medical staff breaching patient confidentiality and reporting women and girls to the police when they seek urgent health care for complications following an unsafe or self-induced abortion. This in turn creates fear and forces women to choose between seeking care (which may lead to imprisonment) or avoiding care and risking permanent injury or death.

“By turning hospitals and clinics into entry points to the criminal justice system, these laws are creating a hostile environment for women’s sexual and reproductive health and causing violations of women’s basic human rights to life, health, patient privacy and freedom from torture,” Galli explains.

In some countries, providers are now legally required to report a patient suspected of having an abortion to the police; in other countries, providers can be required to share confidential information during criminal investigations or legal proceedings. And in many cases across the region, health-care providers mistakenly believe abortion is illegal and report women for fear of being punished if they do not.

“Requiring health providers to report suspected illegal abortions results in breaches of the providers’ duty to protect doctor-patient confidentiality and undermines trust in the health system,” Cabrera says. The new report is based on research the O’Neill Institute compiled in partnership with Ipas.

The report calls on international bodies, governments and health-care providers to reverse course and instead create patient-centered health-care systems that protect patient confidentiality and uphold standard medical ethics related to patient privacy.

Learn more

Betraying women: Provider duty to report

Protecting women’s access to safe abortion care: A guide to understanding the human rights to privacy and confidentiality

OURs - News piece

Nigeria State Representatives deny any human rights violations taking place in Nigeria based on SOGI

The Coalition of African Lesbian reports form the 58th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

On the first day of the 58th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights [ACHPR], civil society organisations were given the opportunity to present statements to the Commission, highlighting issues of concern in respect to the situation of various human rights in their contexts.

Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity [and Expression] was an issue that was brought up consistently by various civil society organisations. The Coalition of African Lesbians, the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria [CHR], as well as theLegal Defense and Assistance Project [LEDAP] all referenced the relevance of Resolution 275 in ensuring that the violence experienced by people who are non-conforming in their sexual orientation, expression and identity is stopped. Both reports by CHR and LEDAP spoke of recorded human rights violations happening in Nigeria. LEDAP, in their statement to the Commission shared statistics of violence and violations experienced by people non-conforming to heteronormative expression and sexual orientation. The LEDAP Statement mentioned that human rights organisations in Nigeria had recorded 172 such cases in 2015, and 52 cases in 2016. They stated that these violations are perpetrated and allowed by both state and non-state actors.

The LEDAP statement also highlighted the need for the National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria to establish a reporting process that guarantees anonymity of victims of human rights based on their SOGIE.

On the 3rd day of this 58th Session, the Nigeria State representative responded to this statement. The Coalition of African Lesbians recorded and transcribed the State Representative’s response below:

“The [Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act, 2013] simply defines a valid marriage in Nigeria to be legal union between persons of opposite sex in accordance with the marriage act, Islamic law, or customary law. With specific reference to the allegations raised by the NGO, the Legal Defense and Assistance Project, two days ago, we wish to state that the organization has failed to provide details of human rights violations suffered by any person in Nigeria where the violations took place based on real or perceived sexual orientation in Nigeria. Not even a single instance was cited that is capable of being verified. Presently the National Human Rights Organisation of Nigeria has constituted a panel of experts to examine all federal and state laws in conflict with human rights standards with a view to ensuring necessary amendments or repeal. The committee has received a memorandum on the same sex relations and is under consideration. It is rather interesting to note that the national human rights commission has not received a single complaint on the so called 172 cases violation alleged in 2015. Nor any of the 52 cases in 2016. The National Human Rights Commission standing orders and rules of procedure allow anonymity in complaints handling in circumstances such as these. It is rather strange that the NGO is not well acquainted with the legal and institutional framework of the Commission. Which to say that the NGO has not exhausted all available channels for resolving such issues before coming to this conference.”

The Coalition sought a comment form the Women’s Health and Equal Rights [WHER] Initiative  based in Nigeria. The Initiative affirmed their support for the claims presented in the LEDAP statement. A WHER representative said, “Human Rights violations that involves LBT women has constantly been documented by women human rights organizations in Nigeria, and these are reported to the Nigeria National Human Rights Commission based on its rules of procedure 51 and the commission has several times acknowledged the receipt of such complaints. We will continue to remind and notify the commission of the human rights violation based on LBT women in Nigeria and we urge the commission to exercise its statutory responsibility of protection of all human rights of Nigeria including the LBT woman.”

The Coalition will track this situation and see if the Government of Nigeria in the upcoming Ordinary Session responds to this, or at least acknowledges receipt of reports of violations experienced by people resisting heteronormativity and challenging heterosexism in Nigeria.


OURs - News piece

FGM in Indonesia hits alarming level

Half of girls under 11 years old in Indonesia are circumcised, according to the latest finding by UNICEF, raising awareness and calls for bans on female genital mutilation ( FGM ) practices in the world’€™s most populous Muslim majority country.

