27 de Marzo: Puntos de Reflexión

This week, I’d like to offer a number of simple facts about Bolivia that impact women’s lives, along with some images of La Paz and El Alto.  I hope that these will serve to raise awareness about the country and about some of the issues it faces, and perhaps spark comparative reflection about the countries where you all live and work.  As always, I welcome your comments and questions.  Please contact me for citation information for the facts presented below.

City scene in La Paz, Bolivia.

Bolivia’s maternal mortality rate of 222 women per 100,000 is the second highest in Latin America (after Haiti).

About 30% of maternal deaths in the country are due to complications from abortion.

6 of 10 Bolivian women will have at least one abortion in her lifetime.  (The rate for women in the United States is 1 in 3.)

Graffiti penned by Bolivian youth from El Alto, reading, “You decide – Don’t let yourself get carried away,” with drawing of condom.

69% of Bolivian women lack access to reliable contraceptive methods.

In 2008, 1 in 4 of women giving birth at one of the largest public women’s hospitals in La Paz were teenage girls between the ages of 14 and 19.

The same hospital saw 1,122 cases of incomplete abortion and “miscarriage” in 2009—over 3 per day.  Doctors insist that the majority of these cases correspond to incomplete provoked abortions.

Some women facing unwanted pregnancy end up abandoning their children rather than seeking an abortion during pregnancy.  The above image is a “foundling wheel” embedded in the wall of a La Paz-based orphanage, where desperate parents can place an infant and then spin the wheel to safely deposit it inside the home without revealing their identities.

Abortion in Bolivia has been legal since 1973 in cases of rape or to save the mother’s life, yet only five legal abortions have ever been performed.  In most cases, women and adolescent girls deliver their babies before the bureaucratic processes required to obtain a legal abortion come through.

7 of every 10 Bolivian women suffer physical violence three to five times per year; 6 of these 7 are victimized by a member of their own family.  About 53% of women do not report these crimes.

143 girls and women were murdered in Bolivia during 2009.  98 of these murders can be considered feminicides–murders of females for the simple fact that they are female.

International Women’s Day protesters in La Paz carry a banner reading, “A dignified life without violence.”  The woman in front and to the left of those holding the banner carries a paper sign reading, “Enough with corrupt attorneys and  judges!”  Many feminist activists in Bolivia contend that legal representatives in the country accept bribes from men who have murdered women in exchange for lenient prison sentences.

4 Responses to “27 de Marzo: Puntos de Reflexión”

  1. Brooke Harlowe Says:

    Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy your blog. I am a political scientist with research interests in access to health services for rural Bolivians. Your depiction of women’s lives in El Alto resonates with my experiences in the Yungas of La Paz. I’ve shared a number of your posts with my colleagues at the Unidad Academica Regional–Carmen Pampa (near Coroico).

    BTW, the hospital in Caranavi has begun tracking the number of cases of women experiencing complications from attempting to abort fetuses on their own.

    Best,
    Brooke Harlowe
    Associate Professor/Pol Sci
    Lock Haven University (Pennsylvania)

  2. Thanks very much for your comment, Brooke. I would be curious to hear more about the experiences of women in rural areas as you hear about them. For example, have you seen many cases of the use of misoprostol (either vaginally or orally) in Caranavi or other rural areas to provoke abortion?

    Thanks again, & I wish you the best in your work.

  3. [...] or domestic abuse.  While some women will abandon infants in orphanages like the one pictured in this post, others will leave their children with neighbors, on street corners, or, notoriously, in garbage [...]

  4. [...] or domestic abuse.  While some women will abandon infants in orphanages like the one pictured in this post, others will leave their children with neighbors, on street corners, or, notoriously, in garbage [...]

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