By Anna-Britt Coe
The article examines changes in Peru’s population policy since the International Conference on Population and Development (1994) and assesses the extent to which the policies and measures adopted have enhanced or detracted from the reproductive health and rights of women and girls in Peru. The information and conclusions in this article are drawn from our ongoing work in Peru, where, since 1998, we have monitored changes in both government and donor policy regarding reproductive health and rights, and analyzed the implications of U.S. foreign assistance and international policy in furthering or detracting from these goals.
Peru is a telling example of the complexities involved in developing a reproductive health and rights agenda. Until the early 1990s, the government gave little support to population issues and its public family planning program was poorly organized and relatively ineffective. Since signing the ICPD agreement, the Peruvian government has taken several steps toward fulfilling reproductive health and rights objectives.
Progress has been overshadowed, however, by two periods of adverse policy approaches – demographic (1996–1997) and far right (2001–2003). Under the Fuijimori government, a demographic approach was adopted that used numerical targets and undue pressure on women to accept sterilization, leading to documented abuses. Under the Toledo government, the far right sought to limit access to essential services, including emergency contraception, condoms and post-abortion care, promoting a different form of coercion inherent in denying people access to basic health care information and technologies.
The article concludes that the greatest obstacles to promoting the ICPD Programme of Action are policy positions that are frankly opposed to reproductive rights. In spite of their contradictory nature, the demographic and far right policy approaches share an important characteristic: they are clearly not compatible with gender equality or reproductive rights and hinder progress towards achieving these goals in concrete ways.
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