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UNFPA Global Population Policy Update
Laws and Policies in Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Uruguay and Venezuela
ISSUE 83 - 15 August 2008
This issue of the UNFPA Global Population Policy Update chronicles important laws and policies relating to sexual reproductive health and rights, violence against women, HIV/AIDs, sexual exploitation of minors and gender equality that were adopted in the Latin American region in 2007.
Venezuela Enacts Law on Violence Against Women
On 16 March 2007, Venezuela enacted the Organic Law on the Right of Women to Be Free from Violence. The law aims at promoting and guaranteeing the right of women to a life free from violence and creating conditions for preventing, attending to, punishing, and eradicating violence of any kind against women. It provides for among others, the right to: a) life; b) protection of the dignity and physical, psychological, sexual, and legal integrity of victims; c) equality between men and women; d) protection of women who are particularly vulnerable to violence; and e) information and counseling for victims. The law defines violence as including, psychological violence, harassment, threats, domestic violence, sexual violence, forced prostitution, sexual slavery, violence in employment, sexual harassment; economic violence, violence to property, violence in the provision of obstetrical care, forced sterilization, exploitation and discrimination, violence committed in jail and institutions, and trafficking.
It also sets forth punishments for engaging in all of these forms of violence, including ignoring or delaying treatment in obstetrical emergencies, performing unnecessary caesarean sections, performing sterilizations without informed consent, denial of sexual rights, and failure to advise the victims of violence. It allows victims to bring civil suits against their perpetrators.
Further provisions of the law deal with the obligations of various public agencies and institutions, the creation of shelters, preventive measures, training, assistance to victims and persons bringing legal complaints, procedures to be followed when legal complaints are brought, and policies and programmes against violence committed against women. The law repeals the 1998 law on Violence against Women and the Family, whose provisions it greatly expands.
Bolivia Enacts Law on HIV/AIDs
On 8 August 2007, Bolivia enacted Law No. 3729, the law for the prevention of HIV/AIDS, the protection of Human Rights, and the integral multidisciplinary care of persons who live with HIV/AIDS. The law provides that persons living with HIV/AIDS have the rights to: a) life, health, and security; b) equality before the law and to non-discrimination; c) receive sufficient and timely health services for prevention and treatment, access to laboratory analyses, ARVs, treatment for opportunistic infections, and information to prevent infection and transmission; d) privacy and confidentiality with respect to HIV status and not to be subject to mandatory testing so long as third persons are not involved; e) receive unbiased, scientific, and timely education on HIV/AIDS; f) protection against degrading and inhumane treatment and not to be isolated in health institutions or prisons; g) benefit from scientific advances in treatment and palliative and preventive care; h) not to be dismissed from employment, based on their status and to work in accordance with their capacities; i) education and access to education; j) freedom of expression and association; k) participate in cultural and political life; and l)Â participate in the formulation, implementation, and evaluation of HIV/AIDS policies. In addition, pregnant women have a right to voluntary and confidential testing and treatment to prevent mother-child transmission, and orphans have a right to free multidisciplinary care and social assistance.
The law also imposes obligations on certain categories of persons and institutions. Health personnel must maintain the confidentiality of patients and must receive training on HIV/AIDS. Persons who are infected with HIV and who are aware of their status have a duty to be responsible in their sexual behaviour, to inform their sexual partners of their HIV status, to inform health personnel treating them of their HIV status, and to comply with health and epidemiological protocols.
Uruguay Passes Law on Gender Equality
On 15 March 2007, Uruguay passed Law No. 18104, which declares that activities aimed at the equality of rights and opportunities between men and women are of general interest in Uruguay. The State is required to adopt all measures necessary to ensure the design, formulation, implementation, and supervision of public policies in which the perspective of gender is integrated, in accordance with the provisions of the law. To this end, the National Institute of Women is to design a National Plan of Equal Opportunities and Rights that aim to: a) guarantee respect for women's civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights by applying and developing egalitarian legislation; and b) promote full citizenship, ensuring the equal exercise of these rights, as well women's active participation in the process of development.
The law also creates within the Ministry of Development a National Council to coordinate public policies of Gender Equality. The council is responsible for advising the Executive Branch of Government, ensuring the implementation of this law, and implementing policies of equality at the departmental level.
