At the global level, women have always maintained a historic struggle to preserve and achieve greater human rights of an equal opportunity and gender nature, non-discrimination of girls and women, as well as the struggle for their sexual and reproductive rights. In the last twenty years, Latin America has been experiencing socio-cultural changes of great importance for women, granting them more democratic, educational, political, professional, and labor participation, among others.
Pros and Cons
Even though there are political, social, and cultural differences between different Latin American countries, most of them have increased life expectancy for women, lowered fertility rates, significantly improved access to school for girls, an extraordinary increase of women in the labor market, with the increase of women heads of household, as well as some health indicators have improved, however violence against women in the public and private spheres persists and continues to increase, harassment in the streets and workplaces and femicides in several countries of the region continue to be high.
In this sense, Costa Rica is one of the Central American countries that has been working politically to comply with the declaration of the human rights of its citizens, which recognizes that women have the right, under equal conditions, to the enjoyment and protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural and civil spheres of the nation.
In April 2022, in San José, Costa Rica, a panel was held on “Advances, challenges and opportunities in terms of sexual and reproductive rights of women, the activity was organized by the Regional Office for Central America of the United Nations High Commissioner for United Nations for Human Rights (OACNUDH), the Population Fund of the United Nations of Costa Rica (UNFPA), the Ministry of Health and the National Institute for Women.
The activity was especially aimed at the Inter-institutional Commission on sexual and reproductive health and rights, chaired by the Ministry of Health and made up of nine public institutions and four from civil society in the Central American country.
The panel included the participation of Mrs. Alda Facio, vice president of the United Nations Working Group on discrimination against women in law and practice. In her speech, the official pointed out that sexual and reproductive rights are as important as other rights and that their effective enjoyment is a necessary step to achieve conditions of equality and non-discrimination for girls and women.
Facio stressed that Costa Rica has shown significant progress in terms of gender and sexual and reproductive rights, but still faces significant challenges in this area, confronting the challenge of reducing the rate of teenage pregnancies, fighting HIV and AIDS, ending the discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, among other protection issues for women.
The US going in the wrong direction
While Costa Rica directs greater public policies aimed at raising the fundamental human rights of women, on the contrary, the United States is experiencing a setback in terms of sexual and reproductive human rights of women with the annulment of the Roe v. Wade ruling, which allowed abortion by the Supreme Court of the North American nation.
Increasingly it is observed how in this nation the rights of women to live a life free of violence and discrimination are violated, the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States leaves aside almost 50 years of genuine struggles that North American women have had for their human, sexual and reproductive rights, the ruling has been highly criticized by various political representatives of the nation, including President Joe Biden, who reacted to the Supreme Court ruling, stating that abortion regretfully is no longer considered a federal right.
With the annulment of the historic Roe v. Wade, in force since 1973 and which declared abortion as a women’s right, now each state will decide whether the termination of pregnancy is prohibited or not. At least half of the states have already enacted anti-abortion laws early.
“It is a sad day for the court and the country, with this decision, the United States goes back 150 years,” President Biden said in a statement at the White House after hearing the Supreme Court ruling this past Friday, June 24th.
The US president assured that the Supreme Court has “criminalized abortion” and repeatedly referred to the interruption of pregnancy as a right that should be guaranteed to all women. Under the idea that each state will now define its laws regarding the interruption of pregnancy, Biden affirmed that “women cannot be prevented from traveling to access abortion.”
In the same order of ideas, Catalina Martínez Coral, regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said “We know that at least half of the US states want to restrict the right to abortion in their territories and at least 12 states would seek to restrict it entirely. It is very difficult to understand that a court with an overwhelming majority of men annuls such a fundamental right for the autonomy and freedom of women.
Destroying a fundamental right of women
Martínez argued that, at the heart of the matter, what is being destroyed is a fundamental right of women that allows us to have control over our bodies and motherhood. “Sadly, we are bordering on the impossible to be citizens, workers, and mothers at the same time if the autonomy of our decision and our calendar is not at the start of these three circumstances”.
“Almost all issues related to the integrity of our body, which is an important part of our dignity and our human rights, are involved in debates of a moral nature, when what it is about is articulating the freedom to use or not the right to voluntary interruption of pregnancy, to make another greater freedom a reality, which is to be mothers or not to be,” said the director
For her part, from the US Congress, Nancy Pelosi criticized the ruling, assured that the fault lies with the Republican majority in the Supreme Court, and announced that Congress and the Senate are working on a bill “to guarantee access to abortion throughout the country”.
“Today, the Republican-controlled Supreme Court has achieved the GOP’s dark and extreme goal of taking away women’s right to make their own reproductive health decisions, GOP extremists are even threatening to criminalize contraception, as well such as in-vitro fertilization and post-miscarriage care,” a situation that violates women’s human rights, Pelosi added.