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Latin American Indigenous Women Hold NYC Tribunal #womenrights

By Hajer Naili

WeNews correspondent

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

To puncture official indifference, Latin American indigenous women are staging a tribunal on the sidelines of a U.N. permanent forum “to push back the invisibility” about what they suffer. “The justice system really doesn’t work for us,” says one.


Indigenous woman tribunal
A participant at the tribunal, which took place last week on the sidelines of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.


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NEW YORK (WOMENSENEWS)–At the tribunal, she calls herself Angelica Narvaez, which is not her real name. She is 17, from Mexico and says she is being bullied at school, being called names.

“Indian, short, black and savage,” Narvaez told a gathering here last week, with her voice breaking and her translator in tears. “They hit me on my head too,” said Narvaez, adding that neither the teachers nor anyone else at the school has done anything to protect her.

Across the street from the , taking place here fromMay 12 through May 23, indigenous women from Latin America are staging public tribunals to denounce and publicize the violence and discrimination they suffer.

Narvaez was one of a dozen indigenous women from Guatemala, Mexico and Nicaragua who gathered on May 15 at the Church Center for the United Nations to tell their stories and emphasize the lack of response or protection from authorities.

“One of the main problems is the type of systems we have,” Rose Cunningham told Women’s eNews in an interview at the New York event last week. “The justice system doesn’t really work for us. We have a lot of discrimination.”

Cunningham, director of the Wangki Tangni Women’s Center on the north coast of Nicaragua, flew here to attract international attention. “That’s how you can put pressure on governments,” she said.

Rape, sexual abuse, femicide, physical and verbal abuse and discrimination are some of the forms of violence experienced by indigenous women in their own communities, said the women at the forum.

The problems have systemic roots, the women added. In many countries, the simultaneous influence of national legislation and customary or religious laws often lead to tensions and complications in the implementation of the rights of women and girls, according to a 2013 UN Women report. For instance, child marriage may be well accepted by certain customs while national legislation opposes this practice.

Drug Trafficking and War

Cunningham added that drug trafficking in Latin America worsens the vulnerability of indigenous women and girls. Also, in conflict regions indigenous women and girls are used as “spoils of war,” according to the 2013 UN Women report. The report says that armed groups occupying indigenous lands in countries such asColombia and Nicaragua have “kidnapped indigenous women, collectively used them sexually and abandoned them with impunity,” while young girls were also forced to perform domestic duties.

In 2012 a U.N. expert group found that gender-motivated killings, or femicide, were particularly common among indigenous women and girls caught amid the armed conflict in Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico,Nicaragua and Peru.

In addition to gender-based violence, indigenous women in Latin America continue to face large gaps in access to higher education, health services and employment, according to a report published in 2013 by theU.N.’s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.

To break through the official silence about what they experience, indigenous women are using tribunals such as these ones “to push back the invisibility” they are suffering in their own communities and countries.

“It is an important mechanism to build a conscience and a historic memory of femicides,” said one speaker at the forum here, organized by a number of local groups from the region in partnership with MADRE, aninternational women’s human rights organization based in New York, and Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, a German nonprofit institution for civic education.

The tribunal follows others in Guatemala in 2010, Mexico in 2011 and Nicaragua last year. Participants are aware the events have no direct policy links but they highlight the importance of documenting and publicizing their struggles.



Hajer Naili is a New York-based reporter for Women’s eNews. She has worked for several radio stations and publications in France and North Africa and specializes in Middle East and North Africa women in Islam.


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Abortions not safe, legal or rare in Latin American and the Caribbean #Womenrights






Seven countries in Latin America and the Caribbean — El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Chile, Suriname, Dominican Republic and Haiti — do not allow abortions for any reason, not even to save the life of the mother, according to Jennifer Friedman, senior program officer of the International Planned Parenthood Federation.

Women who are suspected of having abortions are prosecuted and often sentenced to prison. One such woman is Glenda Xiomara Cruz, 19, of El Salvador, who, on Oct. 30, 2012, miscarried her baby and is now serving a 10-year sentence for aggravated homicide.

Cruz is the mother of a 4-year-old girl. Her abusive partner testified against her in court.

Both PBS and BBC have reported that the prosecution relied heavily on that man’s testimony of her guilt.

A chilling story in The Miami Herald on Nov. 23, contained the following paragraph: “Abortion is illegal in Haiti, but women and girls are losing their uteruses and their lives as they turn to clandestine, increasingly deadly ways to terminate their pregnancies. These unsafe abortions are leading to a public-health crisis in a region with one of the world’s highest rates of unintended pregnancies, experts say.

And this: “Haiti’s health ministry, which has sought to take charge of the abortion debate, has estimated that unsafe abortions account for 20 percent to 30 percent of maternal mortality. But the reality is, the annual number of abortion-related deaths is unknown.”

