Struggle for Maternal Rights in Central America

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By Alex Dmuchovsky

In 1992, the El Salvadoran armed conflict between the ‘Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front’ (FMLN) and the government supported ‘National Republican Alliance’ (ARENA) finally came to a conclusion. The Chapultepec Peace Accords, officially signed on January 16 of 1992, brought peace to a civil war that had plagued the Latin American country for nearly 12 years. The treaty established a nine-month cease fire (along with several other agreements), that began on February 1, 1992; which has not been broken since.

Free at last from the black cloud of civil warfare, Salvador experienced a landmark revival of its civil society. A new era had begun for the citizens of the Latin American country. An era that most Salvadoran women believed would pave the way for a new generation of equality and opportunity; however, more than two decades later, some of the hopes of the “new” women have yet to be fulfilled.

While the status of women in El Salvador is far improved from pre-1992, Mariana Moisa of the ‘Feminist Collective for Local Development‘ (CFDL), believes that there are many topics which are still kept in the dark, primarily concerning the maternal/birth-rights of women. According to Latinamerica Press, progress in women’s rights has come to a halt due to the high rate of adolescent pregnancies. “El Salvador does not have sexual education programs that are free of prejudice,” says the feminist, who also comments on the severe penalties given to women who follow through with an abortion, and even to those that simply consider the procedure. The Center for Reproductive Rights in New York cites the El Salvadoran government as having penalized would-be-mothers up to 30 years in prison for illegal abortions. 

Current discussions concerning the status of maternal rights have centered around the alarmingly high rate of teen pregnancies: El Salvador’s Ministry of Health reported the statistic that 89 out of 1,000 women between 15 and 19 years of age become pregnant. On one side, the increasingly influential Church forbids the termination of a fetus; while on the other, activists argue the life-threatening effects of adolescent child-bearing in addition to the human rights of rape victims

Despite the government’s apparent reluctance to address such humanitarian issues, several organizations have proclaimed some of Latin America’s complete abortion bans as contrary to international law, and are actively lobbying for change (Global Fund for Women). Additionally, the comprehensive health care center/project “Ciudad Mujer“, has recently undertaken the unprecedented task of educating citizens on sexual & reproductive health, as well as gender violence, economic empowerment, and promotion of rights   

For more on ‘Ciudad Mujer’: http://www.iadb.org/en/projects/project-description-title,1303.html?id=ES-L1056

Progress in Chile?: http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/11/is-this-the-end-of-one-of-the-world-s-harshest-abortion-laws/281565/

Source(s):

http://www.lapress.org/articles.asp?art=6904

http://pulitzercenter.org/reporting/el-salvador-nicaragua-women-children-abortion-ban-rape-incest-maternal-health-catholic-church-religion

http://www.globalfundforwomen.org/impact/news/42/287

http://www.trust.org/item/20130927150832-fqozn/

http://reproductiverights.org/en/press-room/the-guardian-el-salvador-abortion-controversy-shows-lack-of-progress-on-cairo-agenda

http://www.justassociates.org/en/ally/feminist-collective-local-development

http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6a82f4.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chapultepec_Peace_Accords