Buenos Aires, December (SEMlac Special). - A22-year-old woman spends the day sitting on the floor, with her back against the wall at the train station in Pacífico. Before it gets dark, she walks all the way to a State-run shelter to sleep there, if she is lucky enough to find a bed available. When she does not make it, she has to sleep in the open, like many others who are simply thought to be either abnormal or criminal.
Mexico City, December (SEMlac). - Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women Executive Director and Under Secretary-General, made her first official visit to Mexico on December 4-7. Delivering a speech at the Senate of the Republic, she said that the battle for gender equality will be won only if men and boys are active involved.
They spoke at a National Forum on Policy Review last October 17 to mark the 61st anniversary of universal suffrage and the beginning of a new election process in the country next year.
Over 5,000 women will be involved in campaigns at nine local governments, 18 congresses and 903 city councils.
According to the National Women's Institute (INMUJERES), 18 states have enacted pieces of legislation for the equal representation of women at national and local levels.
The former presidential candidates who participated in the Forum included Cecilia Soto (Labor Party), Patricia Mercado, (Alternative Social Democratic Party), and Josefina Vázquez (National Action Party).
They highlighted the progress made in citizen perceptions about women's access to power as well as their challenges and opportunities.
They also highlighted the importance of implementing actions with and for women.
Vázquez recalled that she had in the past recreated gender stereotypes herself.
Soto brought to mind that she had been finally excluded from a presidential candidate debate she had been invited to participate.
Mercado underscored the need to build partnerships with other women to succeed in such efforts.
"We have to talk about our differences and move forward in a context of diversity and pluralism," she stressed.
Vázquez emphasized the need for unity to cope with adversity. She recalled that many people had asked questions such as: Is Mexico really prepared to be governed by a woman?
"I have let Chilean President Michelle Bachelet know about this," she added.
"Social networks are playing a fundamental role today; young people are actively participating in election processes; and laws are changing for the better," she stressed.
Lorena Martínez (former governor and current candidate in Aguascalientes) and former alderwomen Nora Arias (Federal District), Bárbara García (Oaxaca), Janette Ovando (Chiapas), Tania V. Rodríguez (Morelos), and Eloína Juárez (State of Mexico) also spoke at the event.
Participants in a seminar on the equal representation of women and their political leadership last September 4 indicated that gender actions had in the past relied on the good will of government representatives and charity groups.
There are already 18 states advocating equal representation of women in power. Elections will be held next year in Baja California, Campeche, Chiapas, Coahuila, Colima, the Federal District, Mexico, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacán, Nuevo León, Querétaro, San Luis Potosí, Sonora, and Tabasco.
Morelos and Yucatán still need to harmonize their legislation.
The so-called 60/40 quotas prevail in Aguascalientes, Baja California, Hidalgo, Oaxaca, Quintana Roo, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas and Zacatecas, and the 70/30 quotas are still observed in Durango, Morelos, Nayarit, Veracruz, Puebla and Yucatán.
One every six women in Argentina has her first baby before she turns 19, according to a report of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
Last October 11, the Fund launched a campaign to raise further awareness and highlight the need to provide correct information about teenage pregnancy.
Marina Silberman, UNFPA representative in Argentina, indicated that many girls see their life projects thwarted by violence situations and/or unplanned pregnancies.
"We are thus seeking to promote their right to education, healthcare, dignity and respect," she added.
Out of 700,000 births every year, 114,500 (16 percent) involve mothers aged 15 to 19.
Over 80 percent of teenage girls with no children go to school, while only 25 percent of those who are mothers do so.
Around 3.5 million girls and adolescents aged 10 to 19 make up nine percent of the country's population. "They play a key role in sustainable development," Silberman stressed.
Enrique Berner, head of the Adolescent Care Department at the Cosme Argerich Hospital and president of the FUSA Foundation, told SEMlac that there is an imperative need for parents to engage in a constructive dialogue with their children so that they can make sound decisions over sex.
Local actress Catherine Fulop stressed that most children are afraid of being judged rather than supported by their parents.
"TV shows do not convey appropriate messages; they fail to promote sex education at home and at school," she regretted.
