SEMlac reports

SEMlac reports (330)

Buenos Aires, June 11, 2012 (SEMlac Special). – Memories grow stronger over time, especially those of events like the 1982 war between Great Britain and Argentina over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).

Mentioning the Islands brings back to mind the military dictatorship, including martial laws, sunken ships and young fighters.

Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister at a time when there were very few women in power and did what would never be expected of a woman: declaring war on a foreign country.

This chapter of history has not been written in full, however.

One of the missing elements has to do with the role played by women in the conflict, including nurses.

Some news portrayed women at the time as very nervous, but convinced that the bloodshed would never be negotiated.

Alicia Reynoso was one of them. Born in Entre Ríos, a province 500 kilometers away from the capital city, she wore the battledress when she was only 23.

She had been trained as a nurse for the Air Force and was deployed in Chubut (the southernmost province in Argentina ) during the war.

“We are nurses, but will do anything to defend our country,” she told a reporter back then.

And she has just told SEMlac that women’s involvement in the war had been given a low profile for many years.

She worked together with another five women; they all faced a situation as difficult as the one seen in the battlefield.

She recalled that they were shelled before the shelter was completed. “We had to spend the night in a sewer, surrounded by rats,” she added.

Photo 1: “This was how the shelter started to be built.”

Photo 2: “The shelter was finally completed; no need to get back to sewers.”

Photo 3: The five women walking. “We never lost our smile,” Alicia recalled.

The capitulation: “After we gave everything for the country, the war ended,” she indicated.

“Our presence in the war seems to have been forgotten or hidden due to male-chauvinistic prejudices,” she stressed.

“The Veterans Day has been observed on April 2 ever since,” she noted.

“It was only three decades later that we were invited to attend an official ceremony, along with other veterans,” she commented.

The war began on April 2 and ended on June 14, 1982. A total of 649 Argentinean troops, 255 British and three civilian islanders were killed.

Argentina has demanded sovereignty over the Islands , but they have remained under British control ever since.

“We simply did out duty,” she concluded.

Lima, June 18, 2012 (SEMlac Special). – He says he is “Juan Álvarez,” but nobody knows if that is his real name because he has no identity document and is homeless and poor.

A few days ago, he had a seizure in Miraflores, one of the wealthiest residential districts in Lima .

He panicked, fell down and asked for help. When Public Safety arrived, a policeman ordered to clear the area.

“He is just a drug addict or a thief,” he said. And those present in the scene reacted: “He is a human being and is thus entitled to receive emergency care.”

“He is an indigent; we cannot take him anywhere. Will any of you pay for his bill?,” he asked.

“In situations like this one, most fire-fighters and paramedics decide not to show up because they do not know what to do,” a Public Safety officer confessed.


The absolute poor are not considered a vulnerable population group

When deputy-minister Julio Rojas was asked about it, he corroborated that there is actually no law protecting these people.

Under the legislation in force, only children, teenagers, women, senior citizens, domestic migrants and disabled and displaced people are considered vulnerable population groups.

“There is a need for inter-agency coordination mechanisms, including the ministries of Health, Education and Housing,” he added.

“Ministries follow standards, and indigents are not included in any of them,” he told SEMlac.

“Why don’t you do anything in parliament?”, he wondered.


Is care available to all?

“We provide care to everybody,” said Omar Landauro, deputy-director of the Casimiro Ulloa Hospital .

“If a patient suffers from a mental disorder, he/she is referred to a psychiatric institution; if he/she is a drug addict, he/she is sent to Social Welfare,” he added.

“If the patient does not have any identity document, he/she is attended to and his/her fingerprints are checked by the National Identity Registry.


Local governments

The Mayor’s Office in Miraflores has implemented a program that is now being replicated in other districts and provinces. Under the title Miraflores: Inclusive and Accessible, it focuses on people with special needs.

SEMlac asked the Office secretary to arrange an interview with the mayor to elaborate on the program, but did not succeed.

It would have been appropriate to ask him about these issues in a country with 28 million inhabitants, including 31.3 percent living under poverty conditions and 9.8 percent under extreme poverty.

Local governments should be responsible for all citizens, including the absolute poor.

Montevideo, May 21, 2012 (SEMlac Special).- Uruguay saw last April the murder of a fourth transsexual girl in a relatively short period of time. The case was practically ignored by the media, and sexual diversity organizations strongly criticized lack of respect for the victims' gender identity.

