If being a woman in this society is challenging, being a Latina woman is even more.
The concept of reproductive rights as human rights is not new. The United Nations has championed it for decades, and yet it is still challenged in many countries. This unfair, ineffective, and inefficient gender inequality issue can potentially damage the physical and mental health of women.
But if you are a Latina—and/or a member of the LGBTQ+ —it is even more dramatic. On top of that, it has been exacerbated by Covid-19, as signaled by the Center for Reproductive Rights.
Reproductive rights are also health rights, and they are all human rights. But sadly, not everybody is treated equally, depending on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The issue of reproductive rights is a multifaceted and complex one. It involves the empowerment and health of women and other gender minorities, as made evident in this article by the WHO. It also goes beyond the political realm, involving family culture,community, and faith.
Let’s dig a little deeper.
Policies and politics.
What do we mean by reproductive rights? Detractors will say that it is about abortion rights. But it is so much more than that. Although it does include the RIGHT TO CHOOSE having or not having a child, it is also about THE RIGHT TO HAVE a child in the best possible conditions.
It is about making sure that the full range of sexual and reproductive health needs are within reach for every Latina. We are talking about sexual education, gynecological care, the testing and treatment of sexual diseases, pregnancy prevention, and maternal and postpartum health care.
It is about the right to the appropriate resources, dignity, and respect.
Even here in the US, here in our own country, many Latinas do not have access to the full range of services they could receive. This is due not only to legislation issues, but also to compounding social justice factors impacting the Latinx community. Among these factors are various barriers to health care and reproductive health services, income inequality, and immigration status. But that’s not all.
It all starts at home.
Yes, we have cultural and religious factors we need to overcome too.
“La ropa sucia se lava en casa.” “Don’t air your dirty laundry in public.”
For example, opinion on abortion is still divided in the US among Catholics, according to a recent publication by the Pew Research Center.
Moreover, beyond religious beliefs, there are also social issues, especially secrecy, tied to fear of gossip, lack of sexual education because of beliefs of shame behind it, and last but not least, machismo or “patriarchy” which aims to control. Like this saying, among many others that speak volumes:
“Mujer que sabe latin ni encuentra marido ni tiene buen fin”
”A woman who knows Latin won’t find a husband nor will she end well”.
For centuries women were taught that “good” women did not need education since their role was in the home and under their father’s or husband’s control.
But that was yesterday. Today, women have come a long way, even Latinas. But it is still not enough. To be free and independent, we need to stand up for our rights.
What we can do about it:
– Involvement: As Latinas, we must get involved and our activism and advocacy on these issues should come from within our own communities. We must start by talking to our peers. We need to have an open and transparent conversation.. We must break the secrecy and the shame, and talk about our experiences, and our needs. That’s the first step, and one of vital importance, to getting involved in local politics.
– Political education: We must know (even choose) our candidates. We need to understand what they are trying to achieve, what their point of view is.
– Solidarity: We have to be aware that these are issues common to all of us, women or men, gay or straight. Issues affecting women and the LGBTQ+ community are everyone’s issues.
We all know that Human rights don’t stop at the border, regardless if it is the border of a country or a state. For example, what happens in Texas will not stay in Texas. It will set a precedent because what can be done once, eventually can and will be done again, and that’s a very slippery slope. If we allow any erosion of the existing rights and protections, we could see progress scale back, who knows where.
We can fight for this together! Come and listen to this and other discussions going on our weekly podcast episodes and don’t forget to subscribe wherever you get your podcast!