Colombia Adopts a National Public Health Plan
On 10 August 2007, the Ministry of Social Protection of Colombia adopted a National Public Health Plan for 2007-2010. Among other things, the plan sets forth a number of objectives and strategies relating to sexual and reproductive health. The main objectives of the plan include: a) reducing the rate of maternal mortality to 62.4 per thousand; b) maintaining a birth rate of 2.4 children per woman; c) reducing the rate of uterine cancer to 7 per thousand; d) reducing the rate of HIV infection to 1.2%; and e) increasing coverage with ARVs to 100%. Strategies for reaching these objectives include: a) promoting responsible sexuality; b) preventing and treating sexual violence; c) promoting and guaranteeing sexual and reproductive health; d) guaranteeing maternal-child health care and abortion services; e) promoting the use of modern contraceptives; f) providing sexual and reproductive health services to adolescents, with an emphasis on counseling, emergency contraception, and modern contraceptive methods; g) managing sexually transmitted diseases and HIV infection and increasing voluntary HIV testing; and h) reducing mother-child HIV transmission by the use of milk substitutes. The plan also sets forth objectives and strategies related to infant health.
Venezuela Enacts Law on the Protection of Families and Parenthood
On 19 September 2007, Venezuela enacted the Law for the Protection of Families and Parenthood. The objective of the law is to establish measures for the integral protection of families, as well as to promote responsible practices in families and create means for preventing intrafamily conflicts and violence, while providing education on equality, tolerance, and mutual respect in the family and ensuring its members a dignified life and their full development. The law does the following, among other things: a) prohibits the dismissal of fathers from employment for one year after the birth of a child or the adoption of a child under the age of three; b) guarantees fathers 14 days of paid leave upon the birth of a child or adoption of a child under the age of three; c) obligates the State to promote and disseminate programmes on sexual and reproductive rights and duties and on sex education for children, adolescents, and adults, which include information on and access to family planning methods; d) obligates the State to provide assisted reproduction services as part of health care; e) obligates the State to promote programmes and activities to protect families from domestic violence; and f) obligates the State to provide families with nutritional, health, and housing programmes, among others.
These programmes are to be directed at families and individuals in vulnerable situations, including the poor, pregnant adolescents, families affected by domestic violence, the seriously ill, orphans, those with limited access to health care, and families in which the person primarily responsible for the family is ill or has died. The law is based on the principle of the equality of rights and duties of all family members.
Costa Rica Amends Penal Code to Strengthen Fight Against Sexual Exploitation
On 18 July 2007, Costa Rica enacted Law No. 8590, which amends the Penal Code to strengthen the fight against the sexual exploitation of minors. The amendments provide the following provisions among others: a) raise to 13 the age below which increased penalties will be imposed on persons who commit various sexual offenses against minors; b) enlarge the categories of relatives on whom increased penalties will be imposed for committing sexual offenses against minors to include step relatives, cousins, and relatives of a person's spouse or cohabitant; c) enlarge the scope of the crime of the sexual corruption of minors to include situations when the victim consents; d) enlarge the definition of crimes relating to child pornography to include using the voice of minors and the reproduction as well as the production of such materials; e) create the crime of possession of child pornography, which will be sanctioned with six months' to two years' imprisonment; and f) repeal provisions that ended legal proceedings against a perpetrator when he or she married the victim and that allowed the perpetrator to be pardoned if he or she married the victim or if the victim's legal representatives requested a pardon.
All previous issues of the UNFPA Global Population Policy Update can now be found on UNFPA's website at:
This newsletter is issued by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in its capacity as the secretariat for the biennial International Parliamentarians' Conference on the Implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action (IPCI/ICPD). The first IPCI/ICPD was held in November 2002 in Ottawa, Canada; the second in October 2004 in Strasbourg, France; and the third in November 2006 in Bangkok, Thailand. These dispatches are intended to highlight important developments taking place around the world so that parliamentarians can stay informed of and learn from the successes, setbacks and challenges encountered by their fellow counterparts in other countries and regions in their efforts to promote the implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (September 1994, Cairo, Egypt). It should be noted that UNFPA does not necessarily endorse all of the policies described in this newsletter.
Thanks to the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Harvard University School of Public Health for their contributions to the content of this newsletter.
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