The local society was shocked, however, at the brutal attack on Daniel Zamudio, a young homosexual who died in Chile .

The “Brazilian” and Gabriela had been found dead at a park in the middle of the night, while Pamela had been killed at a well.

They had all been often abused while practicing transactional sex, but their valuables had not been stolen when they got killed.


Rights violated

A report by Ovejas Negras (Black Sheep), a sexual diversity organization, indicated that all these cases had been given a really low profile by the media.

The situation would have been completely different if heterosexual people had been involved, it added.

There is a law, however, promoting respect for gender identity regardless of biological sex.

Media reports merely mentioned transvestites and sexual workers who had been shot dead.


Totally ignored

Andrés Scagiola, head of the Social Policy Division at the Ministry of Social Development, wrote a newspaper article highlighting the need for respect of transgender people’s rights.

“Their life expectancy merely stands at 40 years, and they often endure physical violence,” he indicated.

Social pressure

In this context, Black Sheep and other groups like the Federation of University Students organized a march against privately owned TV channel 4, which had referred to the victims “as men wearing women’s clothes.”

“Channel CEOs told us that if we did not refrain from organizing demonstrations, they would no longer cover sexual diversity issues,” said Black Sheep representative Diego Sempol.

"Despite all pressures, we will go on marching against homophobia and discrimination and for truly democratic and transparent media action,” he added.

“Time has come to enact a new law for the media to promote democracy and good journalism,” he concluded.


Who are they?

There is little information about the trans population in Uruguay . The School of Sociology has been conducting research to assess the impact of gender and sexual discrimination on education and labor opportunities.

The Ministry of Social Development is developing inclusive policies, but the process is going very slowly.


Life experiences

María Paz, “a different woman,” as she defines herself, told SEMlac that the situation of trans people has got slightly better in the past two decades.

"I practiced transactional sex for many years. When I finally quit eight years ago, I did suffer from hunger. My self-esteem was very low. It is a fact that we are not seen as human beings, but as sexual objects,” she concluded.


Denver, Colorado , U.S.A. (SEMlac Special). – When President Barack Obama publicly supported same-sex marriage last May 9, he took a well calculated electoral risk.

A Gallup survey had shown overwhelming support for legalized gay marriage in the country. In fact, support has moved from 31 percent (of the population) in 1986 up to 63 percent today.

Opposition now comes mostly from Protestant men over 50 years of age, Republican Party members, and some South groups, it also revealed.

“This poses quite a risk because they control the House, the Senate and some state governments,“ said Margaret Thompson, a feminist activist and journalism professor at Denver University .

“Last May 15, the Senate rejected a bill that had already been passed by Congress allowing same-sex unions,” she recalled.

“And the Senate sent the bill to the Veterans Commission for review,” she added. ”Only a Democratic Party member supported the bill there,” she regretted.

On the other hand, Public Policy Polling indicated last month that some outstanding pastors are for it and some others, against it.

Jim Daily, an evangelical pastor who heads Focus on the Family, said that Obama is ignoring the will of the people. “I strongly believe that he should do what is best for the people and he should consider that God conceived marriage as the sacred union of husband and wife,” he noted.

Lutheran reverend Susan Schneider indicated in Wisconsin that no-one should be deprived of the right to express love through marriage.

“This involves a civil-rights issue,” she emphasized.

Paul Lakeland, director of the Catholic Study Center at the Catholic University in Connecticut , said that the Church has no theological justification for its position. It is based on fear and revulsion,” he stressed.

While Obama favors the idea of having federal laws supporting same-sex marriage, his Republican opponent Mitt Romney plans to amend the Constitution to make no room for gay unions.

Romney had in the past supported equal rights for gays and lesbians, but now opposes their legal marriage.

Obama’s change of position is also seen as a way to increase donations from the gay community. This became evident last May 15 in New York , where he joined Ricky Martin, an openly gay Puerto Rican pop star, at a fund-raising event.

A reception was also organized by the Rubin Art Museum for this purpose, with donors contributing from 5,000 to 35,800 dollars each.

The Center for Responsive Politics has identified 14 gay activists who have raised over 3.3 million dollars for Obama.

Homosexual marriage is legalized in New York , Connecticut , Iowa , Maryland , Massachusetts , New Hampshire , Vermont , Washington , and the District of Columbia . Civil union is allowed in Delaware , Hawaii , Illinois , New Jersey , and Rhode Island .

Managua, April (SEMlac Special). – Local women’s organizations have for decades been supporting violence victims, lobbying for new pieces of legislation, and promoting the establishment of women’s commissariats.