The reality is that women in the Americas are having abortions, whether they are legal or not. The estimated number of abortions in Latin America increased slightly between 2003 and 2008, from 4.1 million to 4.4 million, according to a report released last year by the Guttmacher Institute, a sexual and reproductive health think tank in the United States.

Of those millions of abortions, 95 percent were not considered safe, which means they were most likely not conducted by professionals or took place in unsanitary, and therefore dangerous, conditions (think coat hangers and mysterious potions, think U.S. pre-Roe v. Wade in 1973).

Not surprisingly, most of the women who seek the help of unqualified “doctors” for their abortions are poor. The number of Latin American people living in poverty in 2013 grew to around 164 million, according to a just released report by the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America; 68 million live in extreme poverty.

Extreme poverty is one of the preoccupations of the man Time magazine has chosen as Person of the Year, Pope Francis. In late November, he strongly criticized free-market global economies for perpetuating inequality and emphasized that the church needs to stand with the poor and the disadvantaged.

Being from Argentina, he understands well the needs of this region. He knows the link between poverty and everything else that ails the continent, and he knows the influence that the church still exerts in Latin America.

Though the anti-abortion laws are matters of the state, it is undeniable that the church exerts a strong influence in the countries where the laws are most punitive against women.

And yet, when asked, the pope has said there is no need to obsess over these issues. Last September he told an interviewer that the church had grown “obsessed” with abortion, gay marriage and contraception, and that he had chosen not to talk about those issues even if his critics, from the conservative wing of the church, wanted him to.

Fair enough.

But there is a need to talk about changing the laws that make sacred temples of ordinary women’s bodies. The bodies are ours; the lives that are lost every year in the name of the sanctity of life are also ours. Why are the lives of unborn children more precious than the lives of their 13-year-old mothers? In Chile, in July, former President Sebastian Pinera praised a pregnant 11-year-old victim of rape who said she was planning to have her baby. He called her deep and mature.

Birth control is a safer, less controversial topic, or it ought to be. Latin America and the Caribbean have the second highest pregnancy rate among adolescents in the world. Not surprisingly, among the most common causes of death among adolescents in the region are early pregnancy and abortion, according to figures from UNICEF.

These are not the times to remain neutral or quiet. Pope Francis is right, let’s not obsess over topics like abortion or birth control. But let’s be vigilant and let’s be proactive. The governments in Latin American and the Caribbean ought to follow Pope Francis’ lead on thinking about the poor and the weak first, especially if the poor and the weak are adolescent girls who don’t want to become mothers just yet.

“It is not ‘progressive’ to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life,” the pope recently wrote. “On the other hand, it is also true that we have done little to adequately accompany women in very difficult situations.” He specifically pointed to rape or extreme poverty as examples of those difficult situations, all too typical in the region.

Let’s grab that other hand, the one Pope Francis is extending. It’s a start.

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#Sundayreading – Brazilian former slave community fights for land

By Julia CarneiroBBC Brasil, Rio dos Macacos

Julia Carneiro visits the Rio dos Macacos quilombo

In the small community of Rio dos Macacos, in the north-eastern Brazilian state of Bahia, a tall, leafy jack tree stands as a living reminder of history.

Residents say it grew around a pole where slaves used to be tied and beaten. A rusty chain still hangs from its thick trunk, a chilling witness to the past.

“According to our elders, this is where our ancestors were chained and whipped. It’s where our old men suffered,” says Rosimeire dos Santos Silva, one of the community’s leaders.

Rio dos Macacos, home to 67 families, is one of Brazil’s quilombos – communities started by former slaves before forced labour was prohibited in Brazil in 1888.

According to Fundacao Palmares, a government-funded cultural organisation, there are more than 2,400 quilombos across the country.

Many still keep alive the traditions of their ancestors, such as African dance forms and forms of worship.

Enduring dependence

Quilombos were mainly formed by runaway slaves who went to live in hiding, surviving as best as they could by working the land.

A family stands in front of their house in Rio dos MacacosMany families have left the area, but those still there are determined to stay

But in Rio dos Macacos, an hour’s drive from the state capital, Salvador, the story is different.

Ms Silva says their ancestors were brought from Africa to work as slaves in the area’s sugarcane fields up to 200 years ago.

But even after slavery was abolished, elders say their ancestors had few rights. For a long time, they continued to work the sugarcane fields not for pay, but in return for food and housing.

It was only after the local farms went into decline, that the quilombolas – as quilombo residents are known – were allowed to harvest some of the fields and keep the proceeds for themselves.

But no land was ever formally given to them – an omission which is at the root of at their current problems.


Rio dos Macacos has become one of the most emblematic cases of the battle of quilombolas for land, with the community embroiled in a lengthy and tense dispute with the navy.

Woman in Rio dos Macacos cooks on an outdoor stoveRio dos Macacos residents live in simple houses and cook outdoors

Brazil’s constitution – signed in 1988, 100 years after slavery was abolished – ruled that quilombolas were entitled to the land they had historically occupied.

