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2015+: Ensuring Women’s Sexual & Reproductive Rights in Latin America and the Caribbean

By: Mabel Bianco, President of Fundación para Estudio e Investigación de la Mujer – FEIM2015+.JPG

Prior to the creation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and particularly MDG 5 (to improve maternal health), there were many international agreements for improving the status of all citizens, including those focused on sexual and reproductive health and rights. Although these international agreements, including the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), Programme of Action (PoA) and the Beijing Platform for Action (PfA), preceded the MDGs, the responsibilities and commitments to sexual and reproductive health and rights that governments and donors established are broader than those encompassed in MDG5 and 5B.

Given the strength of agreements and action frameworks for advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights which existed prior to the MDGs, especially the ICPD PoA which is more comprehensive than MDG 5 and 5B, I believe that this PoA should be extended beyond 2014 and should not be absorbed into the MDGs. Both agreements must be maintained as separate frameworks—but these frameworks should better reflect each other. I hope that MDG 5 and 5B can incorporate broader dimensions and can be more closely modeled after the ICPD. This would ensure that both frameworks complement and reinforce each other. This is also important because we must have clear, time-bound goals so that no stakeholders, governments, donors, UN agencies, civil society or other actors can ignore or have an excuse not to develop actions and interventions to improve women’s sexual and reproductive health.

The expansion of MDG 5 to include MDG 5B for universal access to reproductive health was a very important achievement in improving the MDGs. In Argentina, and throughout Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), MDG 5 is very important because maternal health is a sensitive indicator of the quality of health services and of a country’s level of development.

Specifically in Argentina, the maternal mortality ratio (MMR) is still high and it is intimately linked to unsafe abortion in the country. In 2010, the MMR in Argentina increased in comparison to data from 2000 and 2005. Despite the fact that, since 1921, Argentina’s penal code allows abortion in cases where the women’s health and life are at risk, they are not performed in public health services. The increase in the MMR and the consistent denial of women’s right to safe abortion, even in cases allowed by law, are both issues that have impacted the work of my organization, FEIM. FEIM has historically advocated for women’s sexual and reproductive rights, and given the current situation, we have strengthened our advocacy to ensure women have access to safe abortion under the current law while working at the same time to promote the reformation of the law to incorporate other cases in which abortion should be allowed.

 MDG 5B is crucial in Argentina, and throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, due to the number of adolescents and the prevalence of adolescent pregnancy, which has shown a tendency to increase in the majority of the region’s countries,. Additionally, there are persistent difficulties when it comes to accessing contraceptive methods in some countries. Worldwide, the adolescent birth rates are still very high, and in the LAC region they have decreased very little since MDG monitoring began. In Argentina, adolescent pregnancy has actually increased, especially among girls under the age of 15. We still have great difficulties in guaranteeing access to sexual and reproductive health services, including information and provision of contraceptives, and access to comprehensive sexuality education in and out of schools.

Therefore it is still very important to continue monitoring the full implementation of the ICPD PoA in order to ensure women’s sexual and reproductive rights in Argentina, and throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

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