During the year of 2013, sexual and reproductive rights were threatened by state decisions in various places around the world.
At the year’s end, three major legal regressions were registered in the sexuality and human rights landscape. On December 11th, the Indian Supreme Court restored the criminalization of homosexuality by nullifying a Superior Court 2009 decision that had considered unconstitutional article 377 of Indian Penal Code inherited from the colony, which criminalized males same sex relations. The event generated worldwide protests and mobilized activism in seeking the reversal of the Supreme Court decision. SPW followed the case and its repercussions.
Also in December, in Africa, draconian and discriminatory laws were approved. The Nigerian Senate passed a law prohibiting the display of affection in public, egalitarian marriage and activism on behalf of LGBT people. And, in Uganda , the By its turn , the Parliament has also approved “anti – homosexuality” bill that has been discussed since 2009, which prescribes seven years of imprisonment of 7 for persons who “promote homosexuality ” and life imprisonment for persons who engage in same sex marriage. (check here).
Setbacks have also occurred in other places not locate in the global South. In France, the National Assembly adopted in November a law provision, supported by the Socialist government of François Hollande, aimed at the criminalization of clients of prostitution. The provision proposes that clients should pay a fine and that support is given for those who want to leave prostitution. But it is not supported by two thirds of the French population. The text went to the Senate, where it must be voted this year. Here you will find a compilation of articles selected by SPW on the matter.
It is interesting to recall as well that sex work was also subject to policy controversies and official censorship in Brazil. In June 2013, the Ministry of Health, under pressure of conservative religious who integrate the federal government coalition, has supended a web based campaign on HIV/aids prevention amongst sex workers, because in one spot a prostitute said she was a “happy whore”. The episode led to the exoneration of the director of the Department o HIV/aids, TB and hepatites and has prompted strong reaction from civil society, which harshly criticized how sexual and reproductive health and rights policies are conducted by the Dilma Rousseff administration.
Also the fight for the rights of prostitutes in Brazil has experienced a major loss with the the death of Gabriela Leite, a central figure in movements for recognition and citizenship of persons engaged in prostitution. As a tribute to a longstanding close partner SPW organized a dossier of articles on the history and legacy of Gabi. Click here to read it (in Portuguese).
However, at least one good news is to be reported in the realm of prostitution and human rights. The Canadian Supreme Court overturned existing laws prohibiting the operation of brothels and soliciting. The decision will now be forwarded by Congress, which has a period of 1 year to define new legislation on the subject.
Trans rights have also been subject to legal reforms. In Germany, since November parents can register their children without identifying their sex by not filling the gaps corresponding to the male or female. The measure expands open the possibilities of another sex-category. gender. However, trans and intersex activists have questioned the effects of the law in what concerns eliminating the stigma of “abnormality ” that the ambiguity of sexual identity implies socially. They also criticized that the law defines medical diagnosis as parameter to allow for the non identification. In Netherlands, Senate passed legislation eliminating the need for genital reassignment and irreversible infertility as a condition for change of legal name. The new text, however, is still not ideal, according to activists . The change in civil status will be available for those 16 years and will depend an expert evaluation.
Abortion is another frontline in which setbacks were registered. The Spanish government, in late December, proposed a sharp restriction in the abortion law approved in 2009. This prompted immediate reactions from feminist movements. The proposed reform restrict the possibility of termination to pregnancies resulting from rape and in the cases women’s life risks of fetal malformation. Currently, abortion on demand is allowed up to the 14th week.
Despite these setbacks the Uruguayan experience shows that it is possible to run against the current. The Minister of Health informed that five thousands legal abortions have been performed in the course of the first year since when the practice has been decriminalized. No maternal deaths due to unsafe abortion were recorded in the period (in Portuguese). Commenting the data and the one year of the law, feminists underlined that even though this was major step forward, the legal frame has limitations. They also consider the figures to be low, which suggests that the clandestine circuit has not disappeared. In some departaments, implementation has been hindered by objection of conscience raise by doctors. Vulnerability affecting teen agers and migrants is also a matter of concern.