The bodies of Peruvian women are used as battle fields in the war against the basic right to reproductive health. Since 2001, All human beings have a right to the highest attainable standard of health, including reproductive health. In 1994, the international community met in Cairo to announce the basic right of all individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so.
In March 2004, the Peruvian government confirmed these declarations in a meeting organized by the Special Committee on Population and Development of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. In 2000, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights noted through its General Comment on the right to the highest attainable standard of health that any discussion of health must include a discussion of reproductive health, and women’s reproductive health in particular. This was reconfirmed by the Commission on Human Rights in 2003.
Meanwhile, the bodies of Peruvian women have been used as battlefields in the war against the basic right to reproductive health. Since 2001, the Peruvian government has gone back and forth on the legalization of the so-called “morning-after pill” (a contraceptive method that prevents a potentially fertilized ovum from implanting in the lining of the uterus). Since 2002, the Peruvian congress has discussed different versions of a bill that would define the human person as existing from the moment of fertilization.
Without getting into a quite valid criticism of the lack of scientific basis of these suggestions from a medical point of view—a woman with a fertilized ovum floating in her fallopian tube or uterus is not pregnant—it would be very useful to analyze the effects of this kind of legal reform on women’s life and health from a human rights point of view.
The moment for this kind of analysis has come. This weekend, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the right to the highest attainable standard of health, Paul Hunt, is arriving in the country.
The special rapporteurs have their mandate from the Commission on Human Rights, an entity consisting of 53 states, including Peru. In general, their mandate includes the monitoring of the status of a specific human right, or the situation of human rights in a specific country. To this end, they visit several countries by invitation or with the knowledge of the government in question to analyze the situation and refer their recommendations and comments to the Commission.
In Peru, Hunt will find many topics to analyze: the mental health of victims of the internal conflict, the indigenous population’s access to healthcare, the lack of access to healthcare for economic reasons in general, and, of course, reproductive health.
The Peruvian government should use this opportunity to leave Peruvian women’s bodies in peace. We all have the basic right to decide freely and responsibly how to plan our reproduction.