Enacted on January 26, 2012, a comprehensive law to fight violence against women and amend the Criminal Code has entrusted these tasks to the State.

The new legislation establishes the adoption of precautionary measures right after victims report their cases and the recognition of psychological violence.

It also sets forth new criminal categories such as women’s murders, children’s kidnapping, and sexual harassment.

While the number of violent women’s deaths is smaller in Nicaragua than in other Central American countries, feminist organizations have since 2003 reported a continued increase in crimes and attacks.

Mexico, April (SEMlac Special). – Sexual harassment has since 1991 been considered a crime punishable by law. It goes unpunished, however, in 99 percent of cases because it is not reported.

Abusers are usually powerful and victims are never believed to tell the truth.

A recent study by the Association of Jurists showed that around 1.4 million working women are abused, humiliated and/or harassed every year in the country.

Victims keep quiet because they do not want to lose their jobs, it also revealed.

“A great scandal has just occurred at the very headquarters of the National Human Rights Commission here,” said Teresa Ulloa, director of the Regional Coalition against Trafficking in Girls and Women.

“Women are given what nobody wants or needs”, Carmen Ojesto, leader of the Citizens’ Movement party

Mexico, February (SEMlac). – For the first time in local history, women are leading an election process in the country, at a time when economic crisis, lack of political credibility, and widespread violence are the rule of the day.

They have come up with a unified platform to demand their rights, fully aware of the fact that they make up 50 percent of the population and are entitled to 50 percent of electoral posts.

New York, February (SEMlac Special). – The right to free contraceptives is part and parcel of the current election campaign in the U.S.

Last February 17, California Republican Representative Darrell Issa organized public hearings by an Ad Hoc Committee on Freedom of Religion, which had been established a year ago. The idea now is to show that such a freedom is being violated by Barack Obama’s administration.

Mexico City, October 2011 (SEMlac Special). – Legal restrictions on abortion put women’s lives at risk all over the world, making them resort to extremely dangerous, illegal practices.

Rafaela Schiavon, representative of IPAS-Mexico, indicated that 45 million unwanted pregnancies are terminated every year in the world, including 27 million under legal, safe conditions, and 18 million under unsafe, life-threatening circumstances.

“Against this background, some 68,000 women die every year over illegal abortion procedures,” she added.

“Women’s sexual, reproductive and human rights have been ignored by the Supreme Court of Justice in the states of Baja California and San Luis Potosí ,” she stressed.

Last September 28 (International Day on Abortion De-criminalization), a Court ruling made it possible for 17 states to amend the relevant, progressive legislation and consider the zygote as a person with civil and administrative rights.

This has led to opposition to emergency contraception and artificial insemination, and to rejection of abortion due to rape, serious mother-health condition, and/or congenital malformations.

“IPAS believes that the reason(s) for abortion can be easily checked,” she stressed.

“We cannot close our eyes to forced sex (rape), unsafe sex (no contraceptive use), contraceptive failure, and other self-evident facts (of an economic, social, physical and mental nature),” she emphasized.

A report by the Alan Güttmacher Institute indicated that 29 unsafe abortions every 1,000 women aged 15 to 44 are performed in Latin America, as compared to only three every 1,000 women in Europe every year.

“The number of mother deaths in countries where abortion is not legalized is 30 times higher than in nations where it is,” she recalled.

“Over 3,000 women in Mexico die every year as a result of unsafe abortions,” she remarked.

Estimates show that 35 every 1,000 reproductive-age women in the world resort to abortion on a yearly basis. The lowest rates (10 every 1,000 women) are seen in countries like the Netherlands , Belgium and Switzerland .

The rate stands at 50 in Chile and Peru , where the relevant legislation is extremely restrictive, and at 80 in Romania , Cuba and Vietnam , where laws are rather liberal, but access to contraception is very limited.

In this context, there is a pressing need to develop comprehensive policies to provide information to and do prevention work mainly for poor, young women, experts feel.

While some people favor the idea of abstinence and “natural regulation”, others highlight the importance of education, increased access to contraceptives, and family planning.

Six every 100 women respondents confessed they had been raped; most of them when they were 10 to 20 years old only, an IPAS survey revealed.

A report of the National Women’s Institute indicated that around 120,000 local women are raped every year and 10 percent get pregnant as a result of such acts.

