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II. Recommendations

To the Government of Argentina

Human Rights Watch calls on Argentina’s government to protect women’s human rights to life, physical integrity, health, nondiscrimination, privacy, liberty, information, freedom of religion and conscience, equal protection under the law, and the right to make decisions about the number and spacing of children.  In the following, we identify some essential first steps.

To the President of the Republic of Argentina

  • Continue to endorse publicly the National Program on Sexual Health and Responsible Procreation, and advocate for adequate financial support for this program within the government’s budget.

  • Publicly support women’s rights to immediate unhindered access to safe abortion where the punishment is currently waived, and support legislative reform to facilitate women’s access to voluntary and safe abortion services.

    To the National Health and Environment Ministry (Ministerio de Salud y Ambiente de la Nación)

  • Until such time as the Argentine Congress decriminalizes access to abortion, the National Health and Environment Ministry should develop a regulatory framework to guarantee access to voluntary safe abortion where the pregnant women’s life or health is in danger, and where the pregnancy is the result of the rape of a mentally disabled woman, as provided by law.  This regulatory framework should make explicit reference to the internationally accepted definition of “health” as put forward by the World Health Organization.

  • Continue to distribute the Guide on Better Post Abortion Care, and develop a mandatory regulatory framework for the provision of humane post-abortion care, and require all health care providers, public as well as private, to provide such care.  The ministry should ensure that all women know and understand that they will be provided with humane post-abortion care at public and private health centers and hospitals.

  • Continue and expand efforts to promote and disseminate full and accurate information on all safe contraceptive methods as identified by the World Health Organization, including through public information campaigns targeting the general population. 

  • Provide the full range of contraceptives in public health care centers as well as hospitals.  Decisions on which methods to use should rest with the individual woman herself, on the basis of scientifically informed medical counseling.  A full range of safe contraception would include surgical contraception, such as tubal ligation, and emergency contraception (the “morning-after pill”).

  • Sustain and deepen the public information campaign on the contents of the National Law on Sexual Health and Responsible Procreation, and the services provided through the National Program on Sexual Health and Responsible Procreation.

  • Proactively investigate and sanction all health personnel who willfully provide inaccurate or incomplete information on contraceptive methods, including those who withhold information on specific contraceptive methods, or who do not follow ministerial guidelines on the provision of care.  Sanctions should include the suspension or revocation of medical licenses for repeat offenders.

  • Eliminate all discriminatory preconditions for access to voluntary tubal ligation, including spousal consent.  Develop a national regulatory framework for access to tubal ligations according to World Health Organization standards on this type of contraceptive method.

    To the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (Ministerio de Educación, Ciencia y Tecnología)

  • Ensure access to accurate science-based sex education in primary and secondary schools, both private and public.  Sex education—tailored appropriately to age level and capacity—should include information on the inequality between men and women that hampers women’s rights to health and to independent decision-making on reproductive and sexual health matters.  It should also include accurate, science-based information about HIV prevention, including the use of condoms for this purpose.

  • Ensure the inclusion of comprehensive information on reproductive and sexual rights in university and higher education curricula for medical doctors, nurses, obstetricians, and other health personnel.

    To Congress

    The Argentine congress should without delay:

  • Legalize and ensure access to voluntary surgical contraception, including tubal ligation, including through the repeal of provisions in national law 17.132/67 (on the medical profession) and the penal code that limit such access.  The law should clarify that women do not require spousal or judicial authorization to access any form of contraceptive method.

  • Amend the penal code to explicitly criminalize marital rape.

  • Require ministries and appropriate government agencies to train health personnel, judges, magistrates, lawyers, police, and relevant officials on the laws and regulations related to women’s reproductive and sexual health, including guidance on women’s access to “non-punishable” abortion and tubal ligation.

  • Require all appropriate government agencies to provide training on preventing, investigating, and punishing violence against women, including domestic and sexual violence, especially for health personnel, judges, magistrates, police, and relevant public officials.

  • Call for oversight hearings to examine shortcomings in the implementations of the National Law on Sexual Health and Responsible Procreation, and take immediate and effective steps to overcome any shortcomings.

  • Enact laws that allow women to have access to voluntary and safe abortions.  These measures should include the repeal of penal code provisions that criminalize abortion, especially those that punish women who have had an induced abortion.

  • Expedite ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

    To Donors

    Donors and international organizations that fund reproductive health work in Argentina should:

  • Engage with Argentina to ensure that all women have access to information, sex education programs, and a full range of safe and effective contraception for all women.

  • Advocate for Argentina to remove legal restrictions on abortion and to ensure women access to safe and legal abortions.

  • Expand funding for reproductive health related programs in Argentina.  Support the information campaigns of government and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) seeking to educate women about their reproductive and sexual rights and right to access contraception and abortion.

    To the Federation of Argentine Societies of Gynecology and Obstetrics

    The Federation of Argentine Societies of Gynecology and Obstetrics (Federación Argentina de Sociedades de Ginecología y Obstetricia, FASGO) is a civil society organization of gynecologists and obstetricians that develops ethical standards and recommendations on good practices for its members.  Since doctors and obstetricians are the main actors in the implementation of state policies and laws on reproductive and sexual rights, their involvement and commitment to women’s welfare in this area is paramount.  FASGO should:

  • Develop and promote ethical guidelines on the provision of humane post-abortion care, including explicit condemnation of doctors who report women who have had abortions to the authorities.  FASGO should investigate and discipline any members who perform curettage without anesthesia.

  • Encourage its members to engage women in informed decision-making about their fertility and reproductive health by facilitating full and accurate information on available contraceptive methods.

  • Offer regular courses on women’s reproductive and sexual rights through the FASGO school of gynecology and obstetrics.

    <<previous  |  index  |  next>>June 2005