LA PAZ, August 6, 2004 ( – A proposed new law aims to radically reshape Bolivian society’s sexual mores. Article two, section a. will give Bolivians “The right to exercise a pleasurable, responsible and freely decided sexuality, without any limits except those expressly stated by law…”

In effect, the proposed legislation would remove all limits to aberrant sexuality, including that of children.  The bill met with a storm of concern and disapproval from religious leaders, obliging President Carlos Mesa to send it back to the senate for review prior to his signature. But it is unlikely that the legislation, which had passed the senate with very little opposition, will be detained for long.  The Sexual and Reproductive Rights bill was drafted by Bolivian lawyer Julieta Montaño, who heads the NGO “Juridical Office for Women”, a lobby and training center that specializes in gender issues and human rights. Montaño, who was called upon to draft the law by the Bolivian government’s human rights committee, fumed about the Catholic Church’s intervention, accusing the papal Nuncio of “breaking every norm of non-intervention in State affairs” by bringing his concerns to the president. She accused the Church of waging a “dirty war” against reproductive health and of acting out of “fear of losing control over the human bodies of other people.”  Religious leaders in Bolivia are rightly concerned about the new legislation, which is meant to be a sweeping recapitulation of all existing statutes related to a variety of issues – gender equality, domestic violence, sexual education and contraceptive methods. The law’s author recently reminded journalists that Bolivia has ratified the United Nations declarations on rights at Cairo and Beijing, and “is obliged to adjust its legislation to international norms.” Not surprisingly, then, the legislation paves the way for the recognition of homosexual and de facto couples, openly promotes abortifacient contraception, and makes little or no mention of the role of the family in sexual education. The law has a working assumption that adolescents are sexually active from the age of 15 or 16, and that abortions (for the most part illegal in Bolivia) are clandestinely procured.  Perhaps the most strident debate involves the right of adolescents to confidentiality regarding their sexual life. Father Miguel Manzanera, director of the Catholic Bioethics Institute, said, “It would have very serious results. It would provoke an early emancipation of children from their parents. Anyone over 12 years old would have the right not only to have sexual relations but also to force confidentiality so that their parents are not informed, even if they have AIDS, or are pregnant or have an abortion.” Father Manzanera warned that the law could eventually even lead to child prostitution.

To contact the bill’s author Julieta Montaño:  [email protected]