Susana Chávez, director of feminist organisation Promsex in Peru explains how access to abortion in Peru continues to be severely restricted. Abortion is illegal in all cases, except when a woman’s life is in danger. And even then women’s rights are not guaranteed, as abortion rights lack societal acceptance. Given the restrictions and social barriers in women’s access to safe abortion, illegal abortions in the country continue, with an estimated 370,000 cases every year, making abortion the second highest cause for hospitalisation of women in the country and thus a major public health challenge.
Yet, both Honduras and Peru are faced with well-organised opposition from Catholic and Evangelic churches who have turned Central America into their battleground against sexual and reproductive rights. National and regional opposition is part of a broader internationally organised anti-gender movement, which seeks to promote a conservative agenda that believes women’s rights and the promotion of gender equality put traditional family values at risk.
Nelly Munyasia, Executive Director for Reproductive Health Network Kenya, sees the same dynamics at work in Kenya. While in Kenya abortion is legal when a healthcare provider considers a woman’s health to be at risk, women as well as healthcare providers continue to run risks when seeking recourse to abortion. In the past years no less than 8 healthcare providers had to defend their case in court, and women and girls have equally faced arrest and prosecution when seeking to end health-endangering pregnancies. Women as well as healthcare providers are thus fearful of exercising their rights, faced with the stigma and the risk of being criminalised. Stigma in society is boosted by internationally funded opposition campaigns, including the antichoice Citizen Go initiative, which helped finance billboards across the capital city claiming that ‘Abortion is murder’ and calling for clinics that provide abortion care to be closed.
Kristina Bayingana, Bilateral cooperation gender and health advisor to Minister of Development Cooperation Meryam Kitir, recognises the challenging contexts in which women’s rights activists need to operate. “For Belgium, the right to abortion is part of sexual and reproductive health and rights,” she stated and “at every opportunity we have to speak up to defend women’s rights, be it internationally or bilaterally. This is important, as a number of countries are heading in the other direction.” She concluded by saying that every girl and every woman should be able to make her own decisions about her own body.
Fourat Ben Chikha, chair of the “Parliamentarians for the 2030 Agenda” expressed his appreciation for women’s rights activists, saying “This deserves our support, our international solidarity. Girls and women faced with an unwanted pregnancy need care, not judgement.”