Connect with us

Human Rights

Argentina: ‘Ground-breaking’ new abortion law crucial to ending gender discrimination

Published

on

argentina abortion law
Pro-choice demonstrators in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Unsplash/Matias Hernan Becerrica

The year drew to a close in Argentina with “a ground-breaking law” that legalizes abortions up to 14 weeks of pregnancy, in a move that independent UN rights experts called on Thursday, “a crucial step in eliminating discrimination against women and girls”. 

“This law is a historic step in Argentina’s fulfilment of its international human rights obligations and becomes a model for the whole region and beyond”, said the experts, after Argentina’s Upper House, or Senate, adopted yesterday the bill that had already been passed by the lower house, known as the Chamber of Deputies. 

Safer abortions 

Until now, the mostly Catholic country permitted abortions only in cases of rape or when the woman’s health was at risk, although, the experts pointed out, in practice they were often not available even on those grounds. 

“We welcome this law that should make abortion safer”, they said. “Criminalizing abortion had done little to stop termination of pregnancies, but simply drove women to illegal, unsafe abortions, and many women died as a result.” 

The existing law also discriminated against women and girls living in poverty who could not afford to travel abroad or pay for a safe procedure. Moreover, it contributed to forced continuation of pregnancy, even in cases where the pregnancy resulted from rape. 

Women and girls have rights to equality, physical and mental integrity and privacy, which require that they must enjoy the right to make autonomous decisions about their pregnancies, said the experts.  

And according to World Health Organization (WHO) statistics, countries in which women have access to information, contraception and the right to terminate pregnancies have the lowest rate of actual terminations.  

A hard-won battle 

Against the backdrop of several unsuccessful attempts to get the law through Argentina’s Congress in recent years, the experts applauded “the extraordinary mobilization of all activists in the country who contributed to the adoption of this law”. 

At the same time, they cautioned that “much remains to be done to ensure women’s and girls’ rights to equality and highest standard of sexual and reproductive health”. 

“It’s now important that the law be applied in the whole country and not be usurped by a political agenda or religious dogma”, the experts underscored.  

News media reported that after a marathon debate that lasted through the night, the vote that yielded the decision was held at 4:00 am – registering 38 in favour, 29 against and one abstention.  

‘Time is of the essence’ 

The UN experts however, raised their concern over a conscientious objection clause that allows health professionals not to perform abortions should they violate their personal beliefs.  

Conscientious objection can only be allowed where there is a clear duty and an effective possibility to refer the pregnant person to a competent and willing provider without any delay to the procedure, the UN experts said. 

“This clause should not become a new barrier to timely access to abortion services”, they underscored. “In these cases, time is of the essence”. 

Continue Reading
Comments

Human Rights

No safe harbour: lifting the lid on a misunderstood trafficking crime

Published

on

photo © UNICEF/Noorani

The crime of harbouring, in which victims of human trafficking are accommodated or forced to stay in a specific location, is not universally understood by courts around the world. A new UN study aims to address that issue, and improve protection for victims.

A journey of exploitation

Harbouring is one of five actions that constitute an ‘act’ in the internationally recognised definition of human trafficking, and is often used by prosecutors and judges for convictions of this crime.

The act can take place before and during exploitation, or between periods of abuse, encompassing a wide variety of settings, including brothels, private homes, factories, farms, or fishing vessels.

These locations can be dangerous, inhumane and unsanitary, and cn be controlled by criminals involved in the trafficking network.  

In another case, victims who had been brought from Thailand to Australia were harboured during transit and at the place of exploitation: while being transported the victims were accommodated in hotels and accompanied by minders.

Once they were received by the offenders, the victims were either accommodated in the brothel where they were forced to work, or alternatively stayed at the offenders’ house, and were transported to and from the brothel each day.

Trafficking victims can also be subjected to harbouring once they arrive at the place of exploitation. In a case from the Dominican Republic, the offenders, a married couple, recruited a Chinese national to work in their business.

They promised to pay her and provide her with food. Instead, she was not paid, forced into domestic servitude and subjected to abuse.

