By Erika Guevara Rosas
Our grantee partners and advisors in Dominican Republic (DR) recently shared some alarming news about constitutional reform, which if successful, would ban abortion, narrow the definition of family and restrict citizenship. Women's rights organizations and other social movements have been mobilizing since April to overturn amendments proposed by the Executive, headed by President Leonel Fernandez.
Last April, under pressure and threats from Catholic hierarchy and conservative forces, the Dominican National Assembly approved Article 30, which defines the right to life as "from conception to death." Other constitutional changes include: restricting the definition of families to only those headed by a mother and father married in the Catholic Church; denying citizenship to native-born children of immigrants - primarily Haitians; and penalizing any strike or labor action that slows production (this last change was expected after DR-CAFTA was signed).
Leading the charge for constitutional change: the Revising Assembly, made up of the two houses of the Congress and the President. To date the proposed reforms have passed an initial vote; a second roll call vote is needed for approval.
These actions point to a troubling trend among Latin American jurisdictions; one that virtually eliminates women's access to safe and legal abortion. DR is one of a few countries in the region, including Nicaragua and Chile, that make abortion a crime in all circumstances. Women's organizations have long fought for the right to therapeutic abortion; this reform would turn back the clock on efforts to liberalize women’s rights in DR. So women are not standing by quietly. A coalition, Coordinadora Nacional de Resistencia al Retroceso Constitucional [National Coordination of Resistance to the Constitutional Regression], led by Global Fund for Women grantee partner Colectivo Mujer y Salud, is working tirelessly to overturn the proposed amendments. The Global Fund recently awarded Cordinadora with an emergency grant of $10,000 to organize a mass demonstration before the Dominican Congress to help overturn the decision to reform the Constitution to ban legal and safe abortion in all circumstances. They have marched to the Congress of the Republic before and have led other demonstrations.
In addition to expressing solidarity, we are also connecting the group with sister organizations/funders, such as Urgent Action Fund, Mama Cash, and other partners from Sexual and Reproductive Rights Movements in the region. We will share more updates in the coming weeks.
Erika Guevara Rosas is part of the Program Team (Americas) at the Global Fund for Women.