Friday, May 18, 2012

Access to morning-after pill hardly biggest issue for Honduran women

I want to stress right off the hop here that I am not, in any way, in support of a law that would prohibit the morning-after pill in Honduras. But if almost 700,000 people around the world are ready to help Honduran women, they could do a lot better than just to sign a petition protesting something that's not even close to the most pressing problem facing women here.
I wouldn't want to speak on behalf of the women of Honduras, but I suspect a sizeable majority of them would be delighted if the biggest thing they had to worry about was the legality of the morning-after pill. I think they've got bigger things on their mind.
Poverty, for one thing. Almost two-thirds of Hondurans live in poverty, but the level of poverty for women and their children when a husband abandons his family or gets killed  (which happens a striking amount in Honduras) is profound.
Here in Copan Ruinas, I know a number of women who've had to hand off one or more of their children into a kind of indentured servitude with another family just to be able to survive the financial devastation. They scratch by on almost nothing, living in shacks without doors and selling bags of homemade horchata by the roadside. Three of the four staff working at the local orphanage would be on the streets if it weren't for being able to live at the orphanage with their children in exchange for looking after the 30 children in care there.
Then there's the issue of violence. A woman is murdered in Honduras every 48 hours. More than 2,400 women have been murdered in the country in the last eight years, with women ages 20 to 24 at the greatest risk.
And that's just the ones who get killed. Domestic violence is still a routine occurrence in Honduras, and in the poorest communities women are so controlled and isolated by their husbands that they don't even feel able to seek medical care for basic health needs.
How about maternal care? Barely a third of impoverished Honduran women who give birth have somebody with any kind of skill alongside them to help, compared to 99 per cent of the richest Honduran women. One in 240 women die during childbirth, 10  times the rate of countries like Canada. Lack of access to standard, inexpensive preventive care like Pap tests - or HPV vaccinations - has resulted in cervical cancer becoming the most common fatal cancer in the country for women.
Education: Just 36 per cent of young women of secondary-school age are attending school. Why? Probably because a lot of them are working to help support their families, something that many Honduran children have to start doing when they're as young as five.
So yes, it's outrageous for a democratic country in this day and age to be prohibiting access to the morning-after pill. Let's hope the petition is a success and the government backs down, not that there would likely be much enforcement of such a law anyway based on the vast number of unsolved and unpunished murders, assaults and robberies in Honduras.
And seeing as so many of us seem ready to be up in arms, how about we do something about the real problems here? It'll take more effort than signing a petition, but anything worthwhile does.

1 comment:

Karen Dennis said...

Well written and with alot of respect...Reading your blog and seeing your pictures as well your stories makes me want to take a journey there more and more. Your blog is excellent!
cheers :)