District Attorney Offices estimate that only 10 percent of raped women report their cases to the police and only a few do so right after these acts. “This does not make it possible to use emergency contraception to avoid pregnancy,” a lawyer said.

Some data
  • Over 21,000 women in Mexico died of pregnancy-related complications between 1990 and 2005. This accounted for 7.2 percent of all mother deaths in such a period. Abortion became the third major cause of death in the entire country.
  • Out of this total, 60 percent occurred in six states: the Federal District (14 percent), the state of Mexico (13 percent), Veracruz (10 percent), Chiapas (eight percent), Puebla (seven percent), and Guerrero (six percent).
  • Forty-five percent of these deaths involved women aged 20 to 29 and one every eight was a teenager.
  • Around 64 percent of these women had no social-security coverage.
  • Seventy-seven percent of them lived in rural areas.

Notwithstanding the implementation of family programs since the early 1970s, merely 40 every 100 local teenagers are using contraceptives, 57 every 100 young women go to school, and 52 every 100 indigenous women learn how to read and write.

“There has actually been a major decline in contraceptive use over the last 10 years,” she recalled.

“The rate has merely stood at 10 percent over such a period,” she added.



No contraceptive method is 100-percent effective against pregnancy. In fact, contraceptive failure leads to over 26 million unwanted pregnancies a year internationally, a report by the World Health Organization (WHO) indicated.

Hospitals and other healthcare facilities are currently spending significant amounts of financial and human resources on unsafe-abortion-related complications, it added. They include hemorrhage, severe bleeding, and uterus perforation and/or tearing.

Costs under this heading exceed 2.5 billion dollars a year, a local survey showed.

They can be significantly reduced (by 720,000 dollars) applying modern, safe technology and administering effective drugs.






Montevideo, October 2011 (SEMlac Special). – Strategies seeking to protect and secure women’s sexual and reproductive rights in Latin America have not always been successful.

Cristina González, a Colombian medical doctor and international consultant, told SEMlac that Uruguayan citizens have for years hoped to see abortion finally de-criminalized.

The local parliament had made some progress along these lines in 2008, but President Tabaré Vázquez vetoed the move. The issue will be taken up later this year, when Senator Mónica Xavier sponsored bill will be reviewed and hopefully passed.

A survey by Factum Corporation showed that 56 percent of the population favors the idea of legalizing abortion.

Data reveal that around 45,000 babies are born and 33,000 abortions are performed every year in the country.


Regional context

”Countries of the region have been promoting strategies aimed at providing women with access to safe abortion,” she recalled.

“They include legalizing this procedure, establishing new regulations, and implementing risk and damage reduction policies,” she added.

“Some of these strategies focus on legalizing abortion only in the first 12 weeks of gestation, while some others seek to de-criminalize it in cases of rape, life-threatening events, etc.,” she emphasized.

“These strategies help women, one way or another, decide for abortion if they have other important projects (like education and professional development) in mind,” she noted.


Rights violated

The current local criminal code authorizes abortion only if women’s lives are at risk, if they have become pregnant as a result of rape, or if they are extremely poor.

“This is only provided for in theory because there are no specialized facilities available to women under such circumstances,” she regretted.

“The provisions were developed in 1938, but they have never been truly implemented,” she remarked.

“The above-mentioned strategies are based on human rights considerations and aim to guarantee women’s access to safe abortion,” she indicated.


Other strategies

“When the code mentions pregnant women’s life-threatening events, it should be understood to mean threats to women’s comprehensive health, including biological, psychological and social well-being,” she remarked.

“We have a Latin American publication on legalized abortion and human rights to help healthcare professionals make appropriate decisions,” she said.

“Other strategies aim to promote massive use of manual intra-uterine aspiration, abortion-drug use, and damage reduction,” she added.

“The latter, which is based on counseling services for safe abortion, was introduced in the health sector in 2004 and passed into law in 2008,” she recalled.



“This damage-reduction strategy does not seem relevant to me within the Uruguayan context,” she stressed.

“There has been a truly democratic debate over abortion here in the last six years,” she emphasized.

“It played a role in the past, but the country should now move toward de-criminalizing abortion altogether,” she remarked.

“I am aware of the fact that access to abortion drugs like Misoprostol is still being restricted here,” she regretted.

La República daily newspaper indicated last August 3 that local gynecologists recommend Misoprostol for abortion, but they do not prescribe it. And they perform no legally authorized abortion procedures either,” she noted.

“Against this background, there is a need to further streamline abortion requirements,” she concluded.

Página 6 de 24