Special Updater on Violence Against Women in the Americas: Honduras: Violations of Womens’ Rights, Abortion in Argentina and Mexico, Gender in Workplace

Dear Friends,

Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. As we take stock of the situation in the Americas several situations jump out. The first is the massive violations of women’s human rights in Honduras under the coup regime. In this Special Issue of the Updater we present the full report presented before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

The second is the wave of anti-abortion legislation, particularly in Mexico. These bills not only roll back small gains made over the past decade, but force women who wish to terminate unwanted pregnancies into dangerous, unregulated abortions.

Finally, the Coalition for Justice in the Maquiladoras crossed a milestone by taking up the issue of gender-based violence in the workplace and the need to build an inclusive movement.

For a complete, if chilling, overview of these threats and others, we present the following pronouncement from our partners at the Petateras (read entire document here):

Mesoamerican Declaration Against Violence Against Women

“* Gender is behind two in every three cases of women murdered in Central America. In Costa Rica, 30 women die in femicide cases each year while in Nicaragua and Panama 67 and 68 women respectively have been murdered so far this year. In El Salvador, in September of this year alone, 31 women were murdered.

* Guatemala has the highest number of women murdered in Latin America and has the second highest number of attacks against female human rights defenders.

* In Honduras, between January and October of this year, 325 women died violent deaths. Almost half of the femicide cases this year, along with an alarming number of cases of women sexually harassed and abused in acts of repression, took place during the coup d’etat.

* In Nicaragua, numerous feminists have been harassed, threatened, physically harmed, illegally detained, and publicly slandered.

* In Mexico 90% of perpetrators of female homicide cases go unpunished. Dozens of perpetrators of rapes involving women (mainly indigenous women) by the army and security forces in the context of repressive actions (such as the events at Atenco and Oaxaca) also go unpunished.

* In Nicaragua, Mexico, El Salvador, and the Dominican Republic, women who have abortions (many of the pregnancies are a result of rape) are persecuted and imprisoned. Of the four countries on the continent where therapeutic abortions are criminalized, three are located in Central America. Sixteen states in Mexico have reformed their constitutions in the last two years in order to prohibit abortions under the pretext of protecting life from the moment of conception, and are imprisoning women who continue to have abortions. In the Mexican state of Guanajuato, more than 100 women have been imprisoned for having abortions.

* In the United States more than three women are murdered by their partners or ex-partners each day.

* Fifty-eight percent of Costa Ricans have been the victim of at least one act of physical or sexual violence by the age of 16.

We women have historically been at the center of the struggle against violence. The feminist and women’s struggles around the world have brought attention to and denounced the oppression, the patriarchal pacts of impunity and silence that many try to perpetuate.

However, violence is a problem for both men and women. The state must comply with its obligation to the rights of women and cease to be an accomplice and promoter of violence. It should reaffirm its commitment at the meeting of presidents and heads of state during the summit on “Gender, Integration, and Development,” to be held in Costa Rica on Dec. 8 and 9.

Society should work to change all practices that subordinate women and put their lives, dignity, and health at risk. Social movements, regardless of the issues or sectors we represent, should take up the struggle against violence toward women as a central component of our agenda—as it is fundamental to the construction of a just and united world—and avoid all practices of discrimination and violence in our organizations.

That is why, in the context of the regional launch of the UN campaign “UNiTE to End Violence against Women” (Nov. 2009, Guatemala) we are calling on states, social movements, and citizens to come together to assume the urgent task of eradicating all forms of violence against women.”

Laura Carlsen


Report on Women’s Human Rights Violations Shows Systematic Attack on Women Under Honduran Coup

New from the Americas Program

Hearing at the IACHR on the Situation of Women’s Rights within the Context of the Honduran Coup d’Etat

Feministas en Resistencia was born on the same day as the coup, June 28, when a large number of women gathered at the home of the president to protest the coup. Although they were driven away with bullets and tear gas, they returned to meet again the following day, outraged at what had happened. The various feminist organizations joined together immediately and began to call themselves Feministas en Resistencia. They then joined the National Resistance Front (Frente Nacional de Resistencia) against the coup.

For its part, the Observatory of Transgressions and Feminist Resistance (Observatorio de Transgresión y Resistencia Feminista), which came into being in 2006, has participated in observation teams in different countries to show solidarity and to contribute to the progress feminism has made in attaining recognition of the rights of women.

During the week of Aug. 17-21 of this year, both groups shared a day of observation in order to compile testimonies about the violations against women’s human rights after from the coup. With the input gained from this process, they succeeded in establishing what the violation practices are. The groups have continued to compile testimonies right up until this hearing today…

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Abortion Phone Line: More Information, Less Risks
By Lucia Alvarez

According to the Ministry of Health, on the average we women abort twice in our lifetimes, including spontaneous and induced abortions. In Argentina, between 460,000 and 700,000 abortions are performed annually. Abortion is an undeniable reality.

Faced with this scenario, the organization Lesbians and Feminists for the Legalization of Abortion (Lesbianas y Feministas por la Legalización del Aborto) decided to move from making demands to taking action. Fifteen activists from several movements got together for a common purpose, the “Abortion: More Information, Less Risk” telephone line. They investigated how pregnancies can be terminated by pharmacological means, specifically with the use of Misoprostol and Mifepristone, medication that has been around for more than 20 years and is recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and other groups because of its efficacy and low risk of fatality…

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Gender in the Workplace
By Fabiola Torralba

Our forms of understanding sexuality and gender are social constructions, invented concepts that can change. We know that as Americans we are the minority when we examine the many forms of understanding gender and sexuality that exist in different cultures, principally indigenous and non-European communities. For example, there are communities that accept and think about sexuality and gender not as fixed concepts but as identities that they can change over the course of an individual’s life. Queer, then, turns into a form of expressing identity and orientation beyond the concepts of gender and sexuality. It is also a critical method that challenges sexism and patriarchy.

Gender is an instrument used to subordinate and control maquila workers and society in general. For example, the requirement of some bosses that women dress in skirts is an unjustified gender norm. If a woman files a labor complaint against her boss, they can fire her. But for women who are believed to be homosexual because they dress like a man, in pants and shirts, the results can be aggression or sexual assault. For a trans-gendered man, the consequences can even be death.

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Abortion in Mexico
By Natanya Robinowitz

On Nov.16, 2009 the legislature of the Mexican coastal state of Veracruz passed a law declaring that life begins at conception and ends at natural death. Veracruz now becomes the 17th state in Mexico to criminalize abortion in a string of hotly contested and reactive measures set off by Mexico City’s April 2007 legalization of abortion.

The debate in Veracruz, fueled by passion and anger, is characteristic of the larger fight throughout Mexico on the issue of abortion that spans the personal and the political. The abortion wars in Mexico involve political issues, such as the direct intervention of the Catholic Church in a secular state, and health issues deriving from the high incidence of complications from clandestine abortions…

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