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Jimena Villar de Onis


The Constitution of Bolivia prohibits any type of discrimination based on sexual and reproductive rights:

  • Article14(II): “The State prohibits and punishes all forms of discrimination based on sex, color, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, origin, culture, nationality, citizenship, language, religious belief, ideology, political affiliation or philosophy, civil status, economic or social condition, type of occupation, level of education, disability, pregnancy, and any other discrimination that attempts to or results in the annulment of or harm to the equal recognition, enjoyment or exercise of the rights of all people.”
  • Article 15(I): “Every person has the right to life and physical, psychological and sexual integrity. No one shall be tortured, nor suffer cruel, inhuman, degrading or humiliating treatment. The death penalty does not exist.”
  • Article 66: “Women and men are guaranteed the exercise of sexual rights and their reproductive rights.”


Chapter II of Title VIII (Offences Against Life and Personal Integrity) of the Penal Code of Bolivia refers to abortion rights in Bolivia.

  • Article 263: Whoever causes the death of a fetus or causes a very early preterm birth will be sanctioned with 1 to 3 years if the mother consented or with 2 to 6 years if the mother did not consent or is a minor (under 16 years old). Article 263 also states that the consent of the mother is not punishable.
  • Article 264: If the abortion results in physical injury to the mother the sanction will be of 1 to 4 years, and if it leads to the death of the mother the sentence will be doubled.
  • Article 265: If the abortion was done with the aim of saving the mother’s honor, and if it was done with the consent of the mother, the sentence will be of 6 months to 2 years. A third of the sentence will be added if the abortion results in the death of the mother.
  • Article 266: The abortion will not be punishable if the pregnancy was the result of: (1) sexual assault of the mother (not followed by marriage) and (2) incest. The action will not be punishable either if the pregnancy was direct threat to the mother’s health or life, and if no other means could be used to prevent the threat. In any case, a doctor will take charge of the operation and will require both consent from the mother and from the relevant authorities.

Sexual violence

The Constitution of Bolivia protects the rights of people against sexual violence:

  • Article15(II): “Everyone, in particular women, have the right not to suffer physical, sexual or psychological violence, in the family as well as in the society.”
  • Article 15(III): “The State shall adopt the necessary measures to prevent, eliminate and punish sexual and generational violence, as well as any action or omission intended to be degrading to the human condition, to cause death, pain, and physical, sexual or psychological suffering, whether in public or private spheres.”

Maternal health and rights

The Constitution of Bolivia protects the maternal rights:

  • Article 45(V): “Women have the right to safe maternity, with an inter-cultural practice and vision; they shall enjoy the special assistance and protection of the State during pregnancy and birth in the prenatal and postnatal periods.”
  • Article 48(VI): “Women shall not be discriminated against or fired because of their civil status, because of pregnancy, because of their age or physical features, or because of the number of children they have. It is guaranteed that pregnant women and parents cannot be dismissed from employment until the child completes one year of age.”

Rights of sexual minorities

Both male and female same-sex sexual activity is legal under Bolivian law. Furthermore, Article 14(II) of the Constitution of Bolivia forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In 2010, the government criminalized discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity under article 23 of the Law Against Racism and All Forms of Discrimination (Law 737/2010).

Bolivia also allows LGBT to legally change its gender.

In 2013, the Armed Forces of Bolivia announced a change in policy, allowing LGBT citizens to serve in its ranks starting 2015.

As of December 2014 there is no legal recognition of same-sex unions, as Article 63 of the Constitution limits the right to marriage to opposite-sex unions. However, in the last 4 years, there has been various movement towards attempting to legalize same-sex unions. In April 2012, members of the opposition coalition introduced a bill legalizing same-sex unions, however, it has not advanced since its initial stage at the Plurinational Legislative Assembly, the national legislature of Bolivia.

Bolivia does not allow same-sex couples to adopt, however since April 2013 it allows single people to adopt children.

Sexual and reproductive rights of the indigenous people

Bolivia has ratified the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and is now binding as national law. This is important in this context because Bolivia is the Latin American country with highest indigenous people (62% of the population).

The Declaration states:

  • Article 24(2): Indigenous individuals have an equal right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. States shall take the necessary steps with a view to achieving progressively the full realization of these rights.

Sexual and reproductive rights challenges

The main challenge in Bolivian sexual and reproductive rights is the right to a safe abortion: In the 40 years since the penal code was enacted, 6 abortions have been approved by judges. On February 13th of 2014 Bolivia’s highest court ruled for the elimination of the prior judicial consent requirement but at the same time rejected a constitutional challenge to the country's restrictive abortion law. An estimated 60,000 to 80,000 abortions are performed annually in Bolivia, often using unsafe methods, and mostly in impoverished urban peripheries where indigenous populations are concentrated. In close to half the cases, post-abortion emergency hospital care is required.

Only about 70% of the population has access to Bolivia’s health system, causing a gap in sexual and reproductive rights amongst those with less access, namely the indigenous communities.