Honduras: Artemisa and Their Work for Sexual and Reproductive Rights in Rural Areas
In April 2009, the Honduran National Congress issued Decree 54-2009 that prohibited the use, distribution, and commercialization of the emergency contraceptive pill (ECP).
The topic generates heated debates in Honduras, between those that demand the pill’s continued prohibition and those who believe its use should be legalized. For some women’s rights organizations in Honduras, decriminalizing the ECP is a key aspect of protecting the integrity of women and girls who are sexually abused.
The Central American Women’s Fund (FCAM) spoke with Sarahí González, Volunteer Coordinator for Artemisa, which is a partner organization of FCAM’s Young Wave Program, about the organization’s work in the rural areas of Tegucigalpa and Comayagüela, and the current situation related to the ECP in Honduras.
“We are working to raise awareness among young people in the neighborhoods and districts around the topic of sexual and reproductive rights. The objective is to inform them about contraceptive methods. We put up stands and hold mini-walks to distribute condoms and provide information,” Sarahí shared.
For Artemisa, it has been complicated to visit rural areas because of the high rates of violence. In the past several years, Honduras has become one of the most violent countries in the world due to gang and drug trafficking related violence.
“Sometimes people think that we are from the government. They do not know that we are a part of a non-profit organization. The majority of organizations do not travel to the rural areas. The regions we visit are very dangerous and extremely poor,” Artemisa’s Volunteer Coordinator points out.
The lack of knowledge that women and young girls have about contraceptive methods is one of the problems that this group faces in the rural communities, and which also contributes to a high number of unplanned teen pregnancies. “They are surprised that other women share information with them about sexual and reproductive health, as well as give them female and male condoms. For the longest time, they have been told that the only method that exists is the pill. But after talking with them, they understand and see that our primary objective is that they become informed,” added Sarahí.
In the group’s opinion, there has not been any progress on the legalization of the ECP. Starting seven years ago, the church and other anti-women’s rights organizations have fought to keep this decree untouchable. “We haven’t made progress at all. There has been dialogue, but the church has a lot of influence on decision-making. The ECP is sold on the black market at a high cost. Because of this, we insist on the use of the condom as a contraceptive method, since it helps both avoid pregnancy the risk of sexually transmitted infections,” our interviewee pointed out.
It is important to mention that since the decree was approved, the ECP can only be purchased illegally or on the black market, in small pharmacies or in corner stores.
Artemisa will continue its work for the sexual and reproductive rights of women, even with the violence happening in the streets and the current decree outlawing ECPs. “Our task is to reach everyone we can, work with more women and teenage girls to share about contraceptive methods and sexual and reproductive health. We want to negotiate with parents, work with the families, and breakdown existing taboos.”
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