By Pamela Machado, February 2021
We are grateful to Pamela, a Brazilian journalist, for her summary of the situation faced by women in Honduras.
Key words: abortion ban; Honduran National Congress; hypermasculinity; femicide.
More threats to the lives of women in Central America: On January 21st, legislators in Honduras voted on an amendment to permanently ban abortions in the country. Honduras already has a full ban on abortions; the new proposal aims to make it hard to be overturned – ever.
The bill was put forward by the Deputy for the ruling National Party, Mario Pérez, on the grounds that abortion is “a practice against human nature”. In the proposed bill, any changes to abortion rights would require a three quarters majority vote, which is higher than usual.
The amendment will have to be ratified by the Congress in a year, but it is widely regarded as a mere formality. Only 27 of the 128 seats in the Honduran Congreso Nacional are held by women.
The move in Honduras came shortly after Argentina became the largest country in Latin America to legalise abortion after decades of campaigning by women’s rights movements. There is little doubt that the bill in Honduras represented a backlash to the victory in Argentina.
Just a few days later, on January 25th, the Honduran Women’s Day, hundreds of women took to the streets of Tegucigalpa to protest against the bill. ‘We have nothing to celebrate,’ said Ana Cruz from the women’s rights organisation Asociación de Calidad de Vida to news agency EFE, “we are here to demand that they respect our rights.”
Latin American countries are amongst the worst in the world in safeguarding women’s rights, and Central America has a particularly dire reputation when it comes to access to contraception and safe abortion. Beyond Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua also have a complete ban on abortion. In El Salvador women can face up to 40 years in prison for any attempts to end pregnancy or even suffering miscarriage. It is reported that 18 innocent women are held currently in prison in the country for alleged ‘abortion-related’ crimes.
Women in Latin America not only bear the burden of social tensions but also suffer from a culture that reveres hypermasculinity and conservative politics. Banning abortions only serves to increase stigma and worsen women’s health conditions as they are left with dangerous options to terminate pregnancies. According to data from the World Health Organisation, 3 out of 4 abortions in Latin America are deemed unsafe.
The collective Somos Muchas says that around 8,600 women were taken to a hospital due to complications of unsafe abortion in Honduras in 2017. The group gathered hundreds of signatures internationally in a call to oppose the bill.
In addition to unsafe conditions for abortions, women in Honduras also struggle with high rates of femicides. In 2020, approximately 300 women were victims of femicide in Honduras.