Reviews | How the “Green Wave” movement did the unthinkable in Latin America
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Just as important as the legal action have been the movement’s efforts to break the stigma against abortion and help people understand the realities women and girls face when forced to carry a pregnancy to term. unwanted. In 2016, Planned Parenthood Global and others launched the Niñas, No Madres (Girls, Not Mothers) campaign to educate and engage the public about the consequences of sexual violence and forced motherhood on young girls. In Bolivia, the recent case of an 11-year-old girl raped by her 61-year-old stepfather and forced to carry her pregnancy to term has reignited this debate.
For years, the stories of mostly poor women and girls facing criminal charges and putting their health and lives at risk due to lack of access to safe abortion services have failed. been heard. Research by Human Rights Watch and other groups has shown that criminalizing abortion does not eliminate it, but rather pushes people to resort to dangerous procedures that are life threatening. It also exacerbates inequalities and discrimination. Many, especially those living in poverty or in rural areas, resort to unsafe self-induced abortions or seek help from untrained providers. The abortion rate is higher in countries that restrict access to abortion than in those that do not.
Along with popular mobilizations to exert pressure from the bottom up, the movement has enlisted notable women to promote its cause. In 2018, more than 250 Argentinian actors and writers signed a letter calling on Congress to decriminalize abortion. The issue became a campaign topic when then-presidential candidate Alberto Fernández promised to submit a bill to Congress decriminalizing abortion. Under concerted pressure from the Green Wave movement, a bill to legalize abortion up to 14 weeks pregnant was passed in December 2020.
The solidarity of the Green Wave has helped break down stigma and raise awareness of the rights of women and girls, and has influenced policy makers to place reproductive autonomy and gender justice at the heart of this political and legal debate. In moves that might have been unthinkable a decade ago, the Chilean Congress is debating decriminalizing abortion for up to 14 weeks, and the Colombian Constitutional Court is hearing a case that could effectively decriminalize abortion by removing it from the legal system. country’s penal code.
Great challenges remain in Honduras, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic, as well as in other Latin American countries where abortion is not yet legal. But the brotherhood of the Green Wave is and will be the force of the movement. It has taught us that organization and collaboration are what fuel successful claims for women’s rights.
Ximena Casas is a women’s rights researcher for the Americas region at Human Rights Watch. Previously, she worked to advance the recognition of the sexual and reproductive rights of Latin American women at Planned Parenthood Global and the Center for Reproductive Rights.
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