Calls to strengthen women's reproductive rights in Peru
28 May 2013
Campaigners and UN human rights experts have called for Peru’s abortion laws to be implemented fully and extended in line with international rulings to protect women’s rights.
Flora Tristán Women’s Centre has been campaigning for the decriminalisation of abortion where pregnancy results from rape. On 28 May, international day of action for women’s health, they announced that their Déjala decidir (‘Let her decide’) petition has attracted 60,000 supporters.
The demand echoes recommendations made in March by the UN Human Rights Committee. “Abortion should be allowed in cases [of rape and incest], because it will be practised anyway, but in a clandestine, illegal and unsafe way,” said spokesperson Gerald Neuman. Two UN rulings have condemned the Peruvian government's failure to uphold access to legal abortion.
Meanwhile, women’s rights group Manuela Ramos is leading demands for a policy to put into practice the right to abortion where pregnancy jeopardises the woman’s life or health. Abortions have been permitted under these circumstances in Peru since 1924, but the law is not properly implemented. “The lack of such a policy is a threat to women’s right to take autonomous and informed decisions, and to the need for a swift response when their right to life and health is at risk,” according to the campaigners. Some 400,000 Peruvian women have unsafe abortions each year, according to Manuela Ramos.
The UN Human Rights Committee also urged the government to ensure effective education and awareness campaigns around sexual and reproductive rights, as well as adequate provision of health services offering oral contraception. In addition, the experts recommended strengthening legislation against domestic violence and called for justice for sexual crimes committed during the 1980s and 1990s. Last October the public prosecutor reopened investigations into the 200,000 forced sterilisations carried out under President Fujimori in the 1990s.
Reproductive rights remain a divisive issue in Peru. In March, an anti-abortion rally in Lima in was attended by several thousand people, including the ultra-conservative Archbishop Cipriani who has repeatedly denounced the practice.