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UNFPA Global Population Policy Update
Laws and Polices in Mauritius, Niger, Peru and Vietnam
ISSUE 22 - 13 April 2004
As we mark the 10th anniversary of the 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) this year, this issue of the UNFPA Global Population Policy Update takes a look at some of the laws and policies amended, reviewed, or adopted last year on issues relating to sexual and reproductive health/rights and gender.
Mauritius Reinforces Laws Relating to Sexual Offences
On 12 August 2003, Mauritius amended the Courts Act, the Criminal Code, and the Criminal Procedure Act to reinforce provisions relating to sexual offenses. Among other things, the amendments provide for the following: a) the trial before a judge without a jury of cases in which a person has been raped by two or more individuals; b) the imposition of a minimum sentence of five years hard labour upon conviction of certain sexual offenses; c) the imposition of a maximum sentence of eight to 20 years hard labour for the offense of rape; and d) the testimony of victims in sexual offense cases through a live video or live television link system rather than in the presence of the perpetrator.
Niger Amends Penal Code to address Female Genital Mutilation, Slavery, Sexual Harassment and Rape
On June 13, 2003, the Republic of Niger adopted Law No. 2003-025 amending the Penal Code of 1961. Among the new offenses recognized by the amended Penal Code is the crime of female genital mutilation (FGM), defined as “any assault on the female genital organ by total or partial removal of any of its parts, excision, infibulations, desensitization or any other means.” The law calls for a minimum criminal sentence of six months in prison and a fine, increasing penalties when FGM results in death and when the perpetrator is a member of a medical profession. In its provisions on slavery, the amended Penal Code recognizes as a form of slavery any institution in which a woman, with no power to refuse, is promised or given in marriage in exchange for money or goods, is transferred to a third party, or is forced to engage in sexual relations with a “master.” Also characterized as slavery is any institution or practice in which a minor under the age of 18 is given by a parent or guardian (or a person having control over a parent or guardian) to a third party, with or without compensation, for the purpose of exploitation or labour. It is also an offense to profit from the prostitution of a woman in a “servile position.” In addition, the amended Penal Code recognizes the crime of sexual harassment, defining it as “the use of orders, threats or constraints to obtain favors of a sexual nature.” Penalties, which include a minimum of three months in prison and a fine, are increased when the harassment is an abuse of authority. Finally, the law redefines the crime of rape as “any act of sexual penetration, in any form, committed on the person of another by means of violence, constraint, threat or surprise.”
Peru Adopts Health Regulations Calling for Registry of Fetuses and Recognition of Fetal Rights
On 23 May 2003, the government of Peru adopted Ministerial Resolution No 573-2003-SA/DM approving regulations on the structure and duties of directorates for both national health and decentralized health networks. In describing the primary mission of the national health directorates, the regulations call for the protection of all Peruvians “with respect to their lives and fundamental rights from the moment of fertilization until death, respecting the natural course of their lives, and contributing to the national task of ensuring the development of all citizens.” Among the national health directorate’s strategic objectives is ensuring “the protection of the life and health of all persons from conception and throughout their life cycles until their natural deaths.” There are also provisions for breastfeeding, children’s nutrition, maternal and infant mortality and morbidity and universal health insurance. However, the regulation’s most unusual feature is a provision making national health directorates responsible for “protecting the life and health of all unborn children from conception and officially registering them as conceived and as subjects of constitutional rights.” Further responsibilities include promoting prenatal care, maternal nutrition and paternal participation in preparing for childbirth. Other prescribed goals for the health directorates include giving all women access to prenatal monitoring and a competent childbirth facility. The regulations assign more specific duties to the different organs of the national health directorates. A number of the national directorates’ duties, including those aimed at protecting the unborn life, are repeated in regulations concerning the decentralized health network directorates.
Viet Nam Issues Population Ordinance
On May 1, 2003, Viet Nam issued a Population Ordinance that establishes objectives, implementing measures and guiding principles for managing activities relating to population. The ordinance also enumerates the rights and duties of individuals and the responsibilities of government agencies with respect to population-related activities. Several of the ordinance’s provisions have implications for women’s reproductive health and rights.
The ordinance sets forth fundamental principles, including autonomy and equality of all individuals and families in matters relating to family planning and reproductive health care. It also prohibits certain acts, including: obstructing or forcing the practice of family planning; practicing sex-selection techniques; producing, dealing in, importing or supplying fraudulent, sub-standard or unapproved contraceptives; and human cloning.
In addressing population size, the ordinance cites reproductive health care and family planning programmes among its principal strategies to balance population growth with socio-economic development, natural resources and the environment. The government is required to: provide high quality, accessible and safe family planning services; offer material and moral incentives for family planning; and create favourable conditions for the implementation of family planning programmes and give priority to low-income individuals and minors, among others. The ordinance provides that couples and individuals have certain rights related to family planning, including the right to decide the timing, number and spacing of their children. At the same time, the ordinance states that couples have an obligation to use contraceptive methods and take steps to prevent Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), including HIV/AIDS.
Additional directives to the government include adopting policies and measures to prevent sex-selection techniques and meeting the demands of ethnic minorities for reproductive health care and family planning services. To advance the health of the population, the ordinance requires the government to ensure fundamental human rights, implement reproductive health measures and adopt policies and measures to eliminate all forms of gender discrimination. It also provides for the incorporation of population education into school curricula and textbooks at all levels of education, to be coordinated by the Ministry of Education and Training and the Committee for Population, Families and Children.
A related government decision issued in September 2003 affirms and lends clarity to many of the ordinance’s provisions.
This newsletter is issued by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in its capacity as secretariat for the biannual International Parliamentarians' Conference on the Implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action (the first conference was held in November 2002, in Ottawa, Canada). These dispatches are intended to highlight important developments taking place around the world so that parliamentarians can be kept informed of and learn from the successes, setbacks and challenges encountered by their fellow parliamentarians 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 Center for Reproductive Rights and Harvard University School of Public Health for their contributions to the content of this newsletter.
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