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UNFPA Global Population Policy Update
Laws and Polices in Benin, Colombia, France, Panama, Uruguay and Brazil
ISSUE 3 - 09 May 2003
This issue of the Global Population Policy Update once again deals with the creation of an enabling environment for ICPD implementation at the national level, one of the major themes of the International Parliamentarians’ Conference on the Implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action (21-22 November 2002, Ottawa, Canada).
Benin Prohibits Female Genital Cutting
On 21 January 2003, Benin’s National Assembly adopted Law No. 2003-03, prohibiting the practice of female genital cutting (FGC). The law bans FGC in all its forms, defining it as any ablation, partial or total, of a female person’s external genitalia and/or any other operation on such genitalia. Surgeries that are performed for medical purposes are not criminalized under the law. A person who performs FGC shall be imprisoned from six months to one year and fined a sum of 100,000 to 2,000,000 francs CFA. If the cutting is performed on a woman under the age of 18, the punishment is imprisonment from three to five years and a fine of up to 3,000,000 francs CFA. Should the victim die as a result of the cutting, the penalty is forced labor for five to 20 years and a fine of 3,000,000 to 6,000,000 francs CFA. Anyone who assists, participates in or solicits an act of FGC, or provides the means or gives instructions to the perpetrator, is deemed an accomplice and is subject to the same penalty as the principal perpetrator. Recidivists face the maximum penalty, with no possibility of a reduced sentence.
Anyone with knowledge of a planned genital cutting who does not act to prevent it shall be prosecuted for failing to assist a person in danger. Likewise, anyone with knowledge that FGC has occurred must immediately inform the nearest law enforcement authorities. Failure to report is punishable with a fine of 50,000 to 100,000 francs CFA. Finally, the law requires public and private health institutions to care for those who have undergone FGC and ensure that they receive appropriate services. These institutions are further required to inform local authorities.
Colombia Adopts National Policy on Sexual and Reproductive Health
In February 2003, Colombia’s Department of Public Health of the Ministry of Social Protection adopted a National Policy on Sexual and Reproductive Health. The Policy, which covers the period from 2002 to 2006, adopts the rights-based approach to sexual and reproductive health endorsed in the ICPD Programme of Action. The Policy analyzes the state of sexual and reproductive health in Colombia, identifying the following priority areas for action: safe motherhood; family planning; adolescent sexual and reproductive health; uterine cancer; sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS; and domestic and sexual violence. The Policy’s guiding principle is that sexual and reproductive rights are human rights and that protecting health is a government responsibility.
The Policy’s general objective is to improve people’s sexual and reproductive health and promote their enjoyment of sexual and reproductive rights. It emphasizes a reduction in vulnerability and risk while promoting safer practices and assisting groups with special needs. The more specific objectives include: promoting health care and disease prevention; strengthening health services; improving health information systems; and promoting research as a component of government decision-making. The Policy emphasizes gender equality and women’s empowerment, with a focus on education and outreach activities.
France Issues a Decree on the Conditions for Delivery of Emergency Contraception to Minors
On 9 January 2002, the Republic of France issued Decree (Décret) No. 2002-39 on the distribution of emergency contraception (EC) to minors. Previous legislation allowed minors under the age of 18 to receive EC free-of-charge from a pharmacist without a prescription or parental approval. The Decree requires pharmacists dispensing EC to offer counseling on the correct use of EC and to ensure minors’ confidentiality. Pharmacists are also required to interview minors to determine whether use of EC is appropriate to their situation. The interview is an opportunity for the pharmacist to counsel and provide documentation on regular birth control, prevention of sexually transmitted infections, and the benefit of regular medical examinations. In addition, pharmacists should provide minors with information on the nearest family planning or education centers.
Panama Enacts a Law Guaranteeing the Rights of Pregnant Adolescents
On 13 June 2002, Panama enacted Law No. 29, guaranteeing pregnant adolescents the right to receive integral health care, to remain in the educational system and to receive legal protection if necessary. The Law provides that pregnant adolescents have a right to integral health care during pregnancy, childbirth and the period following childbirth, to psychological and social evaluation and guidance and to legal information. Pregnant adolescents without resources are to be given these services free-of-charge, and all health establishments are required to provide pregnant adolescents with information on their rights under the Law. The Law requires the Ministry of Education to provide adolescents with children and pregnant adolescents with academic attention, counseling and supervision by a teacher. When such students are unable to attend classes regularly, they are to be assigned to special courses to ensure that they complete their studies. In addition, the Ministry of Health is required to provide information and training to teachers so that pregnant adolescents can be advised on sexual and reproductive health in order to prevent discrimination. Persons who violate the provisions of the Law are subject to fines and administrative penalties.
Uruguay Enacts a Law to Combat Domestic Violence
On 2 July 2002, Uruguay enacted Law No. 17514, designed to prevent, detect, provide care with respect to, and eradicate domestic violence. The Law covers physical violence, psychological violence, emotional and sexual violence and violence towards property, whether the acts constitute a crime or not. The Law authorizes a judge to order measures to protect the life, physical or emotional integrity, liberty and safety of the victim, as well as to provide economic assistance to and protect the property of the victim’s family. These measures can include requiring the perpetrator to leave the common residence, prohibiting or limiting the presence of the perpetrator in certain places, prohibiting the perpetrator from communicating with the victim, seizing weapons possessed by the perpetrator, ordering the perpetrator to pay provisional support to the victim and ordering the perpetrator to participate in rehabilitation programs. Another provision of the Law deals with the creation of a National Advisory Council on the Fight against Domestic Violence.
Brazil Approves Commercial Sales of Condoms
On 9 May 2002, Brazil enacted Law No. 449, authorizing the sale of latex condoms in all commercial establishments. The condoms must meet requirements set by the National Institute of Weights and Measures, must be packed according to rules of the public health authorities, and must be displayed in a visible place.
This newsletter is issued by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in its capacity as secretariat for the International Parliamentarians’ Conference on the Implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action (November 2002, 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.
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