What we’re Reading: Honduras: UN experts deplore further attacks against right to safe abortion
YDG Delegate, Hassan Sanfo Diabate reflects on “Honduras: UN experts deplore further attacks against right to safe abortion”; a news release by the “Human Rights Working Group on Discrimination Against Women & Girls” published by OHCHR.
On 19th January2021, UN human rights experts including Elizabeth Broderick, Melissa Upreti, and Dorothy Estrada Tanck condemned a proposed bill by the Honduran government that would essentially stifle any progress on women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive rights in the country. For a country where 1 out of every 4 girls has been pregnant at least once before turning 19, this proposed constitutional amendment could not be any more undesirable.
Presently, it is a criminal offence to use, sell, distribute or purchase emergency contraception in Honduras. This is what largely accounts for Honduras having the second highest rate of adolescent pregnancy (and its attendant consequences) among Latin American countries.
The proposed constitutional amendment comes with the absolute prohibition of abortion in article 67 of the Honduran constitution. Further, abortion is punishable by the same imprisonment sentence as the illegal use and sale of emergency contraception. Sadly, attempts and calls by the international community to decriminalize abortion have fallen on deaf ears; as of 25thJanuary 2021, the amendment was adopted by the Honduran government.
The UN human rights experts noted that “the criminalization of abortion and the obligation of medical professionals to report cases of women whose injuries appear related to unsafe abortions have led to women being incarcerated”. Consequently, women who are suffering from pregnancy complications or miscarriages are scared to seek medical attention fearing that they will be imprisoned, thereby further endangering their lives.
Sustainable Development Goal 5 (Gender Equality) require among others, ending all forms of discrimination against women and the elimination of harmful practices including sexual exploitation and deprivation of sexual and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Beijing Platform for Action. The importance of ensuring women’s universal access to sexual and reproductive rights in the grand scheme of Agenda 2030 cannot be overstated. This gender injustice will give rise to other forms of discrimination against women including deprivation of education.
The position in Honduras is appalling to say the least as there is not even one single circumstance where abortion is allowed; victims of rape are forced to live with the daily reminder of their trauma and pregnancies from incestuous relationship cannot be terminated. Worse, the right to terminate a pregnancy is denied even where the life/ health of the pregnant woman is at risk. Insisting on the right to life of zygotes and fetuses and equating this right to the right of a woman to her life, her health, and her autonomy by criminalizing abortion is one of the most damaging ways to deprive women of their freedom of choice resulting in gender injustice.
It is a well-known fact that restrictive laws on abortion have never been effective in reducing the rate of abortion but only increase maternal mortality and morbidity. Presently, it is estimated that there are between 51,000 – 82,000 unsafe abortions each year in Honduras due to the criminalization of abortions. It seems that, as the rest of the world is taking measures to end gender injustice in the grand scheme of Agenda 2030, Honduras is taking two steps backwards.
By Hassan Sanfo Diabate
(YDG Cohort IV Delegate)