Body Politics: Criminalization of sexuality and reproduction – Amnesty’s new primer

March 30, 2018

Congratulations to Amnesty International’s Criminalization of Sexuality and Reproduction Project Team for this useful new reference book:

Body Politics: Criminalization of sexuality and reproduction. (London: Amnesty International, 2018) 220 pages.  PDF online.

This book “aims to motivate and equip the organization’s global movement to challenge unjust criminalization of sexuality and reproduction in local, national, regional and international contexts.”  It is part of an Amnesty International series, which includes this Primer, a Toolkit and a forthcoming Training Manual (see links below).
As noted in the Introduction, “This Primer gives an overview of sexual and reproductive rights that states must respect, protect and fulfil and how states punish and prevent people from exercising these rights. . . . [It] looks at these issues from a human rights perspective, in particular through the lens of “bodily autonomy” – the entitlement to decide what we do with our bodies, what we allow, desire and/or forbid others to do with our bodies, and to make essential decisions about our bodies. The Primer includes discussion of seven issue areas where overreaching laws and policies criminalize sexual and reproductive actions, decisions and gender expression thereby violating our bodily autonomy and denying us our dignity and human rights.” (p.19)  The seven focus issues are:   Criminalizing pregnancy, abortion, adolescent sexual activity, same-sex sexual activity, sex outside marriage and sex work, as well as HIV non-disclosure, exposure and transmission. The book also contains a useful glossary.
As Anand Grover comments: “Amnesty International’s Primer and Toolkit – Body Politics: Criminalization of sexuality and reproduction – is a timely, meaningful and welcome contribution that can enable activists to both comprehend and challenge illegitimate criminalization of sexuality and reproductive decisions. It is vital to understand the extent to which criminalization has permeated states today and the damage which is done by such measures masquerading as legitimate public health or public morality initiatives. This Primer details the major areas of concern and the harm which both direct and indirect criminalization inflict on an individual’s human rights and the health of society as a whole. It is not enough, however, to simply understand the problem of criminalization of sexuality and reproductive decisions; steps must also be taken to challenge it. The Toolkit provides concrete campaigning techniques such as mapping stakeholder participation and power, identifying advocacy targets, and building capacity. The [forthcoming] Training Manual can be used to build understanding and capacity around these issues for a range of audiences and activists.”  (p. 9, our emphases)

Body Politics: Criminalization of sexuality and reproduction”
220-page Primer
See also:  Toolkit:  38-page PDF
Rationale for this Amnesty International’s campaign  is explained here.


“El tratamiento de las narrativas del sufrimiento inocente en el litigio transnacional del aborto,” por Lisa Kelly

December 20, 2017
 [“Narratives of Innocent Suffering in Transnational Abortion Litigation”]

Los  capítulos  de  la  cuarta  parte  El aborto en el derecho transnacional: Casos y controversias se focaliza en las “Narrativas y significado social.” En este parte del libro, los capítulos de Lisa Kelly, Alejandro Madrazo y Rebecca Cook identifican las  narrativas  recurrentes  que surgen en los debates jurídicos sobre el aborto. Exploran el significado de las narrativas producto de las leyes, los litigios y el lenguaje sobre el aborto, así como el sentido social que éstas conllevan. Los autores nos alientan a considerar las consecuencias de las historias que se relatan mediante los litigios sobre el aborto, y los significados sociales que expresan respecto de las mujeres,  su  sexualidad,  sus  embarazos,  y  lo  que  estas  implicaciones  pueden presagiar para las estrategias jurídicas. Entender las narrativas más amplias dentro  de  las  cuales  se  ubican  los  argumentos  jurídicos  presenta  oportunidades para repensar las estrategias tradicionales y reimaginar nuevas estrategias.

Lisa Kelly, “El tratamiento de las narrativas del sufrimiento inocente en el litigio transnacional del aborto” El aborto en el derecho transnacional: Casos y controversias, editoras/es  Rebecca J. Cook, Joanna N. Erdman, y Bernard M. Dickens (FCE/CIDE, 2016) págs. 383-414.  en españolen inglés.