“Start Quote

It’s like we’re still living in a slave house”

Rosimeire dos Santos SilvaCommunity leader

But this has not always been the case in practice.

Since 1988, only 207 quilombos have been issued with property titles. More than 1,200 requests have still to be dealt with, according to figures from the Fundacao Palmares.

It is a long and complicated legal process, which often pitches the quilombos, generally very poor communities, against big landowners.

In the case of Rio dos Macacos, the quilombo is in conflict with the Brazilian state itself.

The navy built a naval base in the area in the 1950, and as the base grew, the area where quilombolas lived shrank, local residents say.

Woman and child in the quilomboThe residents say they are entitled to the land under Brazil’s 1988 constitution

Today, the Aaratu Naval Base is the second largest in the country.

One of the oldest residents, Maria de Souza Oliveira, 86, remembers how 70 families were moved to make way for a village built for the families of navy personnel in the 1970s.

Nowadays, some 450 families live in the navy village, just across the Macacos river from the quilombo.

“They kicked lots of people out and now they want the rest of us to leave. But I want to stay until I die,” she says.

The land she lives on formally belongs to the state, but Dona Maria, as she is known, and the quilombolas say they are entitled to it under the constitution.

But the navy says it needs the land to build a training centre for marines. The chief of staff at Brazil’s Ministry of Defence, Antonio Lessa, says the base is of strategic importance to national security.

Escalating tension

The law has so far backed the navy, but the legal battle has now reached the federal government in Brasilia.

The government has offered the community 28 hectares (70 acres) of land in the area, on a plot some way away from where their houses currently stand.

But the government authority in charge of overseeing quilombo land applications, the National Institute of Colonisation and Agrarian Reform (Incra), says the families are entitled to 10 times as much land.

Incra’s report was taken to the federal capital Brasilia, but according to lawyer Mauricio Correa, who assists Rio de Macacos residents, it was “not allowed to be officially published”.

“It was a political decision. The case was taken from Incra’s hands,” Mr Correa says.

Community leader Rosimeire dos Santos Silva says the residents are coming under increasing pressure and have even been intimidated by navy personnel.

Rosimeire dos Santos SilvaRosimeire dos Santos Silva says the community has had its crops pulled out

“They harass our children on their way to school. And if we try to work the soil, we’re beaten up, they don’t let us. It’s like we’re still living in a slave house,” she says.

Mr Lessa says the allegations have been investigated and no concrete evidence was found.

He says the navy is keen to reach an agreement with the quilombolas.

Without land titles and facing increasing uncertainty, many families have already left the quilombo over the past decades.

But those still there say this is where they belong and have vowed to stand their ground.

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Mexican Indigenous Moms Pushed, Pulled by Fertility #Vaw #Womenrights

By Vania Smith-Oka

WeNews guest author

Mexican Indigenous women


Credit: Shawna Nelles on Flickr, under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC 2.0).

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(WOMENSENEWS)–Most women in Amatlan consider themselves, their neighbors and their friends to be good mothers.

Almost all the women in the community labor in the domestic sphere–they cook the food, wash the clothes and generally look after the house and children. Making lonches — lunches for the men in the fields and for the school-age children — is an integral part of their mothering. A good mother frets about what she is feeding her children. Though the terms the women use to talk about each other’s mothering are similar to the good-bad dichotomy used by the main­stream, their interpretations and the reasons behind their interpretations are more nuanced.

For the state, good mothers follow the rules, have few children and invest in them emotionally; they are also expected to live in a nuclear family. For the women I met, good motherhood entailed a significant amount of investment, but also drawing from one’s extended-kin network to achieve a child’s success; abuelas and ahuis (grandmothers and aunts) were frequently key to the socialization process of any child . . .

Not Suffering in Silence

In Amatlan, many mothers suffer alongside, or because of, their children. While marianismo – -the all-suffering, passive motherhood epitomized in the Virgin Mary — is very present in many corners of Latin America, it is not much in evidence in this region. The mothers who do struggle with their children neither view themselves as martyrs nor do they suffer in silence.

Esperanza often despaired at the laziness of her son Adrian, one day exclaiming, “He is no use to me here. He should go away to work but he doesn’t want to. I don’t know what to do with him.” I suggested, “You should stop feeding him.” She replied, laughing, “That’s true, then he’ll go away. . . . [If he is here] I worry when he doesn’t get back [or] whether he has been beaten or something. But when he is far away I don’t worry. My head can rest.”

All the mothers I spoke with worried about their children’s future. Emma said, regarding one of her sons who was attending university in the city of Morelia, “A student is a lot of money. My son always asks me for money, 70 pesos, or 50, and it is a lot of money. As he doesn’t work. . . . And when there is money we can [help] but often there is none. I tell [my husband] to go to Mexico and to work in a house, or as a bricklayer, to make some money.” She added with a smile, “But he says he is too old.”

