Es ley! It's law!

After many battles and protests, Colombian women did it! They have achieved a very important goal in the field of women's rights. Monday 21st February 2022 will be remembered as a day of great importance because, in Colombia, the constitutional law in favor of decriminalizing abortion up to the 24th week of gestation was approved.

Argentina and Mexico had already voted to decriminalize abortion in the last two years, and now, with Colombia, three of Latin America's most populous states have opened the door to easier and safer access to abortion. "This makes Colombia a pioneering country in Latin America," says Mariana Ardila, a Colombian lawyer who is part of Woman's Link – an international organization that defends the rights of women and girls – and the coalition that brought one of the two cases challenging the criminalization of abortion. "This is a historic event.” With this constitutional decision every woman will have the right to receive professional support during the abortion process without the fear of legal persecution. Tell me if that is not a great achievement!

Reflecting on this issue and informing myself about it, I realized that what excites me most about this is the fact that it was thanks to the numerous grass-roots feminist movements within the country that the Constitutional Court of Colombia ended up approving this law. After the protests in Argentina over the last few years, which resulted in the decriminalization of abortion in late 2020, many people decided to take to the streets to demonstrate for their rights to abortion. From Mexico to Paraguay, from Colombia to Brazil, millions of people – mostly part of feminist movements – were risking their lives to let their voices be heard. We can say that Argentina, in this respect, has shaken Latin American society.

In fact, it was the achievement of such an important goal that awakened hope in other South American countries. The fact that Argentina, a country with strongly Catholic values and a predominantly patriarchal ideology, had succeeded in this aim has motivated Colombia itself to take action to bring about change. Until now, abortions were only legal in limited circumstances, established by a Constitutional Court decision in 2006: when a woman's health was at risk, when a fetus had serious health problems or when a pregnancy was the result of rape. Anyone who had an abortion – or helped a woman to have one – could be sentenced to between 16 and 54 months in prison. At least 346 people have been convicted for this since 2006. In most cases, the investigations involved girls as young as 11 years old from rural areas of the country. Sadly, in many other countries, the situation is still like this.

However, as of 21 February 2022, the situation in Colombia has changed. The numerous protests carried out by Colombian women have paid off. To celebrate, many people took to the streets to make their voices heard – even louder than before. They waved a sea of green handkerchiefs, now a symbol of the South American abortion rights movement, and chanted victory. Apart from that, and probably more importantly, they also gave hope to many other women who are still fighting for this great and important goal, not only in South America but all around the world.