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Gender & Sexual Solidarity: News & Updates

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On behalf of IRTF's Rapid Response Network (RRN) members, we wrote six letters this month to heads of state and other high-level officials in Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico, urging their swift action in response to human rights abuses occurring in their countries.  We join with civil society groups in Latin America to: (1) protect people living under threat, (2) demand investigations into human rights crimes, (3) bring human rights criminals to justice.

IRTF’s Rapid Response Network (RRN) volunteers write six letters in response to urgent human rights cases each month. We send copies of these letters to US ambassadors, embassy human rights officers, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, regional representatives of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and desk officers at the US State Department. To read the letters, see https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn , or ask us to mail you hard copies.

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Abortion was banned completely in Colombia until 2006, when an initial constitutional court ruling—prompted by several of today’s Causa Justa activists—decriminalized terminations on three grounds: if the life or health of the woman was at risk; in cases of severe fetal abnormality; and if the pregnancy was the result of rape. Colombia is now “at the forefront of the region and the world,” according to doctor and feminist activist Ana Cristina González, a spokesperson for Causa Justa. In February, Colombia’s constitutional court removed abortion (up to 24 weeks) from the criminal code in response to a court case brought by Causa Justa—the spearhead of a wide-ranging social and legal campaign of more than 120 groups and thousands of activists....Latin America continues to push the limits of what is possible. Barely a month after the Colombian ruling, Chile’s constitutional convention—which is drafting a new constitution for the country—passed (by a large majority) an article enshrining sexual and reproductive rights as fundamental and guaranteed by the state. 

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As some U.S. states place more restrictions on abortion and Americans brace for the possibility that the Supreme Court will soon overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing the procedure, several Latin American countries have moved in the opposite direction. The latest nation to do so was Colombia. On Feb. 21, Colombia's Constitutional Court legalized abortion during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy. "Colombia now is the country with the most progressive abortion laws in Latin America and the Caribbean," says Mariana Ardila, managing attorney in Colombia for the rights group Women's Link Worldwide. In the Americas, she added, only Canada has more liberal abortion regulations than Colombia.

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On Friday, a delegation of five California Democrats from congress -- Reps. Juan Vargas, Sara Jacobs, Raul Ruiz, Mark Takano and Katie Porter -- visited the Jardín de las Mariposas shelter for LGBTQ migrants in Tijuana to learn about the kinds of challenges these migrants in particular face. The Congressmembers also heardfrom people working to provide LGBTQ migrants with legal, medical and mental health services. Several of the Congressmembers said they walked away with a clearer understanding that something must be done to make requesting protection in the United States a smoother and safer experience for LGBTQ people.

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Reproductive rights activists across Latin America have vowed to protect hard-fought gains in their own territories as they brace for potential ripple effects if the US supreme court overturns Roe vs Wade – the 1973 ruling which guarantees the right to abortion. Latin America has some of the most draconian anti-abortion laws in the world. But feminist movements have fought for decades to chip away at the prohibitions, and in recent years a younger, diverse generation of activists has mobilized in massive numbers to help clinch a string of victories in traditionally conservative countries.

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In January, Thalía Rodríguez, a renowned human rights defender for trans people, was murdered in Tegucigalpa. Her crime highlighted the challenges faced by the government of President Xiomara Castro in protecting the sexual diversity community in Honduras. The country is considered one of the most hostile places in Latin America to be a member of the LGTBIQ+ community. In her Government Plan, Xiomara Castro proposed to promote the Law of Protection for LGTBIQ+ persons and establish a variety of care programs. The inclusion of some of the demands of the LGTBIQ+ community in President Castro's Government Plan has raised expectations in this sector.

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In the 21st century, the women’s movement has undoubtedly made huge gains at parliamentary level, yet it has also made a big impact in other areas of society. One of the most important actors in this regard is the Rural Workers Association (ATC). The most essential component of Nicaragua’s economy has for centuries been its agricultural sector. Prior to the revolution, all available fertile land was forcibly converted into vast monocultural cash-crop plantations and worked by the local population, be that slaves, Indigenous people, or mestizos. When men went to fight in the mountains during the US-funded counter-revolution in the 1980s, women took on agricultural jobs that had been traditionally held by men—carrying out the field work, driving tractors, applying inputs, tending to the animals—in addition to all of the traditional housework and childrearing. This was an important moment that showed that women too could carry out agricultural activities other than harvesting, breaking off from traditional machista ideas about the division of agricultural labor.

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