Women in Amatlan were the primary caregivers to children, whether their own or their extended kin; their main duties were domestic. Emma’s eldest daughter, Cristina, irritably pointed out that mothers, and women, had to do everything with never any rest.

Exhausting Anxieties

She constantly worried about her children and hoped that they would be able to make something of their lives. But her anxiety was exhausting, as she said, extending her emotion to all aspects of motherhood:

“It’s just that as women we have to do everything, get pregnant and be nauseated for the first few months and when everything makes you feel sick. And [cleaning] the pigsty made me feel so sick. And then in the last [months] it is difficult to stand up and do everything. It is so much trouble. And then the pain of the birth, and to breastfeed, and to get up to change the baby in the middle of the night. Your husband is happily asleep but not you. And then to have to control yourself so you don’t get pregnant. We [women] have to do everything. There is only the condom and the vasectomy for men, but they don’t want them. We have to do it if we don’t want to get pregnant. And well, one has to satisfy the husband and also not have so many children.”

This centrality of women as caregivers and men as providers is echoed in the structure of Oportunidades, a federal social assistance program in Mexico. When some of the men of the village on occasion asked to receive the money alongside the women, they were scolded by the authorities and told that it was only for the women. They were told that they should work, not be lazy and support their families. This response somehow implied that women’s natural job at the home could be rewarded and encouraged with money, but men needed to be out in the public sphere without complaint.

Excerpted from the new book, “Shaping the Motherhood of Indigenous Mexico,” by Vania Smith-Oka, published by Vanderbilt University Press, 2013. Reprinted with permission. For more


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Hugo Chávez: Death of a socialist

