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Women’s Rights & Reproductive Freedoms Under Attack with Honduran Coup

November 16th, 2009 · 9 Comments

One issue that has been brought to my attention regarding the recent posts that Seneca has contributed about the Honduras issue is basic women’s rights. This issue should be particularly appealing to Secretary Clinton, as fourteen years ago, she said, “Women’s rights are human rights.”

Several prominent members of the de facto government in Honduras are members of the elitist, ultra-conservative Catholic Opus Dei movement, who were upset that ousted President Zelaya vetoed the ban the “morning-after” pill, which is essentially high dose birth control not to be confused with the Mifepristone “abortion pill.” The legislation was passed by the Honduran Congress under the leadership of now de facto executive Roberto Micheletti and was proposed by then Congresswoman Martha Lorena Alvarado, who today serves as the Deputy Secretary of State of the de facto regime. One day after the coup on June 29, a ban on emergency contraception was enacted, which just went into effect this month.

Honduras has the highest adolescent birthrate in Central America, and one half of women 20-24 give birth by the age of 20. Moreover, some 70% of the population lives in poverty and 40% of those live in extreme poverty. Early motherhood has been linked to extended poverty, higher infant mortality, and often perpetuates a lower standard of living as mothers have difficulty resuming school and focusing on occupational advancement. The availability of birth control and the morning after pill would help prevent unwanted pregnancies and allow Honduran women the opportunity to gain more education to better position themselves to provide for their families.

The new coup government has a documented history of violence against women. In August, an international human rights fact-finding mission found that over 400 cases of violations of human rights against women were registered. One of the first people to be killed was a transgender woman Vicky Hernandez Castillo, who was out on the night that the new government assumed power, and happened to be unaware of the imposed curfew. She was shot in the eye and strangled, and the state has refused to perform an autopsy on her.

There have been reported physical assaults, beatings that aim at women’s reproductive organs, breasts, and hips. And there have been reports of gang rapes carried out by the police to “punish” women for being involved in anti-coup demonstrations. These rapes appear to have been premeditated, as police used condoms. The victims, fearful of retaliation, have reported what has happened to human right’s organizations, but not with the current government Human Rights or Women’s Rights offices. Finally, women leaders who are opposed to the de facto government have received death threats from the police and military via e-mail and voicemail. Some women have received threats that name them specifically, along with their profession, to make them aware that the authorities are expressly tracking them.

The irony of the coup government cracking down on women’s rights is that it has sold itself as a defender of freedom. It certainly is a paradox for the de facto government to not allow women some privilege in exercising reproductive freedom and basic civil liberties, while presenting itself as democratic and paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to top US lobbyist and PR firms to build them an image that purports to be respectful of the rule of law. Secretary Clinton should seriously explore these rights violations before blessing the results of the upcoming Honduran election.

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Tags: Civil Rights · Foreign Policy · Hillary Clinton · Latin American Foreign Policy · teen pregnancy

9 responses so far ↓

  • 1 James V. Barcia // Nov 16, 2009 at 3:13 pm

    The constitutionally-sound change of government is an improvement over the self-destructive path to socialism that Zelaya was taking. Do we really want to see another Chavez-like caudillo government in Latin America – one that aids the FARC, promotes instability and ultimately results in less foreign investment?

    Your argument is very thorough but there are so many reasons for poverty in Latin America that I’m unconvinced it’s simply because Micheletti government is against the morning after pill. Women’s rights, no matter what aspect of them you want to focus on, are certainly a contributor.

    Also, from knowing Opus Dei (in Ecuador) – if I was forced to characterize them in just one word – I would call them insular and not the pejorative “elitist.” I do not find them to be a source of nefarious activity in Latin America, and the Honduran Roman Catholic Church more broadly are a force for peace and poverty-alleviation there.

    That said, I enjoy your interesting blog entries and many helpful Tweets.