It is the first time the global report has included Indonesia on the list, but the country ‘€” combined with Egypt and Ethiopia ‘€” accounts for half of 200 million girls and women in 30 countries that have undergone FGM, the study reveals.

The inclusion of Indonesia on the list, published on Friday, has raised the tally from 130 million circumcised girls and women in 29 countries estimated in 2014, albeit the study claimed that the prevalence of FGM has fallen significantly.

UNICEF data said prevalence of FGM in Indonesia was generally high in every province, with only Papua, East Nusa Tenggara and Bali recording one-digit percentages of circumcised girls in their respective populations. The practice is common in Jakarta, which is among the 10 provinces with the highest percentage of circumcised girls aged 11 and below, at 68.1 percent.

Indonesian authorities tried to ban FGM 10 years ago, but the Indonesian Ulema Council ( MUI ) issued a fatwa saying that female circumcision was part of religious practice.

In response, the Health Ministry softened its stance, issuing regulations that said the practice should only be done by medical professionals in a noninvasive way that did not injure girls and women. However, in 2013, the ministry revoked its regulations on female circumcision.

Read the full article from the Jakarta Post

Why Domestic Violence Still Plagues Morocco

By Daria Etezadi

The Moroccan woman was 21 when she first laid eyes on the man who would become her husband. She saw the handsome 24-year-old in a photograph presented by his parents. That was three years ago, when she was still a student. Within a year, S.S., who did not want her name used, had dropped out of her university classes, forced by her father to marry the man. Shortly after the wedding, S.S. says the beatings and rapes began.

“The whole time I just thought about killing myself,” she says. “There is no law that will help me sue my husband for the things that he did. So he always gets away with it.”

Morocco is hailed as one of the most progressive Muslim countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Yet despite amendments made to the Family Code in 2004 that increased women’s rights, domestic violence is still not a crime.

A bill addressing violence against women [VAW] in Morocco had been in limbo for more than 10 years when, on March 17, lawmakers finally took up the issue and passed the bill. But there are detractors, including some unexpected ones: Nongovernmental organizations that have long lobbied for legislation to protect women opposed the bill, saying it fails to address the urgent needs of Moroccan women.

Read the full story from Newsweek

Morocco: Tepid Response on Domestic Violence

Moroccan police, prosecutors, judges, and other authorities often fail to prevent domestic abuse, punish the abusers, or assist survivors, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to the Moroccan government.

In part, that is because Moroccan laws don’t provide officials with guidance on responding effectively.

Human Rights Watch in September 2015, interviewed 20 women and girls who had suffered domestic abuse. They said that their husbands, partners, and other family members punched, kicked, burned, stabbed, and raped them, or subjected them to other abuse. Human Rights Watch also interviewed lawyers, women’s rights activists, and representatives of organizations providing shelter and services to survivors of domestic violence. Morocco should strengthen and adopt draft laws that would improve protection for victims of domestic violence.

“Many women and girls enduring domestic violence don’t get the help they need from Moroccan authorities,” said Rothna Begum, Middle East and North Africa women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Adopting and enforcing a strong domestic violence law would not only help victims, but also help the authorities do their jobs.”

A national survey of women aged 18 to 65 by the Moroccan High Commission for Planning found that in 2009 nearly two-thirds – 62.8 percent – had experienced physical, psychological, sexual, or economic violence. Of the sample interviewed, 55 percent reported “conjugal” violence and 13.5 percent reported “familial” violence. Only 3 percent of those who had experienced conjugal violence had reported it to the authorities.

Most of the domestic violence survivors Human Rights Watch interviewed said they had sought help from police, prosecutors, or courts. But many said police officers refused to record their statements, failed to investigate, and refused to arrest domestic abuse suspects even after prosecutors ordered them to. In some cases, police did nothing more than tell victims to return to their abusers.

Read the full story from Human Rights Watch

United Russia activists create ‘flag for straights’ to oppose ‘gay fever’

The Moscow city branch of the parliamentary majority United Russia party has created a ‘flag for straights’. They want to use it in their campaign in defense of traditional values against aggressive LGBT propaganda.

The flag exists in three variants where a stylized picture of a husband, wife, and three children are pictured holding hands against a background of white, blue and red – the colors of the Russian national flag. Under the picture is the hashtag #realfamily in Russian.

Deputy head of United Russia’s Moscow organization said in comments with the popular daily Izvestia that the flag will be officially presented at the Day of Family Love and Faithfulness celebrated in Russia on Wednesday. Aleksey Lisovenko emphasized the new symbol was designed to counter the LGBT community’s rainbow flag.

This is our answer to same sex marriages, this mockery of the very concept of family. We must prevent gay fever in our country and support traditional values,” Izvestia quoted the activist as saying.

Last month, Aleksey Lisovenko sent a letter to the State Duma asking the parliament to ban the use of the LGBT community’s rainbow flag in Russia, including on websites and social networks.

Read the full story on Russia Today now