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Human Rights Committee Calls Out Peru for Highly Restrictive Abortion Law

The UN Human Rights Committee recently criticized Peru for a wide range of reproductive rights violations, including highly restrictive abortion legislation and a high rate of maternal mortality.

During its 107th session in March 2013, the Human Rights Committee reviewed Peru's compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and issued Concluding Observations to the government of Peru on a series of repeated violations of women's reproductive rights. Prior to the session, the Center and the International Commission of Jurists submitted a joint shadow letter to the Committee that called on Peru to establish a national protocol for therapeutic abortion, make exceptions for rape and forced artificial insemination in the abortion law, and provide individual reparations to K.L. as ordered in the Human Rights Committee's 2005 K.L. v. Peru decision.

The Committee expressed concern about the high rate of maternal mortality resulting from abortion, and about the high rates of maternal mortality among adolescents and rural women. Echoing recent recommendations by the Committee against Torture and the Human Rights Council, the Human Rights Committee urged Peru to revise its abortion legislation to include exceptions for cases of rape and incest, and to adopt a national protocol regulating therapeutic abortion. Notably, this is not the first time the Human Rights Committee has made these recommendations to Peru, indicating that the government is failing to prioritize making changes to laws and policies that would protect the lives and health of Peruvian women.

The Committee's recommendations mirror those made to Peru in two of the Center's landmark cases:K.L. v. Peru, issued by the Committee, and L.C. v. Peru, issued by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee).

In the case of K.L., a 17-year-old girl was denied a legal therapeutic abortion when the fetus was diagnosed as anencephalic, a condition incompatible with life. In L.C., a 13-year-old girl was also denied a legal abortion necessary to save her health and is now quadriplegic. Her pregnancy was the result of rape. Our shadow letter discusses both of these cases and calls for implementation of the recommendations made in each decision.

In addition to recommending revised abortion legislation, the Human Rights Committee asked Peru to reduce adolescent pregnancy and maternal mortality and to ensure access to emergency contraceptives, which are particularly crucial for adolescents and victims of sexual violence.

The Committee's Concluding Observations address widespread problems that continue to affect women in Peru, despite the precedents set by the K.L. and L.C. decisions and recommendations from other UN treaty-monitoring bodies. Peru's lack of compliance with the measures of non-repetition in the two cases demonstrates why these issues continue to be raised and constitutes a continued violation of women's rights in Peru. Girls and women should no longer be denied their legal right to abortion, and should have broader access to abortion services. We urge the Peruvian government to take these recommendations seriously and implement policies that will vastly improve the lives and health of women.

Download the Concluding Observations and shadow letter below >