CAMY Fund visit to GoJoven Honduras

In 2009, in the midst of the country’s political coup, the Honduran government outlawed Emergency Contraception (EC). It was a strange and suspect decision since EC had been available in the country since 2006, according to the United Nations Population Fund in Honduras, and is widely available in most other countries in the region. According to the World Health Organization, EC – that is to say, the method of contraception that can be used to prevent pregnancy in the first few days after intercourse – consists of two methods: emergency contraception pills (ECPs) and the copper-bearing intrauterine devices (IUDs). EC is intended for emergency use following unprotected intercourse, contraceptive failure or misuse (such as forgotten pills or torn condoms), rape or coerced sex.

Paes

Some examples of EC pill brands and the copper-bearing IUD

Though the criminalization of EC mostly refers to the pill form, the legislative decree uses ambiguous language that could have implications for the use of IUDs and other pill combinations that achieve the same effect. The prohibition of EC is highly contradictory because the Honduran government, led by the First Lady, Ana García de Hernández, has been focusing on teen pregnancy prevention in light of the exceptionally high rates in the country. Criminalizing the use of EC effectively reduces young people’s access to the full range of contraceptive options available to prevent against unwanted pregnancy.

Primera dama de Honduras

The Honduran First Lady, Ana García de Hernandez, at the launch of the government’s strategy to prevent teen pregnancy in October 2014.

Civil society, led by feminist and human rights organizations in the country, have been working with their networks, international agencies and donors to revert the decree or to draft a new law that would override it. In 2014, a National Party legislator from the Department of Atlántida submitted such a bill to the national congress, however, it has not moved beyond the committee review stage and it is currently under review by the Honduran Supreme Court to determine its constitutionality (an unnecessary and burocratic step, we were told by activists during our recent field site visit to Honduras). Once a sentence has come down from the Court about the bill, activists will be able to either advocate for its approval by the Congress (should the bill be deemed constitutional) or try to bring the case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (should the bill be deemed unconstitutional).

Gabriela y staff

Gabriela (Center) with GOJoven staff and volunteers outside of their office in Tegucigalpa

In May of this year, Michele (SIF Director of Programs) and I paid a visit to Gabriela and the rest of the GOJoven Honduras team in Tegucigalpa. We discussed their advocacy strategy in collaboration with other civil society organizations and their plans and goals for 2015, given the current political environment in Honduras. They also updated us on a conference on EC and advocacy they held in February with GOJoven leaders, youth activists and experts from around the country, including Doctors without Borders

Michele and I also had the opportunity to meet with local politicians and organizational allies of GOJoven Honduras, such as the human rights organization CIPRODEH and the United Nations Population Fund. They provided further background regarding civil society efforts to decriminalize EC, as well as the current political context.

reunión de trabajo

A working group in action at the GOJoven conference in February 2015 on EC advocacy

It is clear that Gabriela is a respected young leader among her peers and organizational allies. We were pleased to hear about GOJoven Honduras’s recent growth as an organization, partnering with international organizations such as PLAN International. Gaby and her team are lifting up their nascent organization and being recognized as a strong voice for youth sexual and reproductive rights in the country. Congratulations to Gabriela and the GOJoven team for their work to decriminalize EC in Honduras!

gaby y equipo

From left to right: Michele, former alternate legislator, Delmi Ordoñez (Partido Libre), Gabriela, Natalia Lozano, Erick Vidal and myself.