Women's Rights in the Dominican Republic Take Center Stage at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

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(PRESS RELEASE) Reproductive health and human rights advocates testified today in Washington, D.C. on women’s rights issues, including discrimination, violence and reproductive rights violations in the Dominican Republic.

Despite clear and consistent evidence that restrictive abortion laws do nothing to decrease the prevalence of abortion, the Dominican Republic is one of six countries in Latin America that completely bans abortion with no explicit exceptions. According to the Guttmacher Institute, about one million women in Latin America and the Caribbean are hospitalized annually for treatment of complications from unsafe abortions, and in the Dominican Republic 100,000 clandestine abortions occur each year.

The Center for Reproductive Rights, along with Colectiva Mujer y Salud, Red Mundial de Mujeres por los Derechos Reproductivos, Red de Salud de Mujeres Latinoamericanas y del Caribe, Comité de América Latina y el Caribe para la Defensa de los Derechos de la Mujer and Centro de Investigación para La Acción Femenina, spoke before members of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights—the main human rights monitoring body for the Americas.

Said María Daniela Rivero, legal advisor for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“Violence against women, no matter what form it comes in, is about controlling, oppressing, and discriminating against women. Denying their right to control their own health and fertility is exactly that.

“The ban on abortion in the Dominican Republic threatens women’s health, their lives, and their future.

“We urge the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to call on the Dominican Republic to address the very serious human rights violations that women in the country are suffering every single day.”

Adolescents’ rights and violence against women were also addressed at today’s hearing. Teen pregnancy is rampant in the Dominican Republic, with approximately 22 percent of adolescents reporting that they have already been pregnant. Furthermore, according to the Office of the Procurador General of the Dominican Republic —one of the highest state institutions responsible for guaranteeing fundamental rights in the country—86 women were murdered by their partners in 2013 and there were close to 10,000 domestic violence incidents reported from January through September 2013. 

“Across the globe, violence has long been used as a weapon to control women,” said Mónica Arango, regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “If sexual assault results in an unintended pregnancy, Latin American countries like the Dominican Republic add insult to injury by denying these women the medical care they need. It’s time for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to reaffirm that every woman’s right to reproductive health is a human right that should be guaranteed by states.”