En el decimo cuarto capitulo del libro, Lisa Kelly estudia las narrativas de la adolescencia y la sexualidad en los litigios contemporáneos transnacionales sobre el aborto en América Latina.  La autora señala una idea recurrente en estos casos que invoca la inocencia sexual, la violación y la beneficencia parental como fundamento del aborto legal que, en caso de ser denegado, señala al Estado como el antagonista vergonzoso. Sin embargo, Kelly nos advierte que, con estas aperturas jurídicas y discursivas, los defensores de los derechos reproductivos se enfrentan a un dilema. La narración empática de casos de niñas violadas corre el riesgo de reforzar la idea del merecimiento en las normativas de aborto.   Al movilizar el poder cultural y jurídico de la familia, los defensores del derecho al aborto pueden conferir mayores derechos a los padres, lo que les permitirá actuar en contra de los deseos e intereses de sus hijas menores de edad. Si se utiliza el sufrimiento y la vulnerabilidad de la juventud como tropos, los defensores del aborto corren el riesgo de reforzar los discursos proteccionistas que restringen el acceso de las adolescentes a los servicios legales que ellas quieren.

Este capítulo está dividido en dos secciones. En la primera sección, la Prof. Kelly describe la génesis de estos casos en América Latina, analizando algunas de las opciones estratégicas y tácticas de los defensores, haciendo un seguimiento de la trayectoria de los casos ante los organismos internacionales de derechos humanos y considerando su contribución a la jurisprudencia internacional sobre los derechos del aborto. En la segunda sección Lisa Kelly analiza una serie de narrativas acerca del “sufrimiento del inocente” que fueron parte de litigios contemporáneos del aborto, al dividir la narrativa en sus partes constituyentes e interpretar cada una de ellas de acuerdo con su significado integral. Finalmente, la autora evalua los costos y beneficios de este tipo de litigios, en particular para las jóvenes, protagonistas de gran parte de estos casos.

 El aborto en el derecho transnacional: casos y controversias:  en español    en inglés.      Sumario y Índice General
Descargar: Reseña del libro en Andamios, por Diego Garcia Ricci      
Introducción y Prólogo. 

Otros capitulos de la cuarta parte del libro:
—Alejandro Madrazo, “Narrativas sobre la personalidad jurídica prenatal en la regulación del aborto,” págs. 415-437  Resumen.

—Rebecca Cook, “Significados estigmatizados del derecho penal sobre el aborto,” págs. 438-467  Resumen.

Tabla de Casos/Jurisprudencia sobre aborto, con enlaces a muchas de las decisiones judiciales

Other Program Resources about Adolescents are online here.
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“ProChoiceLife: Asking Who Protects Life and How—And Why It Matters in Law and Politics” by Reva Siegel

December 20, 2017

Congratulations to Prof. Reva Siegel of the Yale Law School, for her insightful article, which has relevance beyond the United States.

Reva Siegel, “ProChoiceLife: Asking Who Protects Life and How—And Why It Matters in Law and Politics” forthcoming in the Indiana Law Journal vol. 93 (2018), Yale Law School, Public Law Research Paper No. 613.  Typescript online.

Government can protect new life in many ways. It can restrict a woman’s access to abortion, help a woman avoid an unwanted pregnancy, or help a pregnant woman bear a healthy child. Yet in debates about abortion we often speak as if restricting abortion is the only way to protect new life, and further, as if governments that restrict abortion are committed to protecting new life and advocates of abortion rights are not.

If we expand the frame and analyze restrictions on abortion as one of many ways government can protect new life, we observe facts that escape notice when we debate abortion in isolation. Jurisdictions that support abortion rights may protect new life in ways that jurisdictions that restrict abortion rights will not. One jurisdiction may protect new life by means that respect women’s autonomy, while another protects new life by means that restrict women’s autonomy.

