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The veto of Ecuador’s Organic Health Code is “disappointing,” say human rights experts

ByMicheal Johnson

Oct 22, 2020

The Ecuadorian government’s decision to veto the new Organic Health Code, approved in August by the National Assembly, is “disappointing” and implies a missed opportunity to improve general legislation on the right to health and advance gender equality. declared a group of UN experts on human rights on Wednesday.

In a statement, the rapporteurs urged Ecuador to guarantee equal access to health care for women and girls, as well as for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, emphasizing sexual and intersex health care. reproductive.

They added that the high prevalence of violence against women and girls and discrimination against certain groups, inside and outside the health system, continue to pose significant threats to the realization of the right to health in the country.

In the Organic Health Code that was vetoed, it would have reformed the current sanitary legal framework. Its content includes about 40 laws that guarantee access to health in a universal, permanent, timely, effective, efficient, quality, and comprehensive way for all people, especially for the most vulnerable, such as the elderly, minorities, people with chronic diseases, children, adolescents or persons deprived of liberty.

© UNICEF Ecuador

UNICEF delivers a shipment of health supplies to protect vulnerable children from coronavirus in Quito, Ecuador

A blockade on the rights of girls and adolescents

“Gaps in the implementation of current health legislation often lead to health care providers denying confidential procedures when a woman or girl needs to resort to abortion or emergency contraception,” explained the UN experts.

Ecuador has one of the highest adolescent pregnancy rates in Latin America, frequently the result of gender-based violence, and abortion is illegal except in very limited circumstances. According to reports received by experts, up to 250 women are in prison for requesting an abortion or for having voluntarily terminated a pregnancy.

“Systemic sexual violence combined with minimal access to sexual and reproductive health services means that women and girls are often exposed to early pregnancies, unsafe abortions and maternal mortality,” added the rapporteurs, independent experts and members of Groups of Work of Human Rights Council.

© UNICEF / Donata Lodi

A boy poses in front of his home in Cayapas, Ecuador.

Protection lost

According to experts, the bill would have provided greater protection to LGBT people from so-called ‘conversion therapy’ practices and to intersex boys and girls from medically unnecessary procedures.

“Ecuador must promote the right to health by addressing key issues such as gender-based violence and discrimination, while investing in a sustainable health system”They said.

The special rapporteur on violence against women, Dubravka Simonovic, and the former special rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest possible level of physical and mental health, Dainius Pūras, made separate visits to Ecuador in 2019 at the invitation of government.

Their reports had encouraged the adoption of the Organic Health Code in accordance with international human rights standards.

The special rapporteurs are part of the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. The Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN system for Human Rights, is the general name for the independent investigation and monitoring mechanisms established by the Council to deal with specific situations in countries or thematic issues throughout the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; They are not UN personnel and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent of any government or organization and act in their individual capacity.