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Feminist crusade: Campaign for legal abortion intensifies in Latin America

Image: BBC

Today is International Women’s Day, a day marking the achievements of women throughout the years. However, it is all too easy to forget the ongoing lack of equality around the world and lack of women’s rights over their own bodies. Teodora Vasquez, after serving 10 years in prison, was freed in El Salvador last February. Teodora was sentenced to serve 30 years in jail, charged with murder of her new-born. In July 2007, Teodora requested an ambulance that never arrived. After serious bleeding, the baby girl was born dead, but Teodora was charged with murder and was sentenced to serve 30 years in prison beginning in February 2008.


Image: BBC
Image: BBC

This one example is a stark reminder of the ongoing battle for women’s equality and a right of passage over their own bodies. In many areas of the world, abortion is still illegal and can face criminal charges if discovered.

According to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, “Salvadoran government’s hostility towards abortion endangers the health and lives of women”, holding a complete ban on abortion, even in cases of rape. El Salvador, Nicaragua and Dominican Republic are countries that still have a total ban on abortion.

Following from the steps of El Salvador, Brazilian Congress voted on November of 2017 to ban abortion in all circumstances, including cases of rape and where the mother’s life is in danger. The abortion ban is a constitutional amendment being reviewed by a special congressional committee of Brazil’s chamber of deputies, where the majority are pro-life and evangelical. For this constitutional amendment to become a law, the legislation needs a majority in both houses and the President’s signature.

However, some countries in the region have taken a step forward. In August 2017, Chile’s constitutional court voted to approve a bill to ease the total ban on abortion, making it legal in cases of rape, when the mother’s life is at risk and if the fetus is not likely to survive the pregnancy.

Debate over legalising abortion has intensified in Argentina thanks to the feminist movement. While in this country abortion is only legal in cases of rape and danger to the mother, the feminist movement has opened the debate to repeal the ban on abortion. President Mauricio Macri has stated that he will not block the debate in Congress, which has caused the campaign for legalizing abortion to be intensified.

Nosotras paramos: Women’s strike.

Legal abortion has become one of the most important demands of feminist movements in Latin America for International Women’s Day held on 8th of March: Women have no power or decision over their own bodies. Fourteen of the countries with the highest rates of femicides on the world, are in Latin America. On this International Women’s day, Latin America will witness one of the biggest strikes on this special date. Women from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras are striking in a call for gender equality, to end gender violence, for reproductive freedom and labour rights.