In spite of national and international protests, both constitutional amendments were ratified. A major shift in national thinking and political power will be needed to challenge the backlash against the range of rights they reject and the influence of liberal abortion law reform, not just the most recent abortion law reform in Argentina, but also in Puerto Rico, Cuba and Uruguay.
The new clause against abortion, which aims to protect the “right to life” of embryos and fetuses, misleadingly refers to Article 4(1) of the American Convention on Human Rights as support for its stance. However, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has made it very clear that Article 4(1) does not recognise an absolute right to life before birth. The same Court has also said that an embryo cannot be understood to be a human being for the purposes of Article 4(1).
Human Rights Watch has said: “Honduras’ own penal code prohibits denying access to public services on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. It also prohibits inciting discrimination”. On this basis, both these constitutional amendments should have been rejected as unconstitutional. Ironically, abortion in Honduras was already illegal in all circumstances.
The Honduras Congress may see itself as in step with others in Central America. Indeed, abortion is completely illegal in six countries in the region. However, as regards same-sex marriage, this “reform” has put Honduras out of step with a growing number of other countries in the Americas, including Costa Rica, Ecuador, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Uruguay and 20 states in Mexico. In a landmark 2017 opinion, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled that all rights applicable to family relationships of heterosexual couples should extend to same-sex couples. This ruling is applicable in all 23 States Parties in the inter-American region, including Honduras.
Honduras has one of the highest rates of sexual violence in the world, which is often a significant factor in unwanted pregnancies there. Nearly one in three Honduran women over the age of 15 has experienced physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner, according to data from the UN 2020 Human Development Reports. The adolescent birth rate in Honduras is higher than the regional average and more than twice the global average, according to UNFPA. The minimum age of legal sexual consent in Honduras is 14. But in 2017 alone, 820 girls aged 10 to 14 gave birth in Honduras, according to data from the health secretary, as cited by HRW.
SOURCES: Human Rights Watch, 23 January 2021 ; CNN, by Tatiana Arias, 31 January 2021 + PHOTO: Protest march, 25 January 2021, Tegucigalpa, by Orlando Sierra, AFP/Getty Images