In this essay I reason from a prochoicelife perspective that asks whether government protects new life by means that respect women’s reproductive decisions. I develop a framework that allows us to compare the policies for protecting new life that governments choose and the values they demonstrate. The essay’s critical framework connects policies on sexual education, contraception, abortion, health care, income assistance, and the accommodation of pregnancy and parenting in the workplace. It shows that some jurisdictions protect new life selectively, favoring policies for protecting new life that restrict women’s reproductive decisions over policies that respect women’s reproductive decisions. Fresh description generates new prescription. Asking who protects life, and how, matters in enforcing the Constitution and in forging coalitions across divided communities.

The full text is online here.
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Compiled by the Coordinator of the International Reproductive and Sexual Health Law Program, reprohealth*law at utoronto.ca For Program publications and resources, see our website, online here. TO JOIN THIS BLOG: enter your email address in upper right corner of this webpage, then check your email to confirm the subscription.


Brazil: Conservative mobilization and adolescent pregnancy in Latin America

November 30, 2017

Many thanks to scholars  Camila Gianella, Marta R. de Assis Machado, and Angélica Peñas Defago, for sharing their research with readers of the Reprohealthlaw Blog.

On September 27, 2017, the Brazilian Supreme Court – in a 6 to 5 judgmentdecided that public schools can have “confessional” (Catholic) religious teaching in their curriculum. The constitutional case had been proposed by the Attorney General, who argued that current practice – that privileges Roman Catholic indoctrination – would violate the separation between Church and State as well as religious freedom. Although the judgment brings severe consequences to education rights in Brazil, it is only one example of the recent battles by conservative religious groups to influence Brazilian public education. The Catholic church has a long history of interference in Roman Catholic countries, aiming to block comprehensive sex education in schools. More recently, other churches and conservative groups have adopted similar strategies to influence educational policies in Brazil and elsewhere in Latin America.

In 2011, a school booklet advocating “Schools without Homophobia,” prepared by the Brazilian Ministry of Education, was recalled after strong pressure from conservative movements, evangelical and Catholic leaders. It was denounced as an instrument to promote homosexuality among children and to destroy families. In 2014, the debate over Brazil’s National Education Plan was the battlefield of conservative and religious groups against what they called “gender ideology”.  Supported by civil society mobilization,  including a organization (ironically) called Escola sem Partido [Schools without Politics] conservative members of congress overruled a clause in the Brazilian National Education Plan that stated, among the goals of the public educational system, overcoming educational inequalities, with emphasis in the promotion of equality among races, regions, genders and sexual orientations. Vocal critics of anti-discriminatory public policies in education also applied political pressure during the discussion and passing of state and municipal education plans.

Brazil is only one example of a new wave of conservative mobilization that is sweeping Latin America, characterized by the gathering of powerful old economic elites and religious conservative groups.  Among its central political strategies, this new wave fights against the inclusion of a gender equality approach in public policies, including school curricula among their principal battlegrounds.   Across the region, this movement has won many major disputes with significant impact.  They have succeeded on blocking gender approaches and comprehensive sexual education not only in Brazil, but in the Argentinian provinces of Mendoza and Entre Rios, in Monterrey (Mexico), Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and even in the most secular country in the region, Uruguay.

As our forthcoming letter to the Editor of The Lancet (2017) explains, this new wave of conservative mobilization has tangible health effects. By opposing sexual education in the schools as well as the introduction of a gender equality approach within the school curricula, they hinder a core element of public health strategies to empower girls and adolescents, and consequently to prevent teenage pregnancies, which have a devastating negative impact on women, by, for example, contributing to female poverty.

Latin America is already the only region in the world where adolescent pregnancies are not decreasing.  A recent analysis of global health progress, published by The Lancet, has shown that if the current trends continue, Latin American countries will not be able to reach their Sustainable Development Goals for reduction of teen pregnancy.  The adolescent fertility rate in Latin America (73.2 per 1000) is very high when compared with the worldwide rate of 48.9 and even the rate in developing countries (52.7).