6 March 2013 , By Arvind Sivaramakrishnan, The Hindu

In this October 9, 2012 photo, backdropped by a portrait of
independence hero Simon Bolivar, Venezuela‘s President Hugo Chavez
talks during a press conference at the Miraflores palace in Caracas.
Hugo Rafael Chávez Frias, President of Venezuela, who died on March 5,
2013 at the age of 58, was a defining figure in Latin American
politics for fifteen years, becoming almost synonymous with the
popular tide that has elected and reelected left and centre-left
governments across the continent in that time.
Mr. Chávez combined courage with immense conviction. Born to
schoolteacher parents in Sabaneta in 1954, he qualified in military
arts and sciences at the National Military Academy, became an officer
in a paratrooper unit, and started his political career in the early
1980s by founding a secret organisation, the Revolutionary Bolivarian
Movement, which took its name from the Latin American independence
leader Simón Bolivar. His first big move was an attempted military
coup in 1992, for which he was imprisoned for two years before being
Yet ordinary people’s suffering under austerity measures led Mr.
Chávez’s fellow officers to try again, in November 1992; they failed.
Mr. Chávez, however, renamed his group the Movement of the Fifth
Republic, which later merged with other groups to form the United
Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), and won the 1998 presidential
election on a socialist manifesto, promising millions relief from a
system which had put oil wealth into luxurious lives for the rich and
profits for the oil corporations.
Mr. Chávez removed corrupt military officers and started a national
reform programme. Venezuela, according to the United States Department
of Energy and a former CIA oil expert, has the world’s largest oil
reserves at 1.36 trillion barrels, and the new president promptly
nationalised the main oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA),
putting the profits into very effective social programmes. Carles
Mutaner, Joan Benach, and Maria Paez Victor note in CounterPunch that
between 2000 and 2010 social spending increased by 61 per cent or $772
billion; the country has the region’s lowest level of inequality, with
a reduction in its Gini coefficient of 54 per cent. Poverty is down
from 71 per cent in 1996 to 21 now, and extreme poverty is down from
40 per cent to 7.3. The programmes, or Misiones, have reached 20
million people, and 2.1 million have received senior citizens’
pensions, a sevenfold increase under Mr. Chávez.
The country has also cut food imports from 90 per cent to 30 per cent
of its consumption, and has reduced child malnutrition from 7.7 per
cent in 1990 to 5 today; infant mortality has declined from 25/1000 to
13 in the same period, and the country now has 58 doctors per 10,000
people (as against 18 in 1996). As many as 96 per cent of the
population now have access to clean water, and with school attendance
at 85 per cent, one in three Venezuelans is enrolled in free education
up to and including university.
Oil royalties help. A 2001 law cut foreign companies’ share of the
sale price from 84 to 70 per cent, and they now pay royalties of 16.6
per cent on Orinoco basin heavy crude; they used to pay 1 per cent.
Exxon and Conoco Philips rejected these terms, as Deepak Bhojwani says
in the Economic and Political Weekly (December 22, 2012), and were
expelled, but Chevron stayed.
Mr. Chávez of course infuriated the mainly white elites, some of whom
talked of him in racist terms, as well as the United States government
and press, both of which have consistently vilified him in language
bordering on the delusional. The State Department greeted the 2002
coup against Mr. Chávez by expressing solidarity with the Venezuelan
people and looking forward to “working with all democratic forces in
Venezuela.” The statement also said Mr. Chávez had dismissed the
Vice—President and Cabinet. In fact it was the coup figurehead, Pedro
Carmona Estanga, who, according to the Notable Names Database NNDB,
dissolved the national assembly, disbanded the supreme court, closed
the attorney—general’s and comptroller’s offices, and repealed 48
redistributive laws meant to help the poor.
Yet huge public support for Mr. Chávez meant the regime collapsed
within days. The President was reinstated, but the then U.S. National
Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice hectored him to “respect the
constitution”, and Greg Palast points out in The Progressive that in
2006 the Bush administration’s National Security Strategy called him a
demagogue out to undermine democracy and destabilise Venezuela.
The U.S. press dutifully played its part. In September 2012, the
WorldNet columnist Drew Zahn called Mr. Chávez a “socialist dictator”,
when the President was about to win a fourth successive election. All
those elections were of far greater probity than the respective U.S.
presidential elections of 2000 and 2004; this time Mr. Chávez won by
11 percentage points on a turnout of 80 per cent. Other U.S. media
bodies have spread partial truths about the Caracas government, saying
it bloats the public sector and lets the budget deficit spiral. In
fact, as Mark Weisbrot notes in the Guardian, 18.4 per cent of
Venezuela’s work force is in the public sector, in contrast to
Norway’s 29 per cent, and its 2012 budget deficit, projected at 51.3
per cent of GDP, is lower than the European Union average of 82.5 per
cent; inflation has declined too, from 27 per cent in 2010 to 19 per
cent now. Weisbrot also points out that the New York Times — which
welcomed the coup — has taken 14 years, longer even than other
American media outfits, to publish any arguments for Mr. Chávez.
Carles Mutaner and colleagues comment that U.S. analysts ask what
Venezuela will do when the oil runs out, but do not ask that about
other oil exporters like Saudi Arabia and Canada; neither do critics
note that the country’s interest payments are only about 3 per cent of
export earnings.
One of Washington’s problems is that, as Greg Palast recognises, Mr.
Chávez kept oil revenues within Latin America; unlike Saudi Arabia,
which buys U.S. treasury bills and other assets, Venezuela at one
point withdrew $20 billion from the U.S. Federal Reserve, and since
2007 has aided other Latin American countries with $36 billion, most
of which has been repaid back. In effect, this supplants the
International Monetary Fund (IMF) and possibly also its neoliberal
fellow—crusader the World Bank. Even more unpalatably for Washington,
Chávismo is now a clear political programme towards a Bolivarian
Revolution, which Palast calls a close replica of Franklin Roosevelt’s
New Deal, with progressive income tax, public works, social security,
and cheap electricity. For Bolivarians, such things are rights; they
are even reminiscent of T.H. Marshall’s view that they are integral to
substantive citizenship. Worst of all for U.S. regional hegemony, Mr.
Chávez himself said Venezuela is no longer an oil colony, that it has
regained its oil sovereignty, and that he wanted to replace the IMF
with an International Humanitarian Bank based on cooperation; Uruguay
already pays for Venezuelan oil with cows. Mr. Chávez wished the IMF
and the World Bank would “disappear”, and his passionate concern for
Latin American countries’ sovereignty made him a decisive figure in
the 2011 creation of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean
States (Celac).
Mr. Chávez could be ruthless; in 2010 a military court sentenced his
former key ally Raúl Isaias Baduel to just under eight years for
embezzlement after a long—delayed trial, and Baduel is now banned from
future political office, almost certainly because he criticised
constitutional reforms which would allow a president more than two
terms. Mr. Chávez was, however, no doctrinaire leader. Although a
Christian, he criticised clerical collusion with the ancien régime,
and did not accept the Church’s authority in politics. He also thought
seriously about political economy. Bhojwani notes that he favoured a
form of 21st century socialism partly derived from the work of Heinz
Dieterich Steffan. For Mr. Chávez, ethics, morality, cooperativism,
and associationism make for strong public economic activity and in
turn protects the equality which is essential to liberty; it even
includes a respect for private property.
The Venezuelan electorate have repeatedly endorsed this; in the
December 2012 gubernatorial elections — the first ones in 14 years in
which Mr. Chávez himself did not campaign — Mr. Chávez allies won 20
out of 23 states. After the President’s win in October, Argentina’s
President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner had sent him a message
saying, “Your victory is also ours.” Billions, and not only poor
people, around the world would agree: Tu victoria es también la

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Sex Education is Also a Right- is India listening ?

Many countries in Latin America have made progress in introducing sex education in schools. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPSMany countries in Latin America have made progress in introducing sex education in schools. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

HAVANA, Nov 13 2012 (IPS) – Learning about respect in a relationship, sexual orientation, sexuality, gender equality and family planning forms part of the right to sex education that is still not enjoyed by all children and adolescents in Latin America.