Law No. 26.150 establishes Comprehensive Sexuality Education, but the lack of information for young people remains.
. Latin America and the Caribbean exhibit the second highest proportion of teenage mothers in the world.
. Four every 10 teenage mothers in Argentina get pregnant over their first sexual relation.
. Around 3,000 births in the country involve girls aged 10 to 13.
. Some 70 percent of teenage mothers do not plan their pregnancies.
The methodology to be used for the document was agreed upon earlier this month in the Federal District. The meeting was attended by over 70 women from 22 states.
They now plan to address specific problems they are currently facing in reports that will be incorporated into the final document, which is expected to be completed by next December.
They will go over government actions in the last 20 years, including public policies for women's equality and against violence and discrimination, as established in the Beijing Platform for Action.
"The idea is to come up with a document that will make country realities visible," said Lourdes García, head of Ciudadanía en Movimiento (Citizens in Action).
"We plan to develop a post-2015 agenda for women, covering their approaches
to problem-solving, the dissemination of relevant information and the promotion of feminist cadres," stressed Magdalena García, a specialist at the Bufete de Estudios Interdisciplinarios (Interdisciplinary Study Center).
Representatives of 189 States and 30,000 activists from all over the world attended the Beijing Conference.
Government delegations and women's organizations reached major agreements after two-week discussions, including the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which sought to promote women's equality and empowerment.
The Platform included 12 main areas: women and poverty, women's education and training, women and health, violence against women, women and armed conflicts, women and economics, women in the exercise of power and decision-making, institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women, women's human rights, women and the media, women and the environment, and girls.
The Beijing+5 review was made at the United Nations headquarters in June 2000. Around 1,000 NGOs gathered together with government representatives of 148 countries to discuss the progress made and adopt new measures to speed up the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
The subsequent five-year reviews have consistently asked States to honor commitments, but no country has so far met the Program in full, especially in connection with gender violence and sexual and reproductive rights.
Next March, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women will examine and evaluate the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform in the last 20 years.
The Mexican government has already prepared its report, and local feminists will soon conduct an assessment of it, including both advances and setbacks.
"We will identify good practices on the basis of UN strategic objectives and indicators," García told SEMlac.
"And we will also address priorities like the situation of urban, rural, older, disabled, indigenous and HIV-positive women", she concluded.
She made the statement at a forum on diversity organized by Philip Morris (company) in Santiago de los Caballeros.
"The time has come to put an end to gender violence and provide women with additional, better opportunities," she added.
"Out of 10 jobs available, six are taken by men," she exemplified.
"Most women are currently working in the informal sector, with no social security or other benefits," she indicated.
Liliana Cabeza, Philip Morris general manager in the country, highlighted
the efforts made by women to play the roles of mothers, wives and workers at
the same time.
"This forum aims to recognize successful professional women," she noted.
Wage gaps between men and women clearly show how challenging gender inequality is in the country.
The overall participation rate stands at 69.8 percent for men and 44.9 percent for women, according to the latest multi-purpose household survey.
Conducted by the National Office of Statistics (ONE) in late 2013 and published by Listín Diario newspaper last June, the survey showed that the gender gap is even greater in rural areas.
A World Bank report indicated that the Dominican economic growth rate had been the highest in the region last year (4.1 percent).
It said, however, that the island has failed to overcome poverty, which is still affecting four million people.
It added that inequality has limited social progress and will not make it possible to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.
"The country is lagging behind in the generation of decent jobs," it concluded.
"A total of 433 men reporters have also been attacked and four have been killed so far this year, while local authorities have shown no interest in conducting investigations," said Sara Lovera, CDP gender commissioner, at a recent Forum on Violence, Power and Freedom of Expression.
Last August 15, the Mexican government was expected to react to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which deems the country as the most dangerous nation for the functioning of journalists in the world.
The Commission got involved after Miguel Badillo, editor-in-chief of Contralínea magazine,
denounced that its offices had been assaulted and files and computing equipment had been stolen earlier this year. Its administrator had been killed a couple of years ago.