The new wave of conservative mobilization in Latin America aggravates this situation and must therefore be taken seriously by those interested in preventing and reducing female poverty, and promoting gender equality not only in Latin America, but worldwide.  If there is something to be learned from Latin America, it is that the battle against gender equality can be strategically used by political groups aiming to gain or retain political power.   In this scenario, public health advocates must shift the discussion to public policies rather that moral battles, and urge governments to implement measures to empower women of all ages and grant girls and adolescents reproductive autonomy, which includes access to information through public education.

About the authors: 
Camila Gianella, M.Sc, Ph,H. has worked as researcher and consultant for projects on sexual and reproductive rights, the right to health, tuberculosis, mental health and transitional justice. She has been a counselor in HIV and Tuberculosis services, and also worked with asylum seekers.   She now works as a researcher at the Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI), Bergen, Norway,

Marta Rodriguez de Assis Machado has Master’s (2004) and PhD (2007) degrees  in Philosophy and Theory of Law at University of Sao Paulo.  Since 2007, she has served as full time professor at the Getulio Vargas Foundation Law School in Sao Paulo, researcher at the Brazilian Center of Analysis and Planning (CEBRAP); and global fellow at the Centre on Law & Social Transformation (CMI) at the University of Bergen, Norway.

María Angélica Peñas Defago obtained her PhD in Law and Social Sciences at the National University of Cordoba (UNC), Argentina, where he is now Assistant Professor of Legal Sociology, and a  Researcher and Professor in the Sexual and Reproductive Rights Program, School of Law, UNC, Post-doctoral Fellow of the National Council of Scientific and Technical Research, Argentina (CONICET / CIJS-UNC).
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Related resources: 
Maria Jose Rivas Vera, “Sexuality Education in Paraguay: Using Human Rights and International Policies to Define Adolescents’ Right to Sexuality Education” (LL.M. thesis, University of Toronto, 2015) thesis online.   

Julieta Lemaitre, “Catholic Constitutionalism on Sex, Women, and the Beginning of Life,” Abortion Law in Transnational Perspective: Cases and Controversies ed. Rebecca J. Cook, Joanna N. Erdman, and Bernard M. Dickens (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014) pp 239-257, notes pp. 430-434. Abstract in English.   Resumen en espanolLibro en español.

 


Compiled by the Coordinator of the International Reproductive and Sexual Health Law Program, reprohealth*law at utoronto.ca For Program publications and resources, see our website, online here. TO JOIN THIS BLOG: enter your email address in upper right corner of this webpage, then check your email to confirm the subscription.

 


South Africa: Expulsion of pregnant students violated constitutional rights

September 29, 2017

Many thanks to Godfrey Kangaude, LL.M. (UFS), LL.M. (UCLA), an LL.D. candidate at the University of Pretoria and Executive Director of Nyale Institute for Sexual and Reproductive Health Governance in Malawi, for summarizing this decision with Y. Kakhobwe in Legal Grounds III: Reproductive and Sexual Rights in Sub-Saharan African Courts, published by Pretoria University Law Press (PULP) in 2017.  228-pages online     Flyer with Table of Contents.     New online edition with links to decisions and analyses.

Head of Department, Department of Education, Free State Province v. Welkom High School & anotherHead of Department, Department of Education, Free State Province v. Harmony High School & another (CCT 103/12) [2013] ZACC 25, 2013 (9) BCLR 989(CC); 2014 (2) SA 228 (CC) (10 July 2013)   Constitutional Court of South Africa  Decision online.    Case summary by G. Kangaude and Y. Kakhobwe.