A misunderstood concept

However, a new publication from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has found that there is neither a uniform understanding of the act of harbouring, nor a consistent approach to this concept during court proceedings.

“Harbouring is one of the most frequent acts when committing human trafficking, but the concept is not interpreted in the same way throughout the world,” says Martin Hemmi, the UNODC expert who led the study. 

“Some countries require the victims to be concealed or moved between locations for harbouring to be considered as an act of human trafficking. Others stipulate a minimum amount of time for the harbouring process,” adds Mr. Hemmi. “It is important to fully understand the concept to get justice for victims of this crime.”

The language barrier

Further findings show there are different meanings of the word ‘harbouring’ in the various language versions of the UN Trafficking in Persons Protocol,  which is the world’s primary legal instrument to combat this crime.

In French and Arabic, the word used for harbouring has a positive connotation in the sense of hosting, while in English, Chinese and Russian, it can be perceived as having a negative meaning in the sense of hiding or concealing.

“Due to these discrepancies, the same conduct is considered human trafficking in one country but not necessarily in another,” says Mr. Hemmi.  

“This has wide consequences. For the perpetrator, it can have an effect on the sentence. For the victim, it has an impact on rights and protection measures. For the courts, it can hamper requests for legal assistance and international cooperation.” 

Wherever and however it occurs, harbouring with the intent of exploitation is an act of human trafficking and a violation of the victim’s rights and dignity, says Martin Hemmi.  

“We hope that our new study will be used by investigators, prosecutors and judges to lead to a better understanding of this terrible crime and support measures to effectively protect victims and punish traffickers,” he concludes.

Continue Reading

Human Rights

Only ‘real equality’ can end vicious cycle of poverty

Published

on

Children play outside a metal polishing workshop in a slum in Uttar Pradesh, India. © UNICEF/Niklas Halle'n

Although poverty and privilege “continue to reproduce themselves in vicious cycles”, it is possible to break the chain and shift the paradigm, an independent UN human rights expert told the General Assembly on Wednesday. 

Presenting his reportThe persistence of poverty: how real equality can break the vicious cycle, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Olivier De Shutter, said that “with political will”, it is possible to end centuries of entrenched inequality and “move from fate to opportunity”.  

Early investment 

“Investing in early childhood, promoting inclusive education, given young adults a basic income financed through inheritance taxes, and combating anti-poor discrimination are the key ingredients needed to break the cycles of advantage and disadvantage”, Mr. De Shutter said in his statement.  

Acknowledging that many countries pride themselves on ensuring high levels of social mobility, the human rights expert stated that “the truth is that the persistence of privilege at the top, and deprivation at the bottom, are all too commonplace.” 

“The top 10 percent of people living in OECD countries control 52 percent of total net wealth, while the bottom 60 percent own just over 12 percent, condemning the poor to a lifetime of poverty”, he said. According to the report, based on data from countries which are part of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), it takes four to five generations for children in low-income households to reach the mean income in their country. In emerging countries such as Brazil, Colombia or South Africa, it can take up to nine or even more generations.  

Tougher with time 

Observing that children born in disadvantaged families were denied equal opportunity, the Special Rapporteur examined the channels through which poverty is perpetuated, in the areas of health, housing, education and employment. 

“Children born in poor families have less access to healthcare, decent housing, quality education and employment than those in better-off households”, De Shutter said. “This dramatically reduces their chances of breaking free from the poverty trap”.  

Describing the outcomes as “appalling”, the Rapporteur added that children born in a family experiencing poverty are more than three times as likely to be poor, aged 30, than those who were never poor. 

Poverty costs 

The UN rights expert reminded that child poverty is not only “morally unconscionable and a human rights violation”, but also expensive. “In the United States, child poverty costs over one trillion dollars annually, or 5.4% of its GDP, but for each dollar invested on reducing it, seven dollars would be saved,” said the expert.  

Calling for and end to the myth that inequality is an incentive that encourages people to work harder, Mr. De Shutter said that the facts point to the exact opposite: “Inequality lowers social mobility and entrenches advantage and disadvantage over decades. When we fetishize merit, we stigmatize those in poverty or with low incomes, and blame them for their own condition”.  

