Inter-Americas RH Campaign Needs Crucial U.S. Support

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Inter-Americas RH Campaign Needs Crucial U.S. Support

Angela Castellanos

U.S. support for an Inter-American Convention on Sexual and Reproductive Rights would restore America's leadership role in promoting women's health abroad.

The long road for an Inter-American
Convention on Sexual and Reproductive Rights is currently running a
challenging phase, in which it is crucial to get the support from
the members of the Organization of American States, including the United States.

In fact, from 2008 to 2010, the coordination
of the Campaign
for the Inter-American Convention on Sexual and Reproductive Rights
will work intensely with U.S. organizations in order to promote this initiative. "We hope
that the Democrats win in the USA, because with them in the new administration
the Convention would have more chances to be supported," said Cecilia
Olea, Associate Coordinator of the Campaign. 

In 1999, the Latin American and Caribbean
Committee for the Defense of Women’s Rights
proposed a campaign for the creation of an international
mechanism for the protection and promotion of sexual and reproductive
rights in the framework of the Organization of the American States.  

What kind of mechanism? An Inter-American

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Why an Inter-American Convention on
Sexual and Reproductive Rights? Latin American legislation is weak in many countries, and, in many states, governments are vulnerable to religious influences. 

Therefore, the campaign’s promoters
explain, a Convention is needed because it is a mandatory mechanism,
and brings tools to ensure the protection of sexual
and reproductive rights.  

At the international level, some sexual
and reproductive rights are recognized by the Convention of Belem do
Para (Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication
of Violence against Women). However, the countries which signed this
Convention have not always developed a national legislation for the
protection of such rights.  

For Clarena Cardona, spokesperson of
the campaign in Colombia, the Convention of Belem do Para is not enough
to guarantee sexual and reproductive rights.  

Cardona argues that sexual and reproductive rights include legal unions of gays and
lesbians, legal abortion, and labor status for prostitution (not forced

Induced abortion and emergency contraception
pills are illegal in most of the American countries. Moreover, their opponents
find in the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights (Pact of San Jose
de Costa Rica) judicial arguments — its fourth article states that the
right to life has to be respected and guaranteed "from conception."

The campaigners are looking for a Convention
in which sexual and reproductive rights (SRR) have a human rights
approach, that SRR are recognized as fundamental matters, and
then, a Convention that acknowledges the interdependency between development,
democracy, and sexual and reproductive rights. 

The campaign’s strategy has two axes,
which run simultaneously: carry out the process to the Convention, and
to expand the debate on sexual and reproductive rights. 

One of the initial activities was to
have accurate and up-to-date information. For that purpose, each country
involved in the campaign carried out a diagnosis of the situation of sexual
and reproductive rights. 

From the beginning, CLADEM understood
that it would be a long process which needs partners to be successful.
Therefore, its first phase was aimed at building partners, the next was to disseminate
the proposition and organize debates, and then, finally, elaborate Convention

The campaign for the Convention is composed
by national and regional networks of women and young people from Latin
America, and also by NGOs. They are: Campaña 28 de Setiembre, Red Latinoamericana
de Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir
, CIDEM, CLADEM, Comisión
Internacional de Derechos Humanos para Gays y Lesbianas – Programa para
América Latina
, Red de Salud de
las Mujeres Latinoamericanas y del Caribe
, Rede Feminista de
, Red Latinoamericana
y Caribeña de Jóvenes por los Derechos Sexuales y los Derechos Reproductivos

But the list is not finished. At
the regional level, the campaign is finding new partners among various
sectors, since sexual and reproductive rights are not only a concern of women and youth, but of all. To this end, a couple
of weeks ago, the Second Dialogue between indigenous representatives
and feminists was held in Lima, Peru. 

At the national level, the campaigners
are working on collecting and debating ideas to be included in the Convention’s
draft through a strategy called "Write your Convention," which is being implemented at national and regional levels.  Simultaneously, they
are revising the "manifest" of the campaign, and promoting the Convention
among the governments.

In 2007, a campaign’s representative spoke at the plenary of the Organization of American States meeting held in Medellin, Colombia. As
a result of the presentation, Venezuela offered to submit the Convention
draft, once the campaign has found enough support
from national governments.

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Foreign Policy Debate 2008