Against this background, the Commission asked the federal government to take recautionary measures because the magazine staff was at serious risk.
Speaking at the Forum, Manuel Granados, chairman of the Government Committee at the Legislative Assembly in the Federal District (ALDF), announced that a new comprehensive law is in the making to protect journalists and human rights defenders.
He indicated that six out of 10 threats against reporters come from civil servants and organized crime.
A representative of the Citizens' Movement undertook to support CDP and the establishment of a shelter for reporters at risk.
Lovera proposed that ALDF should investigate the final use made of the resources allocated to guarantee freedom of expression in the country.
She also requested the Forum to support the implementation of recommendations seeking to redress the current situation, which includes acts of intimidation, threats and economic damage.
She recalled that 76 journalists had been killed and another 16 had gone missing in the 2000-2013 period, including 25 women.
She indicated that CDP has identified 52 attacks on women reporters so far this year, including Citlali L. López in Oaxaca.
López had been threatened by Gervasio Martínez, leader of the Broad Front for the Struggle of the People (FALP), because she had covered the case of Elizabeth Sánchez, a local government official in Tlacolula de Matamoros.
The list of journalists who have been attacked this year includes Carmen Aristegui, director of a radio show, and Denis Dresser, a political scientist. They have both criticized government and business-sector actions.
Lovera said that, some years ago, a shelter for journalists in the capital city started to receive reporters from other states.
"A couple of offices to fight crimes against freedom of expression were established. They aim to promote dialogue between the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary. Everything seemed to go well at the time," she added.
"CDP is both a civil-society organization and a service provider," she noted. "It will probably be closed down because of lack of resources," she regretted.
"It has since early 2011 implemented 113 actions for 1,040 reporters in 24 states of the Republic, as well as 30 precautionary, 50 remedial and 32 preventive measures," she remarked.
CDP representative Rogelio Hernández told SEMlac that he had been taken aback by government officials who had declared that 70 percent of threats to reporters come from their own agencies.
"Acts of violence in the Federal District are a source of concern. There is an urgent need for
political will and social awareness," she concluded.
Last July 24, however, a court ruling in Córdoba (Argentina) was a turning point in connection with the responsibility of the State in women's murder cases.
A 19-year-old girl and her six-month-old son had been killed by her sexual partner in 2000, after having issued several reports to the police.
Fourteen years later, the local justice system has forced the State to provide her family with over 12,000-dollar compensation for moral damage.
Judge Claudia Zalazar said that the ruling set a precedent regarding the responsibility of the State in gender violence prevention, punishment and eradication.
This is set forth in the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women (Belém do Pará Convention) of October 1994, which was ratified by Argentina under Law No. 24,632.
Zalazar told media representatives that the ruling had been based on María da Penha's case in Brazil.
Fabiana Tuñez, head of Casa del Encuentro, a civil-society organization, highlighted the need for such a ruling to be replicated all over the country.
Paving the way for reports
The Córdoba ruling came in a country where there were 295 women's murders only in 2013, according to the Casa del Encuentro Observatory.
Tuñez underscored the need for the police and the court to provide gender-violence victims willing to report to their cases with effective protection and comprehensive support.
"There is also a need to establish long-term economic assistance mechanisms," she added.
"We strongly believe that the National Action Plan on Gender Violence Prevention, Punishment and Eradication should be implemented all over the country," she indicated.
Mexican lawyer Ana L. Delgadillo told SEMlac that States should give top priority to prevention rather than to criminal actions.
"Prevention and education provide the only way to gradually reduce deeply rooted social problems such as acts of violence against women," she concluded.
A campaign on the loss of authority over children
Casa del Encuentro has submitted a bill seeking to withdraw the rights of women's murderers over their children.
"It has had quite an impact on the media, the House of Representatives, the Senate and all of society. We hope that it will be passed into law," Tuñez remarked.
They can only hope that their husbands, who are working abroad, will help them out. They have merely completed intermediate-level education and have no support other than their mothers'.
They are part of the 98 teenage pregnancy cases seen in the country every year, twice the number in the world, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
Hospital director Víctor Calderón highlighted that this age group accounts for 18 percent of mother deaths in the country.