  • 2 india blanca // Nov 16, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    Did you know that Roberto Micheletti, the head of the defacto government is actually the man, who as President of the Honduran Congress, led the vote that ratified the two agreements that Honduras signed with Venezuela: PetroCaribe a contract for oil and ALBA the integration of Honduras into a Venezuela led regional organization. Did you also know that the man who first brought the idea of PetroCaribe to the Zelaya administration was Adolfo Facusse the head of the ANDI, the association of Industrialists, who wanted to be personally involved in the Venezuela oil contract and today is one of the most vociferous pro coup defenders. Have you asked yourself why it is if these two ventures with Venezuela were dangerous for Honduras’ democracy they have not been rescinded?…and why is it safe for our country the USA to purchase 14% of our oil from Venezuela? Why is it that we can trade with China and VietNam and not run the risk of becoming communists nor feel the need to depose our President simply because he is the executive in charge when these ventures are ratified by Congress?… I admit that the coup government has done a great job spreading their distorted facts and scaring some people with their tales of socialism at the doorstep, as well as hiring expensive top guns to create their false image as the guards of democracy? But it is rather simple to find out the truth if we ask ourselves a few elemental questions…did Zelaya ever shut down any radio or tv stations? Did Zelaya ever send the security forces to repress the population, were there hundred of arbitrary arrests during the Zelaya administration? Were women raped, beaten and harrassed in order to get them to sympathize with his administration? Were people shot in broad daylight simply because they opposed his government? Did he ever decree a state of siege? a curfew? the answer to all the above is NO…tragically the same cannot be said of the defacto government….Zelaya may not be a saint, nor free of fault but he was democratically elected by the majority of the Honduran people and still is the constitutional President of Honduras…

  • 3 Reyfeo // Nov 16, 2009 at 6:27 pm

    Are you serious with this post!?!?!

    Have you ever even been in Honduras? As I read this post I swear you’d think in Dafur or the Serbian states when Milosevic was running amuck with his ethnic cleansing.

    This is Honduras man!! Congress there isn’t authorizing raping and pillaging of villages…then you link politics with reproductive rights? Get real, what a joke….!

    As for India Blanca, you have the Clinton mentality to these types of things…Zelaya was cooking the books and was on his way to changing the constitution so he COULD do those things you say he hadn’t done.

    Will the sane common sense people of this country please stand up against this looney tunes thinking!!

  • 4 jammer // Nov 17, 2009 at 11:31 am

    reyfeo.., you shouldn’t even try to post responses since you are not capable of understanding what is being discussed. You just throw out stupid attacks hoping someone interprets them as smart. Have you ever been to Honduras yourself? Probably not as it would be outside your comfort zone. Reyfeo not withstanding the blog was insightful and the two intelligent responses added to the discussion. To Reyfeo “if what you say doesn’t improve the silence then you should keep quiet” Your comments have already betrayed your lack of intelligence.

  • 5 Reyfeo // Nov 17, 2009 at 6:12 pm

    …reproductive freedom and coups…are you serious? LOL

    Been to Honduras numerous times friend…enough to know that your lack of understanding of what is really happening there more than clouds you liberal mind/crazy vision state.

    But let’s break this down:

    The only person ousted was Zelaya…according this passage the Honduran Congress passed this legislation…you mean to tell me all this congress wo/men have been coerced…NEWSFLASH: NO! Ever think this congress holds its Catholic values more true then your typical US Catholic…you’d know this if YOU ever visited this and the many countries I’ve been at the last several years…Hondurans have issue with the “morning after” pill, good for them.

    Also, adolescent birth rate…hello McFly, how about some education instead of the “morning after pill”…it work for us when our younger teenage population went to town and increased the adolescent birthrate a few years back…what’s misleading here is that the author goes out his way to say “One day after the coup on June 29, a ban on emergency contraception was enacted, which just went into effect this month”…what he meant to say they were denied the “morning after pill”…Honduran women still have access to regular birth control…its false to say other wise, and I know this because I have family and friends.

    Lastly, only idiot Liberals like you buy this crap! And I’m going o be here to remind you of it every single time!

  • 6 Anna // Nov 17, 2009 at 8:38 pm

    Why is Latin America still following a church based in Europe? It’s long past time that they established their own church/religion in the Americas. The Cahtholic Church has no business interfering in reproductive matters. They have so many people brainwashed, and so many people are suffering because of it.

    When the last Pope died, a man drove a Pope Mobile through Mexico City, and the people ran after it trying to touch it, as if the Pope were in it. SIGH…

  • 7 Reyfeo // Nov 18, 2009 at 6:00 am

    I can’t answer that, what I can answer is that Honduras value life…so the “pill” exist in Hoduras, just not the “morning after pill” something this article is trying hard to advocate through false wording.

  • 8 Hillary’s Debacle as Honduran Democracy is Served Up // Nov 29, 2009 at 1:33 am

    [...] in Honduras, there have been mass arrests, illegal detentions, violations of women’s rights and the blocking of media that is not favorable to the de facto government. Groups such as Amnesty [...]

  • 9 Jaime Valdes // Apr 14, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    It’s not surprising that Honduras have such of law, still under the church control, the application of such laws forcing the woman to became pregnant is the way the system control population for chip labor force and slavery based in the necessities of the youngsters and their families. Honduras still in the Medieval inquisition, in the mid-time, the clergies and the church as institution, keep accumulating wealth and political power.

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