Amnesty calls on ASEAN states to reduce maternal mortality

October 18, 2011

Amnesty International urges the governments of the ASEAN region to remove barriers to women and girls’ sexual and reproductive health which put their lives at risk, in particular discriminatory laws and policies, and attitudes and practices amongst health workers. 

A new briefing paper titled Making the fair choice: Key steps to improve maternal health in ASEAN, is especially aimed at ASEAN’s Intergovernmental Human Rights Commission, which met recently in Manila to discuss how to improve maternal health in the region.

The briefing paper is based on case studies in Indonesia and the Philippines, which reveal huge shortcomings in reaching the MDG (Millennium Development Goals) targets related to the reduction of maternal mortality. 

Some facts, according to Amnesty:

  • The Philippines is unlikely to meet its MDG target of reducing maternal mortality from 94 to 52 per 100,000 live births by 2015. Access to contraception is limited, and ‘natural’, unreliable family planning methods, including withdrawal, are publicly encouraged over other methods.
  • For every 100,000 live births in Indonesia, 228 women lose their lives. The Indonesian government admitted in 2010 that it would not achieve its MDG target of reducing maternal mortality to 102 deaths per 100,000 live births by 2015.
  • In Indonesia, access to sexual and reproductive health services is severely restricted in law and practice. Many contraceptive procedures or treatments require a husband’s permission, which denies access for unmarried women and girls’ altogether, and restricts it for married ones. 
  • Abortion is criminalized in most cases in Indonesia and in all circumstances in the Philippines.

“It is appalling that women face so many obstacles to exercising their rights”, said Aurora Parong, Director of Amnesty International Philippines. “Limiting access to contraception leads to unwanted pregnancies and contributes to tens of thousands of cases of clandestine and unsafe abortions, which pose the gravest risk to women’s health. The time for talk and empty policy declarations is over. Countries across ASEAN must commit to not only enacting, but implementing legislation. They must review discriminatory laws and policies, and educate health workers and communities to effect a change in attitudes towards women and girls. Only then can we begin to see real improvement in maternal mortality rates and in women’s sexual and reproductive health across ASEAN.”

Making the fair choice: Key steps to improve maternal health in ASEAN (PDF)