Two South African high schools had adopted policies that provided for automatic
exclusion of any student from school if it is found that she is pregnant. When in two separate instances the schools applied the policies to pregnant students, the Head of the provincial department of education intervened in the decisions of the school’s governing bodies and ordered them to ignore the pregnancy policy and reinstate the students. The respondents took the matter to the High Court which ruled that this official had no authority to tell the principals not to implement their adopted policy.  The
Supreme Court upheld the High Court’s decision.  The Constitutional Court of South Africa ruled that if school policies were unconstitutional, as these were, the Head of the provincial education department should have intervened, using the proper mechanisms provided by the Schools Act.
The Constitutional Court opined that these pregnancy policies prima facie violated constitutional principles, and violations should be addressed by the scheme of powers under the School Act.  The Court held that, first, the policies unjustifiably discriminated on the basis of pregnancy and sex.  Second, the policies limited the right to education by requiring that the student repeat an entire year.  Third, the policies prima facie violated students’ rights to human dignity, privacy, and bodily and psychological integrity by requiring them to report their own pregnancy or that of others.  Finally, the policies violated the best interests of the child because they failed to take into account the health and other needs of the pregnant student.
The Court did not make a declaration on the constitutional validity of the pregnancy policies since this issue was not placed properly before it, and also because the Court respected the scheme of powers in the School Act. However, the Court ordered the school governing boards to review their pregnancy policies.
The Court’s opinion follows several older African judgments such as Student Representative Council of Molepolole College of Education v. Attorney General [1995] (3) LRC 447), where the Botswana Court of Appeal held that a regulation that required a student to report pregnancy to the authorities, and would be obliged to leave the College or be expelled if this was a second occurrence, was unconstitutional as it was discriminatory on the basis of sex. Similarly, in Mfolo and Others v. Minister of Education,  [1992] (3) LRC 181,Bophuthatswana (South Africa, Supreme Court, Bophuthatswana and General Division), and in Lloyd Chaduka and Morgenster College v. Enita Mandizvidza, Judgment No. SC 114/2001; Civil Appeal No. 298/2000 (Zimbabwe, Supreme Court),   two African Supreme Courts held that regulations that required pregnant students to withdraw from college were unconstitutional.

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Compiled by the Coordinator of the International Reproductive and Sexual Health Law Program, reprohealth*law at utoronto.ca.   For Program publications and resources, see our website, online here.     TO JOIN THIS BLOG: enter your email address in upper right corner of this webpage, then check your email to confirm the subscription.


Spain: “Gender in Constitutional Discourses on Abortion,” by Blanca Rodríguez-Ruiz

June 29, 2017

Congratulations and thanks to Professor Blanca Rodríguez-Ruiz,  who teaches constitutional law at the University of Seville in Spain, for her useful article, recently published in the international journal, Social & Legal Studies:

Blanca Rodríguez-Ruiz, “Gender in Constitutional Discourses on Abortion: Looking at Spain from a Comparative Perspective,” Social & Legal Studies 25.6 (Dec. 2016): 699-715.
PDF     Download text      Author publications – English and Spanish

Abstract:   In as far as the regulation of abortion deals with issues like how and to what extent can women’s capacity to gestate and give birth be controlled, and by whom, any discourse on abortion necessarily reflects a construction of women’s citizenship, hence of gender.  The question is, which is the ruling construction? Behind non-legal discourses that focus on human life and public power’s duty to protect it, there lies the modern construction of gender that articulates women’s passive citizenship within the state.  This is also true of confrontational discourses that construct women and the foetus as potential adversaries. Both discourses are traditional in continental Europe.  Yet, they are being superseded by an understanding of abortion from the perspective of women’s active citizenship. Spanish Organic Act 2/2010 stands as part of this trend.  Not surprisingly, governmental attempts to reinstate women’s passive citizenship in this matter have met stark resistance.   PDF.     Download text.

Source:  “Regulating Abortion: Dissensus and the Politics of Rights,” ed. Siobhan Mullally,  symposium issue of Social & Legal Studies: An International Journal 25.6 (Dec 2016)       Introduction, pp. 645-650.

