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With the echoes of the drums resonating, approximately 500 women MPs, unionists, black, lesbians from both sides of the border, but without borders with reference to their bodies, ideas and feelings, participated in the first panel of the 4th International Action of the World March of Women 2015 in Brazil. The panel was titled “The situation of discrimination and decriminalization of abortion in Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay” and it was held in the Municipal Theatre 15 de febrero in Rivera, Uruguay.
Before introducing the panelists, Cintia Barenho, one of the coordinators of the WMW of Rio Grande do Sul, reminded that women still need to fight everyday for their right to their bodies, to escape the underground abortion circuits and against Parliaments such as that of Brazil, which passed last week a law that states that a “family” is only the union between a man and a woman, thus leaving aside the multiplicity of family models that exist.
Maru Casanova, political scientist and researcher of the NGO Mujer y Salud Uruguay (MYSU) opened the debate highlighting “the difficulties to enforce” the law on the Voluntary Termination of Pregnancies (IVE) in Uruguay and the need to advance in terms of the agenda of rights of the previous Frente Amplio administration (IVE, same-sex marriage, state regulation on the sale of cannabis), although she highlighted that these achievements would not have been possible without the relentless mobilization of social organizations.
The feminist activist highlighted that it is necessary to better disseminate sexual/reproductive health and abortion services implemented in Uruguay, and that the social monitoring (such as that carried out by the National Observatory on Gender and Sexual-Reproductive Health of MYSU) is kept in time to permanently assess how public policies work.
As highlighted by the organization many other times, conscientious objection is one of the main barriers in the access to IVE, in addition to the continuity of the maternal-infant health model in health policies. Also, Casanova showed the audience a photo taken minutes before: the monument to Mothers in Rivera that defines mothers as “tenderness and love, abnegation and self-sacrifice”. “We still have a long way to go in cultural terms”, concluded Casanova.
Meanwhile, Dora Martinez, unionist of CTA-A and member of the National Campaign for Legal, Safe and Free Abortion” said that these international spaces are positive for the “exchange of experiences” in the struggle for the decriminalization and legalization of abortion, i.e. “the inalienable right to decide over our bodies, our territories”. In addition, she promoted a regional “offensive” that implies a turnaround for the government agendas” for them to focus on the rights of women.
She reminded the struggle for legal abortion in Argentina that started as a strategy workshop for the right to abortion held at the 18th National Meeting of Women, which became a campaign in 2005.
Five times after having presented bills for the decriminalization of abortion “we still need to fight against patriarchy, mainly representing the Church and the States”, said the unionist, and highlighted the right of women to decide over their bodies, although this is not a topic in the agenda. “Abortion continues being a debt owed by democracy, by the governmental and public health policies”, she added. While “patriarchy has given us the role of incubators, the feminist resistance has saved lives and has empowered women”, she said.
“Abortion is part of women´s lives”, said Sonia Coelho of the WMW-Brazil. “It hasn´t always been criminalized. Criminalization is a new way of controlling our bodies and lives, and it has direct consequences on poor and black women”. This is why she highlighted the importance of grassroots work with women, to develop their autonomy.
While in Brazil there have been bills for decriminalization in the 90s, joining the Latin American and Caribbean campaigns, she regretted that since mid 90s the Brazilian feminist movement “doesn´t have a joint strategy for decriminalization”.
Coelho said that “the perversity of machismo is to prevent that young women access emergency contraceptives to terminate unwanted pregnancies. This is why it is important to “advance in the agenda for the autonomy of women”.
Just like Argentinean and Uruguayan women made reference in their chants and conversations to the use of Misoprostol for abortions, Sonia highlighted that when Brazilian women could use Cytotec “the deaths of women caused by abortions was reduced”, but now, since it is “illegal” it became a medicine commercialized by criminal organizations that control its sale”, endangering the lives of women.
The audience questioned why the resistance continues debating the issue of abortions, even within the movement, and Coelho called to think of joint strategies and how to show solidarity among us.
Women, feminists, revolutionists, we will continue marching until we are all free!
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