Press Releases 2003

Catholic Voices Join African Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Rights Conference

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Panel of women Catholic leaders to address African women’s reproductive health issues

A delegation of Catholic women from Africa, Latin America and the United States will lead a ground-breaking discussion on “Christianity and Women’s Rights.” The panel will explore the way the Catholic church obstructs women’s reproductive rights in the Global South. The panel is part of the Amanitare African Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Conference, being held in Johannesburg, February 4-7. The conference theme is “Empowerment through Prosperity

“Catholics for a Free Choice is pleased to build on the work of the Catholic Voices delegation to advance this important discussion on the reproductive healthcare needs of women and their families in Africa,” said Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice and moderator of the panel. “We hope this discussion on religion and reproductive and sexual health and rights will empower women to not allow the Catholic church to coerce them into making dangerous decisions but rather make their own decisions independently in a way that enhances their quality of life.”

Kissling is a writer, advocate and policy analyst and a leading voice promoting international public policies that advance women’s health and rights. She was a prominent participant in the United Nations conferences on Population and Development (Cairo, 1994) and on Women (Beijing, 1995).

The conference will address a wide range of issues concerning African women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights including maternal mortality, HIV/AIDS, gender based violence, sexual rights, empowerment of women and girls, as well as barriers to accessing sexual and reproductive health services. The Catholic Voices delegation panel is titled: “Christianity and women’s rights: Beliefs, interpretations and perceptions.”

Other panelists are:

  • Margaret G. Gecaga, a lecturer at Kenyatta University, Department of Religious Studies, will discuss, “The experience in Kenya of the Catholic Church obstructing access to sexual and reproductive health education and services.”
  • Apollonia Lugemwa, a social worker who serves as the National Women Coordinator of the Uganda Catholic Secretariat, will discuss, “The Catholic Church, HIV/AIDS Prevention, and Women’s Rights in Uganda.”
  • Maria Consuelo Mejia, director of Catholics for the Right to Decide in Mexico, will discuss, “The Catholic Church in Latin America: An obstruction to women’s sexual and reproductive rights.”
  • Philomena Njeri Mwaura, a lecturer in Religious Studies at Kenyatta University, Kenya, will discuss, “Perceptions of Women’s Rights in Christian New Religious Movements in Africa.”

The panel will take place on the third day of the conference, Thursday, February 6, from 11:00 am – 12:30 pm.

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Catholics for Choice shapes and advances sexual and reproductive ethics that are based on justice, reflect a commitment to women's well-being and respect and affirm the capacity of women and men to make moral decisions about their lives.