See also:
Catherine O’Rourke, “Advocating Abortion Rights in Northern Ireland: Local and Global Tensions,” Social and Legal Studies 25(6): 716-740.  PDF and abstract       Submitted text

Claire Murray, “The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013: Suicide, Dignity and the Irish Discourse on Abortion“, published in Social and Legal Studies 2016,  25(6): 667-698     PDF and abstract     Accepted text.
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The REPROHEALTHLAW Blog is compiled by the International Reproductive and Sexual Health Law Program, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto, Canada,  reprohealth*law at utoronto.ca.   For Program publications and resources, see our website, online here.
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“Obstetric violence”: maternal mistreatment in healthcare settings

November 24, 2016

Congratulations to Carlos Herrera Vacaflor, LL.M., a visiting scholar at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law, whose article, partly based on his Master of Laws thesis,* was recently published in Reproductive Health Matters’ special section on abuse and mistreatment in healthcare settings.  The author can be reached at charlie.herrera {at} mail, utoronto, ca.

Obstetric violence: a new framework for identifying challenges to maternal healthcare in Argentina, by Carlos Herrera Vacaflor, Reproductive Health Matters 24.47(May 2016):65-73.  Full text and abstracts in English, French and Spanish.

Abstract:  Argentina has recognized women’s right to not be subjected to obstetric violence, the violence exercised by health personnel on the body and reproductive processes of pregnant women, as expressed through dehumanizing treatment, medicalization abuse, and the conversion of natural processes of reproduction into pathological ones.  Argentina’s legislative decision to frame this abuse and mistreatment of women under the rubric of gender-based violence permits the identification of failures in both the healthcare system and women’s participation in society. This article examines how applying the Violence Against Women framework to address issues of abuse and mistreatment of women during maternal health care provides a beneficial approach for analyzing such embedded structural problems from public health, human rights, and ethics perspectives. The framework of Violence Against Women seeks to transform existing harmful cultural practices, not only through the protection of women’s reproductive autonomy, but also through the empowerment of women’s participation in society.

Further Reading:
Obstetric Violence in Argentina: a Study on the Legal Effects of Medical Guidelines and Statutory Obligations for Improving the Quality of Maternal Health,  by Carlos Alejandro Herrera Vacaflor, LL.M. Thesis, Graduate Department of the Faculty of Law University of Toronto, 2015 abstracted here.

International Human Rights and the Mistreatment of Women during Childbirth by Rajat Khosla, Christina Zampas, Joshua P. Vogel,  Meghan A. Bohren, Mindy Roseman, and Joanna N. Erdman,  Health and Human Rights Journal  Article in press online.

Other articles from this issue of Reproductive Health Matters, Vol. 24, Issue 47 (May 2016)

A newer article:
Elizabeth Kukura, “Obstetric Violence” [in the United States] The Georgetown Law Journal 106 (2018): 721 (2018)  Online here.

Two South African articles about this emerging issue are now online:

  • Eliminating abusive’care’, : A criminal law response to obstetric violence in South Africa by Camilla Pickles. South African Crime Quarterly 54(2015): 5-16.  abstract and full text
  • Obstetric violence in South Africa,”  by Rachelle Joy Chadwick,South African Medical Journal 106.5 (2016): 423-24. [also reviews concept and term]   2-page text.

Autonomy and pregnancy: A comparative analysis of compelled obstetric intervention, by Samantha Halliday (Routledge 2016) draws on law from the U.K., U.S. and Germany, in “circumstances in which courts have declared medical treatment lawful in the face of the pregnant woman’s refusal of consent.”  Autonomy & Pregnancy book.

Relevant Kenyan and South African decisions are available online, with case summaries prepared for Legal Grounds III: Reproductive and Sexual Rights in Sub-Saharan African Courts, forthcoming in 2017.

  • Millicent Awuor Omuya alias Maimuna Awuor & Another v The Attorney General & 4 Others [2015], Petition No. 562 of 2012, (High Court of Kenya at Nairobi (Constitutional and Human Rights Division)). [Detaining women for failing to pay for maternal health services violated their constitutional rights]  Case summary.    Decision online.
  • Ntsele v MEC for Health, Gauteng Provincial Government [2012] ZAGPJHC 208 (South Gauteng High Court, South Africa)  [Medical negligence during labour]  Case summaryDecision online.

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