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Letter from Human Rights Watch to the Government of Nicaragua

Re: Women's and Girls' health in Nicaragua

June 30, 2017

Ministro de Relaciones Exteriores

Excmo. Sr. Denis Rolando Moncada Colindres

Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores

Del Cine González 1c. al sur. Avenida Bolívar

Managua, Nicaragua

Your Excellency:

On behalf of Human Rights Watch, an independent nongovernmental organization that monitors and reports on human rights in more than 90 countries worldwide, I write to request information concerning the lives and health of women and girls in Nicaragua. Specifically, we are seeking information on the consequences of Nicaragua’s prohibition on abortion, which allows for no exceptions.

Human Rights Watch has promoted women’s rights around the world for nearly 40 years, including extensive work on sexual and reproductive and maternal health issues. Our investigations have documented how barriers to sexual and reproductive health care and information—including with respect to abortion—violate or jeopardize a range of human rights. Our 2007 report, Over Their Dead Bodies: Denial of Access to Emergency Obstetric Care and Therapeutic Abortion in Nicaragua, highlighted the importance of access to voluntary abortion in ensuring these rights are realized.

In early 2017, HRW interviewed women and girls in Nicaragua who had experienced unwanted and crisis pregnancies, some of whom sought illegal abortions. Human Rights Watch also interviewed medical providers, lawyers, representatives of organizations providing support and services to women and girls, and women’s rights activists. The two-dozen interviews took place in urban and rural areas, and on both coasts of Nicaragua. Due to the threat of prosecution and social stigma, Human Rights Watch is not identifying individuals, organizations, or the locations of these interviews.

We found that the 2006 law punishing abortion—without any exceptions—has driven this medical procedure underground, creating a culture of fear and secrecy.  The ban has not stopped abortion, but has made it more unsafe.

Human Rights Watch is committed to fair and accurate reporting, and we would like to understand the perspectives of the Nicaraguan government. We would appreciate your help in coordinating with other Ministries and agencies to compile and share with us the data and information requested below:

  1. Would you please provide national maternal mortality data since 2012.
  2. Would you please provide updated information on the status of the 2008 legal challenge submitted to the Supreme Court, which argued that the abortion ban was unconstitutional (No. 38-2008). We understand that the court has not ruled on this case.
  3. What training and evaluation of training, if any, is provided for medical providers on the MINSA protocol 109 of 2013, which details attention to obstetric complications?
  4. Please provide the following data (for years 2006 – 2017) on implementation of Código Penal (2007), La Ley N° 641 de 16 de Noviembre del 2007, Capítulo II, Artículos 143 – 145 (concerning abortion):

Number of investigations; Number of arrests; Number of prosecutions; Number of convictions; Number of acquittals; Sentenced handed down (length of prison sentences; data on fines); Number of cases dropped by prosecutors; Demographic data on defendants and victims (gender, age, education, marital status, pregnancy status, disability, and area of residence)

  1. What plans, if any, does the government have to review the citizen’s initiative proposing abortion be legal under certain circumstances, considering that the National Assembly chose to archive this initiative without debate or other action?

The findings of our research will be published in the next months. We ask that you provide us with any comments, including answers to the questions above, by July 30, 2017, so that we have adequate opportunity to reflect your relevant responses in our materials.

We sincerely hope that you and your government will engage in a dialogue with us about these crucial issues and their impact on the lives and health of women and girls in Nicaragua.

Sincerely,

 

Janet Walsh

Deputy Director,

Women’s Rights Division

Human Rights Watch

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