Call for action 

Stressing that “no child should be penalized for being born in poverty” in mind, and stating that, in fact, “poverty is a failure not of the individual, but of society”, Mr. De Shutter called on governments to act now, “before another generation is condemned to the same fate as their parents”.  

Continue Reading

Human Rights

Restore sexual, reproductive health rights lost during COVID, rights expert urges

Published

on

Adolescent girls attend a support group discussion on women’s health. © UNICEF/Tapash Paul

Sexual and reproductive health rights, are human rights, the independent UN expert on the right to health reminded Member States in the General Assembly on Wednesday, saying that it was essential to restore services in the field, that have been eroded during the COVID-19 pandemic

“Millions of women globally had limited or no access to maternal and new-born healthcare, some 14 million women lost access to contraception, and specialized services for victims of gender-based violence became inaccessible, when they were needed most”, said Dr. Tlaleng Mofokeng.

The Special Rapporteur pointed out that lockdowns, movement restrictions and diversion of funds due to COVID-19 have “jeopardized access to essential sexual and reproductive health services”.

In presenting her report on the effect of the pandemic on physical and mental health services, she also spoke of “new measures and laws in place across regions, further restricting access to safe abortion, a component of sexual and reproductive services encompassed in the right to health”.

Reversing a legacy

As part of the right to health, the UN expert called on States to move beyond the COVID-19 pandemic to rebuild and strengthen health systems for advancing sexual and reproductive health rights for all.

“Governments must remove obstacles and ensure full access to quality services, including maternal health care, contraception and abortion services, screening for reproductive cancers and comprehensive sexual education”, she said.

However, Dr. Mofokeng noted that many obstacles continue to stand between individuals and their exercise of their rights to health, rooted in patriarchy and colonialism, and others in structural and systemic inequalities.

“Patriarchal oppression is universal, permeates all societies and is at the very origin of the erosion of autonomy and the control of girls and women’s bodies and sexuality to the detriment of their enjoyment of sexual and reproductive rights”, she spelled out.

“Colonialism has permeated patriarchy across regions and its legacy continues today through laws, policies and practices that deny or restrict sexual and reproductive rights and criminalize gender diverse identities and consensual adult same-sex acts”, added the Special Rapporteur.

Rooted in law

She reminded governments that sexual and reproductive health rights are rooted in binding human rights treaties, jurisprudence, and consensus outcome documents of international conferences.

“I call on States to respect and protect key principles of autonomy, bodily integrity, dignity and well-being of individuals, especially in relation to sexual and reproductive health rights”, she said.

“I pledge to engage with States and all relevant actors to uphold the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health”.

Continue Reading

Publications

Latest

Economy50 mins ago

United World of Job Seekers and Job Creators Will Boost Recovery

Why is there so much disconnect between entrepreneurial thinking and bureaucratic thinking? Has the world of education, certification, occupation divided...

International Law3 hours ago

Debunking the Sovereignty: From Foucault to Agamben

“Citing the end of Volume I of The History of Sexuality, Agamben notes that for Foucault, the “threshold of modernity”...

South Asia9 hours ago

Did India invade Kashmir?

Pakistan has decided to observe 27th October as Black Day. This was the day when, according to India’s version, it...

Environment11 hours ago

Landmark decision gives legal teeth to protect environmental defenders

A 46-strong group of countries across the wider European region has agreed to establish a new legally binding mechanism that...

Environment13 hours ago

Plastic pollution on course to double by 2030

Plastic pollution in oceans and other bodies of water continues to grow sharply and could more than double by 2030, according to an assessment released on Thursday by the UN Environment...

Americas15 hours ago

Global Warming And COP26: Issues And Politics

The president’s massive social services and infrastructure package is under consideration by Congress.  The problem is Senator Joe Manchin, a...

International Law17 hours ago

The End of the West in Self-annihilation (Intentionality, Directionality and Outcome)

A state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.-Definition of Health,...

Trending