On March 8, IWHC’s partner in Peru, PROMSEX, along with its coalition partners of the Dejala Decidir campaign, DEMUS (Study for the Defense of Women’s Rights), Flora Tristán (Center of the Peruvian Woman), CDD-Peru (Catholics for the Right to Decide), CLADEM-Peru (Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defense of Women’s Rights), and Movimiento Manuela Ramos, submitted 60,000 signatures to the country’s National Elections Jury (JNE) and National Identification and Civil Status Registry (RENIEC) to trigger a Citizens’ Legislative Initiative that proposes a bill that would decriminalize abortion in cases of rape.
Now, the campaign waits for the JNE and RENIEC to validate the signatures, which is expected to take approximately one month. After the signatures are verified, Congress has 120 days to debate the bill in committee, draft an opinion and send it to the full Congress for a vote.
Every year, approximately 35,000 pregnancies are the result of rape in Peru. Currently, abortion is only allowed if the pregnancy threatens the life or health of the mother. Abortion for any other reasons, including rape or serious fetal abnormalities, is penalized with prison terms anywhere from three months to two years. This draconian criminalization of abortion makes it more likely that women will risk their lives with an unsafe abortion rather than carry an unwanted pregnancy to term. Unsafe abortion is the third leading cause of maternal mortality in Peru.
As we blogged last year, the campaign has been a huge success in terms of raising public awareness of the issue. The campaign needed 60,000 signatures to trigger the initiative to introduce the bill to Congress; it collected nearly 100,000. And polling in Lima confirms that public opinion is shifting: a 2010 poll found 57.2 percent of respondents favored decriminalization of abortion in cases of rape, up from 44.6 percent in 2005.
In this second phase of the campaign, Dejala Decidir will be working to mobilize opinion leaders, allies from other organizations, supportive members of Congress, and the general public to support the bill in Congress. We’ll keep you updated on the campaign’s progress through the spring and summer.