21 June [ENInews] Member churches of the Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI) have been holding consultations on sexual and reproductive rights throughout the region in preparation for a conference next year in Havana.
In cooperation with the U.N. Population Fund, the meetings in 11 countries are tackling specific issues including protection from violence; sexual exploitation and sexual abuse; the right to decide to have children or not and when to have them; ensuring access to contraception; the right to privacy; freedom of thought on issues of sexuality and reproduction; and the right to information and education, the CLAI website said.
The Rev. Alfredo Joiner, secretary of the CLAI Meso America Region, told reporters that a preparatory gathering outside of Managua, Nicaragua dealt with issues such as sexual diversity and the right of women to form a family or remain single.
A statement on the CLAI website said its members argue that Christians must act responsibly in society in light of the scriptures and according to conscience. "Reproductive health involves the ability to enjoy a satisfying sex life without risks, and the freedom to decide when to have children and how often."
The theme of "The Church and Sexual and Reproductive Rights," is part of the CLAI effort to achieve the U.N.'s Millennium Development Goals. The eight goals -- which range from halving extreme poverty, universal access to reproductive health and providing universal primary education -- form a plan to meet the needs of the world's poorest.
Teen pregnancy is a particularly worrisome problem in Latin America. The news agency EFE reported a survey that revealed between 25 and 108 of every 1,000 girls aged 15-19 in Latin American and Caribbean countries are mothers. Maternity rates decreased in all age groups in the region except for the 15-19 group, the survey said.
Also, a recent survey by health officials in Bogota, Colombia, revealed that 49 percent of women there did not plan their pregnancy, the El Tiempo newspaper reported. Of 10,186 women surveyed, 31 percent said they would have preferred to have had their child later in life and 18 percent revealed that their pregnancy was unwanted.