This post is written by Mabel Bianco, President of the Foundation for Studies and Research on Women (FEIM) and the Latin American and Caribbean NGO Delegate to the UNAIDS PCB. In this article, Mabel reflects on the activism in Latin America and the Caribbean around women’s sexual and reproductive health.
28 May marked the International Day of Action for Women’s Health, which was created at the V International Meeting of Women and Health held in San José, Costa Rica, in May 1987, following a proposal by members of the Latin American and Caribbean Women’s Health Network (LACWHN/RSMLAC). Since its beginning, one of the main concerns that compelled women’s health activists in Latin America and the Caribbean to establish this day has been the high maternal mortality rates especially due to unsafe abortion. Today, this continues to be a main factor driving activism around this important date in Latin America and the Caribbean, and a key date for reaffirming the importance of women’s right to decide: to exercise her sexuality without discrimination or violence, to enjoy her sexuality free of any type of coercion, to be mothers by choice not by obligation and not to die from unsafe abortions.
These rights are fundamental to ensure the health and life of women and were recognized in the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo in 1994. The ICPD Programme of Action (PoA), which was unique in its holistic and transformative approach to issues of population and its link to human rights, comprehensive health and sexual and reproductive health including provision of abortions when accepted by law, as well as HIV prevention, treatment, care and support, was approved in 1994 by 179 countries. By approving the PoA, states committed to fully implement the actions by 2014, a period of 20 years. However, we’re only two years away and much remains to be done!
Together with other women’s organizations that defend sexual and reproductive rights, FEIM is doing this on as many opportunities as possible nationally, regionally and globally. In the 45th Session of the UN Commission on Population and Development (CPD) from 22-26 April 2012 in New York, Mabel Bianco made a statement promoting the full implementation of the ICPD PoA especially for adolescents and youth, on whom the Session focused.
In Argentina, for 28 May of this year, in the framework of the International Day of Action, FEIM presented three draft laws for improving women’s health in the Buenos Aires City Parliament for Women’s Health:
- To establish a care procedure for all non-punishable abortions that must be applied in all Buenos Aires City Health System Centers, in consonance with the National Supreme Court’s ruling from 13 March 2012, guaranteeing all women’s right to interrupt a pregnancy when her life or health are at risk or in cases of rape or sexual assault, without suffering any form of discrimination.
- To establish the incorporation of the female condom among the HIV prevention methods that the City’s Ministry of Health provides for free to the population, especially to adolescent and young adult women in public health services that depend on that Ministry.
- To establish a mechanism for integrating HIV prevention and detection in people who receive care at sexual and reproductive health services pertaining to the City of Buenos Aires Health Care System, especially in services targeting adolescents and young people.
The fulfillment of these demands, which we consider basic sexual and reproductive rights, is a sensitive indicator of the quality of health services and of a country’s level of development which must be prioritized. However, at all levels, women and young people still face great obstacles in accessing these services and commodities.
In order to ensure progress toward their achievement, we must continue monitoring the full implementation of the ICPD PoA and demand clear, time-bound goals so that no stakeholders -governments, donors, UN agencies, civil society or other actors- can ignore or have excuses not to develop actions to improve women’s and young people’s sexual and reproductive health.