“They talk to us in school about teen pregnancy and safe and responsible sex,” Leonardo Martínez, a 12-year-old student in Havana, told IPS. “I did homework about children’s rights, and thanks to that we learned more about how important sex education is.”

However, Javier García, who is the same age, commented, “We have to talk more about other things,” after participating in a community meeting about violence against women as part of a national event that was held this month in eight Cuban provinces. “We experience these differences, but we don’t know how to deal with them.”

“Sexuality needs to be thought of in terms of pedagogy and human rights. We need to move from a medical approach to a more educational approach,” said Argentine sexologist Mirta Marina, coordinator of her country’s National Programme for Comprehensive Sex Education.

Latin America is “going through a process of development” in this field, but “it still has many restrictions, mostly because of the conservatism that has been passed down for centuries, which makes it difficult to talk about these matters within the family and at school,” Marina told IPS in Havana, during a regional meeting on comprehensive sex education.

In classrooms and other educational spaces, teaching staff should provide guidance about sexuality with the goal of promoting health. “But we have to progressively add other aspects, such as gender equality, respect for gender diversity, and the elements of affection, expression of feelings and pleasure,” she added.

In her opinion, “it is a battle that will continue, to a lesser or greater extent, based on the progress made in each country. We have to work more on the rights of boys and girls to enjoy their bodies and gender equality.”

This agreement, which was signed in 2008 by 30 health ministries and 26 education ministries from Latin American and the Caribbean, outlined paths to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS.

The countries committed themselves to achieving two major goals by 2015: cutting in half the number of adolescents and young people who do not have access to health services that fully meet their sexual health needs, and reducing by 75 percent the number of schools — under ministerial jurisdiction — that do not provide comprehensive sex education.

According to the study, which covers the 2008-2011 period, the Mesoamerican region — southern Mexico and Central America — advanced by 49 percent in implementing that strategy, and South America made 41 percent progress. However, it did not include Brazil or the Caribbean islands.

The countries that made the most progress were Colombia, Argentina, Guatemala and Costa Rica. And bringing up the rear were Panama, Belize, Paraguay, Bolivia and Venezuela, the study found.

According to the United Nations, in Latin America some 68,000 adolescents (10 to 19 years old) are living with HIV/AIDS: 34,680 of them female and 33,320 male. And more than half of new HIV cases worldwide due to sexual transmission are detected among young people between the ages of 15 and 24.

In recent years, teen pregnancy rates have shot up in the region, exceeded only by those of Africa.

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean reports that adolescents in the region accounted for 14 percent of births between 2000 and 2005 – nearly double the proportion of previous five-year periods.

From January to July of 2012, 1,448 girls between the ages of 10 and 14 gave birth in Guatemala.

And in Bolivia, 18 percent of mothers were 12 to 18 years old in 2008. But by 2011, that number had increased to 25 percent, according to the U.N. Population Fund, which on Nov. 14 will publish its annual world report focusing on the links between family planning, human rights and development.

That is why governments must guarantee sexual and reproductive rights from an early age, Uruguayan Dr. Stella Cerruti told IPS.

However, it is a slow process, and a subject of debate between specialists, politicians and the population in general, she said.

While many countries in the region have national programmes or have signed regional and international agreements, the reality is more complex.

Some religious groups and many parents are opposed to sex education in schools, and governments do not always put a priority on the issue, Cerruti said.

Cuba’s National Centre for Sex Education (CENESEX) organised a gathering of 57 Latin American experts and activists in Havana Nov. 5-7 to review strategies and strengthen alliances in “comprehensive sex education with an approach based on gender, human rights and diversity.”

Civil society organisations “have an important role to play in social auditing and pressing governments to enforce legal frameworks on sex education,” activist Roberto Luna told IPS. “They can also provide them with specialised technical assistance,” added the founder of Incide Joven, a Guatemalan network that promotes political participation on the issue.

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Uruguay OKs Abortion; Sex Assault Rampant in Haiti #womenrights #goodnews

By WeNews staff

Saturday, October 20, 2012

An elderly woman at a camp of makeshift tents in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
An elderly woman at a camp of makeshift tents in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Credit: UN Photo/Sophia Paris.



The Uruguayan Senate voted 17-14 to legalize all first-trimester abortions in a groundbreaking step in Latin America, reported Oct. 17. Cuba is the only other country in the region where all women currently have access to first-trimester abortions.

The legislation establishes that the public health care system must guarantee every woman the freedom to decide without pressure whether to have an abortion. Recent polls have suggested that a majority of Uruguay‘s 3.3 million people favor decriminalizing abortion, as this law accomplishes.

