Women in the Dominican Republic continue to demand decriminalization of abortion

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The women of the Dominican Republic have been fighting for the decriminalization of abortion for a long time in an attempt to tackle the issues created by teenage pregnancies and allow women to have the right to their own bodies.

Women such as Marcia González have been integral to this fight, for which she has been making significant efforts with the support of her husband. Marcia takes part in church events, where she usually coordinates activities and handles logistics. Lately, she was afforded the opportunity to provide sex education at a local school as a part of her responsibilities.

Marcia González had this to say, “I coordinate activities at the church and my husband is a deacon, the bishop comes once a year and children are being confirmed, but I am here because this is important for my community.”

The Dominican Republic is one of four Latin American nations which have criminalized abortions without any exceptions, even for special cases such as teenage pregnancies or in cases of forced penetration.

In fact, the laws are quite stringent, with women facing up to two years in prison for the offence, while doctors and medical assistants can be sentenced to somewhere between five to twenty years.

This is precisely why Marcia González and her husband Deacon have been carrying the torch for proper sex education in the nation for 40 years.

One of the biggest hurdles in the way of the pro-abortionist movement in the Dominican Republic is the nation’s Catholic and Evangelical sections. This is because they have built a powerful political and social lobby to stand fast against the decriminalization of abortions.

Despite the fact that the 2020 election campaign of President Luis Abinader was based largely on pro-abortionist policies, the people are still awaiting any concrete action that will transform the rhetoric into tangible changes to the policies on abortion in the country.

The fact that his reelection in May of 2024 hangs in the balance for now, does not imbue the average citizen with too much hope.

At a grassroot level, concerned citizens such as Marcia González are taking several steps to help young girls. Marcia González and other such activists are making attempts to prevent unplanned pregnancies by forming ‘teenage clubs’ which help the nation’s adolescents receive sex education and get to grips with their sexual and reproductive rights.

These organisations also help women in need with their finances, self-esteem and other issues that they might face. A major part of their remit also includes educating young people on gender violence in an attempt to curb the problem.

The general aim of these initiatives is to empower women as they approach adulthood and make an attempt to help future generations develop the tools to deal with the sex and gender related issues that are prevalent in the nation.

The stark reality of the Dominican Republic is that roughly 30% of adolescents are unable to access contraception and the high poverty levels have also made the situation worse by increasing the likelihood of unwanted pregnancies.

The fact remains that outside these clubs, the help and guidance that the young generation is in such dire need of, is non-existent.

Another major problem faced by women in the Dominican Republic is the pressure that poverty puts on them. In many cases, due to the difficult financial situations that most families find themselves in, girls aged 14 or 15 are married to men who could be as old as 50 which often leads to cases of violence and sexual abuse, often ignored by the families.

In fact, 7 out of 10 women in the Dominican Republic are subjected to incest, sexual abuse, gender violence and other forms of abuse.

Prior to the 2019 report published by UNICEF on the issue of child marriage in the nation, upwards of one-third of Dominican women were either married or in free unions before the age of 18.

Even though Dominican Law prevents child marriage since 2021, most communities have normalized the practice and leaders have also explained that most people are not aware of the laws themselves.

Gabriela Díaz, aged 16 had this to say, “There are myths that people tell you when you have your period. They say that we are dirty or we have dirty blood, but that is false. We are helping our body to clean itself and improve its functions.”

González is Díaz’s “godmother”, a term used by Plan International for community leaders working towards promoting children’s rights, in accordance with the programs of the organisation which is based in the United Kingdom.

Sources and relevant data on the matter suggest that San Cristóbal and Azua, are the two cities with the highest rates of child marriage and teenage pregnancies in the Dominican Republic. This is precisely why, these clubs grant admittance to girls between the ages of 13 and 17, offering weekly meetings that last for two hours.

These meetings can have up to 25 partners and always have volunteers or “godmothers” present for guidance.

The National Confederation of Rural Women (CONAMUCA), has taken up the responsibility of funding teenage clubs in cities such as San Cristóbal.

Lidia Ferrer is one of the leaders of this novel initiative and oversees the gathering of 60 communities which are made up of 1,600 girls in total. In her assessment, the most commonly experienced issues centre around child marriage, feminicide and unplanned teenage pregnancies.

“CONAMUCA was born to fight for land ownership, but the landscape has changed, and we have integrated new issues, such as food sovereignty, agrarian reform, and sexual and reproductive rights” Ferrer stated.

Rural sections of the Dominican Republic are experiencing migrations quite commonly, since basic necessities such as access to water and schools are hard to come by. Health Services are abysmal as well and do not have the capability to provide women with their reproductive and sexual rights.

The case of a 13-year-old girl giving birth to the child of a 65-year-old man is one example out of many, where a shocking situation was acceptable for both families, since it has now become the norm.

Most families also believe that since women in earlier times got married at a very young age, it can’t be considered sexual abuse even today. This is compounded by instances where families give away their daughters because they lost their virginity.

Cases of families giving their daughters away to older men are also prevalent in communities which are strained socioeconomically, as the families are unable to support the daughter.

In such harsh and uncertain conditions, with their security and rights at stake, the young women of the Dominican Republic are left little choice but to band together and attempt to go against the prevailing norm of abuse and neglect.

George Henry
George Henryhttp://writeups24.com/
George Henry, a distinguished graduate of Columbia University, pursued his passion in Economics with outstanding academic achievements. George found his calling in journalism, aiming to raise awareness regarding geopolitical and socioeconomic issues. He is recognized for having a keen interest in international geopolitics, sports and women's rights. To reach George, you can email contact@writeups24.com

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