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UN Committee Holds Brazil Accountable

Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights won a groundbreaking victory in our eight-year battle on behalf of Alyne da Silva Pimentel, an impoverished Afro-brazilian woman who died when doctors willfully failed to provide her with the maternal healthcare to which she was legally entitled.

In February 2012, the Center presented a shadow letter on the case at the 51st Session of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in Geneva. The letter to the CEDAW Committee, which issued the ruling in August 2011, highlights the Committee’s decision in Alyne da Silva Pimentel v. Brazil finding the State responsible under the CEDAW for violating its obligations under international law because of failures to guarantee Alyne maternal healthcare services of quality and without discrimination.  The letter goes on to emphasize the Brazilian government’s obligation to take immediate action to implement the Committee’s recommendations in order to improve the quality of maternal healthcare, eliminate discrimination in healthcare, and consequently reduce the country’s maternal mortality rate.

During the Session, the Brazilian government reaffirmed its commitment to fully comply with the CEDAW Committee’s recommendations on the case and indicated its intent to provide reparations to Alyne’s family. The Center applauds the government’s promise to implement measures that will improve the quality of maternal healthcare and emergency medical treatment, and to prevent negligence and systematic discrimination by health care professionals, both of which contributed to Alyne’s death. 

In the CEDAW Committee’s Concluding Observations to the Brazilian government, the Committee expressed concern that Brazil’s current measures for reducing maternal mortality “might not sufficiently address all causes of maternal mortality as it merely focuses on care services for pregnant women.” The Committee also expressed concern about the criminal sanctions faced by women who undergo illegal abortions, as well as several bills under consideration that will jeopardize women’s reproductive health and rights. One such bill is the Estatuto do Nascituro, which attempts to institute fetal rights. The Committee also specifically requested that Brazil submit a report on its implementation of the Committee’s Concluding Observations concerning the right to health within the next two years.

The Center greatly appreciates the CEDAW Committee’s inquiries during the Session on the protection of the rights to privacy and confidentiality in Brazil’s recently enacted legislation on maternal health, Provision Measure 557, and its emphasis on the provision of individual reparations in the case of Alyne da Silva Pimentel v. Brazil. The Center further appreciates the CEDAW Committee’s demonstrated commitment to advancing the right to health for all women. We hope Brazil keeps up its promise and complies not only with the recommendations on the case but also with the new concluding observations.