More News to Cheer This Week:

The Retail Action Project (RAP) joined other groups Oct. 17 to support Bintou Kamara, a RAP member and Abercrombie and Fitch cashier who started a petition on to end “on-call” shifts. “On-call” scheduling leaves workers waiting by the phone to find out if they will work that day, sometimes an hour before the shift is to begin, leaving them unable to plan for child care, school or second jobs, RAP said, but they often have little choice because workers are guaranteed only one day a week of work.

Thousands of people across the country, as well as prominent New Yorkers, such as Helen Rosenthal, candidate for City Council on the Upper West Side, stood behind the Sustainable Scheduling Campaign, to address the underemployment crisis caused by corporate retailers’ unpredictable, part-time scheduling practices.

“I am here today because worker’s rights are women’s rights,” said Rosenthal. “It’s the women who at the end of the day are the glue to the family. Often they’re the economic engines not just of their families but of the community; and the only way they can hold their families together and their communities together is by having stable jobs. By having on-call schedules, it leaves [mothers] totally at risk for losing their jobs and losing the ability to support their families. We need the private sector, like these big companies, to step up and lead the way, not just for women but for all workers to have sustainable jobs.” –Maggie Freleng, WeNews correspondent

Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai stood for the first time after being shot Oct. 9 and is “communicating very freely,” according to the director of the British hospital where she is undergoing treatment, CNNreported Oct. 19. Yousufzai was shot in the northwestern district of Pakistan last week after she defied the Taliban by insisting on the right of girls to go to school. Authorities are investigating the attack and say they have made a number of arrests.

Afghanistan has overcome the biggest obstacles of any country in its efforts to educate girls, according to a new global education report released Oct. 16 by the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization,Reuters reported. Seventy-nine percent of girls were enrolled in school in 2010 compared to 4 percent in 1999.

The girls basketball team of Franklin County High School in Indiana will be again playing in primetime slots (Fridays and Saturdays) after the school filed a consent decree in court, The National Women’s Law Center said in a press statement Oct. 16. In the past the women had been forced to play on weeknights, when attendance is lower and making it more difficult to find the time to complete their homework.

Female lawyers in Saudi Arabia will be allowed to plead cases in court for the first time beginning next month, according to a justice ministry directive published Oct. 16, The Independent Online reported. The ruling will apply to all women who have a law degree and who have spent at least three years working in a law office.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma will be the first South African woman to take a top leadership position in the African Union, the Associated Press reported Oct. 15. She will be in charge of peace and security functions and keeping track of the political and economic affairs of the continent.

Up to one billion women are expected to enter the workplace in the next decade, according to the latest survey from Booz and Co. on women in the workplace, CNBC reported Oct. 15. The report says the surge in female employees, employers, producers and entrepreneurs in the next 10 years will improve not only gender equality, but global economic growth.

Inspired by the Pompidou Center in Paris, which for nearly two years removed all the men’s art from their modern galleries, the Seattle Art Museum is inviting women to take over its downtown building this fall,Bloomberg BusinessWeek reported Oct. 15. The museum will show the contribution of women to photography, video, painting and sculpture from this past century.

Women’s eNews writer Molly Ginty, editor in chief Rita Henley Jensen and editor Corinna Barnard received the Casey Award for Meritorious Journalism Oct. 18 in Washington, D.C., alongside the New York Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Los Angeles Times, ABC and NPR. The Women’s eNews team won their award for “Infant Formula Companies Milk US Food Program,” with support from the Nation Institute and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.


Reports of rape and sexual violence have been too common after the January 2010 earthquake that killed more than 220,000 people and displaced almost 25 percent of the population in Haiti, CNN reported Oct. 18. Seventy percent of households surveyed in a recent study said they were now more worried about sexual violence and 14 percent of households reported that at least one member of the household had been a victim of sexual violence since the earthquake.

High numbers of adolescent girls are also engaging in what they call “transactional sex” for shelter and food. Many of those interviewed claimed they had never sold sex before, but the earthquake had left them no option.

More News to Jeer This Week:

Nearly 38 percent of lesbians polled in a national survey said they were not routinely screened for cervical cancer, putting them at risk of developing a highly preventable cancer, according to a University of Maryland School of Medicine study, an Oct. 17 press statement said. The percentage of lesbians not being screened as recommended is higher than for women overall.

Sexual violence against girls in Zambia is rampant, according to a report released Oct. 18 by Cornell Law School’s Avon Center for Women and Justice. Eighty-four percent of students interviewed reported that they had personally experienced such abuse or knew of classmates who had experienced it. Read more in “Zambian Schoolgirls Face Rampant Sexual Violence.”

When asked his opinion on pay equality for women in the Oct. 16 debate, Mitt Romney misstated his role saying when he was the incoming governor of Massachusetts he asked women’s groups to find him qualified women to be members of his cabinet. According to senior political writer of The Phoenix, David Bernstein, Romney’s claim that he asked for such a study is false. The statement gained extensive criticism and lead to the “binders full of women” media phenomenon. Read more in “Romney’s ‘Binders of Women’ Offer Ammo to Obama.”