On a global scale, around 70,000 teenagers die every year as a result of pregnancy- and delivery-related complications, according to UNFPA.
"We recently had a 23-year-old mother of four who had had the fetus dead for 23 days and exhibited septic shock and fatal multi-organ failure," Calderón told SEMlac.
Why do they die?
Around 98 percent of pregnant women are followed up and 98 percent of deliveries take place at healthcare institutions.
Last year, the Ministry of Health launched a National Strategic Plan to Reduce Mother-and-Child Mortality in the 2012-2016 period.
"We will not meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), however. One of them involves reducing mother mortality to 47 every 1,000 live births by 2015," Calderón noted.
"The rate has stood as follows: 229 every 100,000 born alive in 1996, 159 in 2004, and 106 in 2013. We would need another 17 years to get to 50," he added.
"It is a shame that there is no sex education at schools. This paves the way for unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS," he emphasized.
The Dominican Political Observatory highlighted the need to implement training and awareness-raising actions for healthcare staff.
"The poorer women get pregnant more often. This is particularly the case of teenagers," Calderón remarked. Girls under 15 are five times more likely than women over 20 to die of pregnancy-related complications, according to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).
The mother mortality rate in the Dominican Republic is one of the highest in the region (106 every 100,000 live births, with teenagers between 15 and 20 years accounting for 18 percent of the total).
The main causes of mother deaths include preeclampsia (27 percent), hemorrhages (25 percent), and infections (24 percent).
Out of all teenage deliveries in 2013, 30 percent were vaginal and 28 percent involved Cesarean sections, according to the Ministry of Health. Mothers under 20 had 30 percent of stillborn babies.
The number of Cesarean sections moved from 40.9 percent in 2011 up to 44.4 percent in 2013, a report of the Women and Health Collective indicated last May 28 (International Day of Action for Women's Health).
Abortion was the fourth major cause of mother deaths in 2013, it added. Such a practice has not been legalized in the country.
Gloria Mejía, president of the Management Council, has helped organize training workshops for teenagers and private donations for equipment procurement.
"Forty percent of the State allocation to our hospital (five million pesos / 114.784 dollars) every month goes to the Essential Medicines Program," Calderón said.
"We have around 125 deliveries every day and spend three million pesos (68.000 dollars) a week. And we have 70 neonatal intensive care beds. This is a bottomless pit," he added.
The State has increased healthcare allocations to poor people and is devising new monitoring and evaluation mechanisms.
Care for pregnant teenagers requires 2.1 billion pesos (482 million dollars) a year, a study by the GenderStudyCenter revealed.
This amount is 1.7 percent higher than the allocation to collective health and accounts for five percent of annual public spending on health.
The country exhibits, however, one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the region, according to UNFPA.
Calderón feels that this is an unresolved matter, a disgrace on the government and its institutions.
Bachelet had undertaken to legalize such a practice in cases of mother's health in jeopardy, fetal inviability, and rape.
The international recommendations highlight the need to adopt measures to guarantee full, effective recognition of sexual and reproductive rights, especially by decriminalizing abortion, and urge to repeal laws criminalizing women who have resorted to this practice.
"The signatories hope that the State will actually protect human rights and meet its international obligations," the letter reads.
"We also hope that the opposition of conservative groups will not delay implementation of The Government Program," it added.
Carolina Carrera, president of Humanas Corporation, recalled that 84 percent of survey respondents favor the idea of decriminalizing abortion in cases where women's lives are at risk, and 80 percent agree to it in cases of fetal inviability or rape.
Erika Montecinos, a representative of Breaking the Silence (lesbian organization), indicated that it is essential to guarantee women's rights to make decisions over their own bodies.
Soledad Acevedo, a member of Freedom of Choice (feminist group), said that Chile is one of the few countries where abortion is not allowed. The move was adopted under Augusto Pinochet dictatorship.
Estimates show that around 160,000 abortions are performed every year in the country.
Tatiana Hernández, a representative of the Gender and Equity Observatory, indicated that time has come to regain women's right to decide on their bodies.