Open letter to the Vatican

Linked with Maria José de Oliveira Araújo – Brazil, with O Coletivo Feminista Sexualidade e Saúde, and with O PROGRAMA DE ASSISTÊNCIA INTEGRAL À SAÚDE DA MULHER (PAISM) EM GOIÂNIA.

WOMEN PRESS THE VATICAN FOR ANSWERS, An Open Letter to The Vatican, New York City, 1 July 1999 – Women from Latin America and the Caribbean initiated this letter and have been joined by women from every region of the world.

In an imperfect world that continues to generate injustices and deepening poverty, we have come to the UN Special Session of the General Assembly to review and evaluate implementation of commitments made by 180 countries in the ICPD Programme of Action of 1994. We, the undersigned, ask you the following questions:

How can a church that holds life as a fundamental value be unmoved by the deaths of thousands of women, many of whom leave orphaned children? These women are the victims of maternal mortality because they lack access to reproductive health care, to information, and to the services and methods necessary to help them make reproductive decisions. Their deaths break apart their families and affect their communities.
Why do Vatican representatives insist that only parents can supervise the education, health care, and reproductive and sexual health of young people when it is widely known that many cases of sexual abuse, particularly incest, take place in the heart of the home?
Why does a church whose mission is social justice fail to recognize women’s lack of power to confront sexual inequity and daily violence, both in and outside their homes? And why does this church create obstacles to women achieving their aspirations and meeting their needs, which are fundamental to guaranteeing just and humane development?
Why does a church, which defends the sanctity of life as an essential principle, subordinate women’s lives to religious beliefs still debated within this same church; and, by mistrusting women, deny them the possibility of making their own choices based on their conscience, their wisdom, and their free will?
Given that the Vatican is not a nation-state, is not involved in the implementation of the Cairo Programme of Action, and, by its very nature, does not have women or children or sexual and reproductive problems, why is the Vatican delegation interested in blocking advances in contraception, sexual education, and HIV prevention that are beneficial to millions of women, especially to millions of the world’s poorest women?
Why do Vatican representatives to this conference, who speak about the problems of migrants and allocation of resources, and who insist on respect for national sovereignty, seek to impose their religious ideas and moral rules on a world that is plural and diverse in its beliefs?
Why does a church, which proclaims its deep concern for today’s young people, fail to recognize the capacity of young people to make decisions based on their own conscience and, thereby, to exercise their full citizenship?
We hope that your answers to our questions open the way to dialogue.

The following women’s organizations from Latin America and the Caribbean initiated the letter:

AVESA (Venezuela); Centro de Estudios de la Mujer (Argentina); Centro de Informacion y Desarrollo de la Mujer (Bolivia); Centro de Investigacion Social, Formacion y Estudios de la Mujer (Venezuela); Centro de Investigacion y Estudios sobre la Sexualidad (Mexico); CLADEM (Comite Latinoamericano y del Caribe por la Defensa de los Derechos de la Mujer) (America Latina y el Caribe); CERFAMI (Colombia); Cidadania, Estudo, Pesquisa, Informacao e Accao (Brasil); Centro de la Mujer Peruana Flora Tristan (Peru); CISAS (Nicaragua); Colectivo de Mujeres de Matagalpa (Nicaragua); Cotidiano Mujer (Uruguay); Centro de Mujeres Isnin (Nicaragua); Colectivo de Mujeres Acahuatl (Nicaragua); Colectivo de Mujeres 8 de Marzo (Nicaragua); Colectivo de Investigacion, Desarrollo y Educacion entre Mujeres (Mexico); Coletivo Feminista Sexualidade e Saude (Brasil); ELIGE (Red de Jovenes por los Derechos Sexuales y Reproductivos, AC) (Mexico); Foro Mexicano de Mujer y Politicas de Poblacion (Mexico); Foro Abierto de Salud y Derechos Sexuales y Reproductivos (Chile); FEIM (Fundacion de Investigacion y Estudios de la Mujer) (Argentina); Foro por los Derechos Reproductivos (Argentina); Fundacion Xochiquetzal (Nicaragua); FUNDEMUNI (Fundacion por el Desarrollo de la Mujer y la Ninez) (Nicaragua); Fundacion Guatemala (Guatemala); GIRE (Grupo de Informacion Elegida, AC) (Mexico); Instituto de Mujeres no Videntes (Nicaragua); Instituto Brasileiro de Analises Sociais e Economicas (Brasil); Ipas (Nicaragua); Instituto Social y Politico de la Mujer (Argentina); IFEM (Uruguay); IEPS (Uruguay); Lolapress Internacional (Uruguay); Mujeres al Oeste (Argentina); Mujeres por las Dignidad y la Vida (El Salvador); Movimiento Manuela Ramos (Peru); Mujer y Salud en Uruguay (Uruguay); Mujer Ahora (Uruguay); Programa de Adolescentes y Jovenes (Nicaragua); Red de Salud de las Mujeres Latinoamericanas y del Caribe; Red de Catolicas por el Derecho a Decidir (America Latina y el Caribe); Red Feminista Sexualidade e Saude (Brasil) ; Red de Mujeres por la Salud Maria Cavalleri (Nicaragua); Red de Mujeres por los Derechos Sexuales y Reproductivos (Colombia); Red Nacional por la Salud de la Mujer (Argentina); Salud Integral para la Mujer (Mexico); Sl MUJER (Servicios Integrales para la Mujer) (Nicaragua); SI MUJER (Colombia); SOS Corpo (Brasil); Tierra Viva (Guatemala).