Police at Miami University of Ohio are investigating a flier titled “Top Ten Ways to Get Away with Rape” posted on the bathroom wall of one of its residence halls, ABC news reported Oct. 15. The tips included such graphic advice as encouraging men to have sex with unconscious women because it “doesn’t count,” drugging women with “roofies” and slitting women’s throats if they recognize their attackers.

Janis Lane, a female Tea Party leader of the Central Mississippi, came out against women having the right to vote in an interview with the Jackson Free PressAlternet reported Oct. 16. Questioned about men getting involved in the reproductive decisions of women, Lane’s response was, “Our country might have been better off if it was still just men voting. There is nothing worse than a bunch of mean, hateful women. They are diabolical in how [they] can skewer a person….double-minded, you never can trust them.”

Sexist stereotypes, humiliating photographs of women and male bylines dominate the front pages of British newspapers, according to research carried out by Women in Journalism, The Guardian reported Oct. 14. Male journalists wrote 78 percent of all front-page articles and men accounted for 84 percent of those mentioned or quoted in lead pieces, according to analysis of nine national newspapers over the course of four weeks.


Prominent women’s advocate, Kim Gandy, has been selected as president and CEO of the National Network to End Domestic Violence, the organization said in a press statement. The national network is a membership and advocacy organization dedicated to creating a social, political and economic environment in which violence against women no longer exists.

Actresses Eva Longoria, Scarlett Johansson and Kerry Washington star in a new ad that highlights Mitt Romney’s positions on women’s health issues and criticizes the Republican Party for pushing legislation to “redefine” rape and force women to undergo transvaginal ultrasounds, The Huffington Post reported Oct. 15.

Ann Romney reached out to female voters Oct. 15 in central Pennsylvania, urging them to persuade their undecided friends to support her husband, reported Oct. 16. “My message is this for women: Do you want a brighter economic future? If you do, vote for Mitt,” she said.


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Abortion rate decline stalls, unsafe abortions rise

By Kate Kelland

LONDON, Jan 19 (Reuters) – A long-term decline in the rates of abortion worldwide has stalled and the proportion of terminations that are unsafe and put women’s lives at risk is rising, an international group of scientists said on Thursday.

Researchers from the World Health (WHO) and the Guttmacher Institute, which researches sexual and reproductive health, said a trend of falling numbers of abortions between 1995 and 2003 had levelled out since then, suggesting that increased access to contraception worldwide has also stalled.

“We are also seeing a growing proportion of abortions occurring in developing countries where the procedure is often clandestine and unsafe,” said Gilda Sedgh, lead author of the study and a senior researcher at the Guttmacher Institute.

Between 1995 and 2003, the abortion rate per 1,000 women of childbearing age (15 to 44 years) worldwide dropped from 35 to 29. This new study found that in 2008 the global abortion rate was 28 per 1,000, virtually unchanged from 2003’s level.

“This plateau coincides with a slowdown in contraceptive uptake,” Sedgh told a briefing in London about the findings. “And without greater investment in quality family planning services, we can expect this trend to persist.”

Alarmingly, Sedgh said, the proportion of abortions characterised as unsafe rose from 44 percent in 1995 to 49 percent in 2008.

The researchers, whose study was published in the Lancet medical journal, define unsafe abortion as a procedure for terminating a pregnancy carried out by someone who does not have the necessary skills, or in an environment that does not meet minimal medical standards, or both.


Despite the decline in the abortion rate, there were 2.2 million more abortions in 2008, when 43.8 million were carried out, than in 2003 when there were 41.6 million. This is due to the increasing global population, the researchers said.

From 2003 to 2008, the number of abortions fell by 0·6 million in the developed world, but increased by 2·8 million in developing countries.

Of all the world’s regions, Latin America has the highest rate, with 32 per 1,000 women in 2008. Africa and Asia follow close behind with rates of 29 and 28 per 1,000 women respectively. Rates for North America and Oceania were the lowest, at 19 and 17.

Sedgh said that while in Europe, around 30 percent of pregnancies end in abortion there was a far higher rate in Eastern Europe than in the rest of the region.

In Western Europe there were 12 abortions per 1,000 women in 2008, while in Eastern Europe at the same time there were 43.

Sedgh said the study’s findings showed strong correlations between abortion rates and access to effective contraceptives, and between abortion rates and the law.

“The abortion rates is clearly lower in places were abortion laws are more liberal,” she said, pointing to Africa and Latin America where rates are high.

There is also a strong link between restrictive laws and higher rates of unsafe abortions. Between 95 percent and 97 percent of all abortions in Africa and Latin America are unsafe, the study found.

Sedgh said family planning services around the world appeared to be failing to keep up with rising demand for effective contraception driven by the desire for small families and better control over the timing of births.

“There are still 215 million women in developing countries who have an unmet need for contraceptives,” she said

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