At the July 1st meeting of the Women’s Coalition for the ICPD, members reached consensus on supporting the Open Letter to The Vatican. The Women’s Coalition for the ICPD is comprised of 81 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from every region of the world, including:

Action Canada for Population and Development, Canada; African Center for Empowerment, Gender and Advocacy, Kenya; AIDOS (Italian Association for Women and Development), Italy; AIDS Alliance, USA; Albania Family Planning-Association, Albania; ARROW, Malaysia; Association de Lutte centre les Violence faites aux Fernmes (ALVF), Cameroon; Association of Uganda Medical Doctors, Uganda; AVSC International, USA; Bangladesh Women’s Health Coalition, Bangladesh; Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action (CAFRA), Trinidad; Catholics for a Free Choice, USA; Católicas pelo Direito de Decidir, Brasil; Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir A.C., Mexico; Católicas por al Derecho a Decidir, Latin America; Center for Development and Population Activities (CEDPA), USA; Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE) USA; Center for Reproductive Law and Policy, USA; Center for Women’s Global Leadership, USA; Centro de Información y Desarrollo de la Mujer (CIDEM), Bolivia; Centro de Investigación Social Formación y Estudios de la Mujer (CISFEM), Venezuela; Cidâdinia, Estudo, Pesquisa, Informação e Ação (CEPIA), Brazil; Coalition Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir, Bolivia; Commonweal, USA; Danish Center for Human Rights, Denmark; Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN), Fiji; Equality Now, USA; Family Care International, USA; Federation for Women and Family Planning, Poland; Flora Tristan Peruvian Women’s Center, Peru; Foro Abierto por los Derechos Sexuales y Reproductivos, Chile; Foundation for Study and Investigation on Women (FEIM), Argentina; German Foundation for World Population (DSW), Germany; Girls Power Initiative, Nigeria; Health, Empowerment, Rights and Accountability (HERA); HealthWatch, India; Indonesian Women’s Health Forum; Indonesia; Instituto Brasileiro de Análises Sociais e Econômicas (IBASE), Brazil; Instituto Internacional para la Cooperacion entre los Pueblos, El Salvador; International Planned Parenthood Federation, UK; International Reproductive Rights Research Action Group (IRRRAG), USA/Malaysia; International Women’s Health Coalition, USA; International Women’s Human Rights Law Clinic (IWHR), USA; International Women’s Tribune Center, USA; Ipas, USA; Japan Network for Women and Health 99, Japan; Japanese Organization for International Cooperation in Family Planning, Japan; Kvindernes U-1andsudvalg, Denmark; Latin American & Caribbean Women’s Health Network (RSMLAC), Chile; Latin American Committee for the Defense of Women’s Rights (CLADEM), Peru; Latvian Association for Family Planning and Sexual Health, Latvia; Mama ‘86, Ukraine; Mexican Forum on Women and Population Policies, Mexico; Movimiento Manuela Ramos, Peru; Multidisciplinary African Women’s Health Network, Ghana; National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL), USA; National Action Committee on the Status of Women (NAC), Canada; Naripokho, Bangladesh; National Black Women’s Health Project, USA; National Abortion Federation, U.S.; Nigerian NGOs on Health Population and Development (CONNOHPD), Nigeria; Pacific Institute for Women’s Health, USA; Planned Parenthood Association South Africa, South Africa; Planned Parenthood Federation of Canada; Planned Parenthood® Federation of America, Inc., USA; Polish Family Planning Association, Poland; Population Concern, UK; Red Thread, Guyana; Religious Consultation on Population, Reproductive Health and Ethics, USA; Research Action and Information Network for Bodily Integrity of Women, USA; Shirkat Gah, Pakistan; SIDDHI-ENDA, India; Si Mujer, Nicaragua; SOS Corpo, Brazil; Stichting Lobi, Suriname; Stichting Projakta/Organization for Women and Development, Suriname; Swedish Association for Sex Education, Sweden; Swedish Association for Sexual and Reproductive Health, Sweden; WomanHealth Philippines, Philippines; Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF), Netherlands; Women in Law and Development Africa (WiLDAF), Zimbabwe; Women’s Caucus for Gender Justice, USA; Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), USA; Women’s Health Organization of Nigeria, Nigeria; Women’s Health in Women’s Hands Community Health Centre, Canada; Women’s Reproductive Health Initiative, USA; Women’s Health Organization, Nigeria; Women’s Health Project, South Africa; and World YWCA, Switzerland. (full text).

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