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Sexual & Reproductive Rights are Human Rights, Says UNFPA Head

UNITED NATIONS, Sep 22 2014 (IPS) - Addressing a special session of the U.N. General Assembly on the 20th anniversary of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), the Executive Director o f the U.N.Population Fund (UNFPA) Dr Babatunde Osotimehin said over the past 20 years,” we have seen the rise of hundreds of millions out of poverty, gender parity in primary education, fewer women dying giving life and more women in the workforce.”

These advances show just how powerful development founded on dignity and human rights can be. “But we still have a long way to go,” he told delegates.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the world agreed at ICPD in Cairo that when women and girls get the education they deserve, societies are more productive.

When their rights are protected, societies are more just. And when they are empowered to determine their own future, societies become stronger, he added.

Ban said: “We must confront the fact that some 800 women still die each day from causes related to pregnancy or childbirth and an estimated 8.7 million young women in developing countries resort to unsafe abortions every year.”

They urgently need our protection. In addition, new challenges have emerged, including those linked to rapid urbanization, environmental change, economic transformation, and increasingly complex migration trends.

The emergence of new flows of refugees and displaced persons demands greater efforts to ensure the security and dignity of all, Ban added.

Speaker after speaker, addressing the special session, reaffirmed their commitment to the ICPD Programme of Action adopted 20 years ago.

Dr Osotimehin said: “Our world is growing increasingly unequal, and all too often women and girls get the short end of the stick.”

He said the pace of climate change and environmental degradation shows that we cannot sustain a system in which those at the top continue to draw more and more of our finite resources.

Until we can deliver for all people equitably, and enable all people to reach their potential, we cannot achieve sustainable development.””

The right to health, he pointed out, is incontrovertible and this Assembly has adopted numerous resolutions on the importance of ensuring the highest attainable standard of health for all.

Sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights are universal human rights. They are also central to sustainability, gender equality and the empowerment of women.

But for many, the right to sexual and reproductive health is still not a reality.

Not for the 10-year-old child bride forced to marry a 62 year old man and bear his children before her mind and body are ready…
Not for the adolescent girl who, lacking the information and services to prevent an unwanted pregnancy, resorts to unsafe abortion…

Not for the poor rural woman facing a difficult birth without a skilled attendant and far from the nearest health facility…

Not for tens of thousands of young people who lack the means and the knowledge to protect themselves from HIV or other sexually transmitted infections…

Not for those affected by crises and conflicts, which often put women and girls at risk of sexual violence and limit their access to safe spaces, services and support.

And the consequence can be a death sentence: 800 women die every day from pregnancy related causes, many of them adolescent girls. And for every maternal death, 20 more women and girls endure preventable complications, including obstetric fistula.

Whether a woman is rich or poor should not determine whether she lives or dies.

“To achieve universal access to sexual and reproductive health and ensure reproductive rights for all, we must bolster fragile health systems so that we can reach women and girls with the services and commodities they need where they live. It is simply unacceptable that today more than 200 million women who want family planning cannot get it.”

According to the United Nations the availability of safe and effective contraceptives and access to reproductive health care, including family planning, have been instrumental in reducing fertility levels.

As fertility has continued to decline, population growth has slowed. Fewer people are living in extreme poverty, and more people are living longer, healthier lives. More girls are in school. Fewer women are dying in pregnancy and childbirth. There are more laws to protect and uphold human rights.

Yet many of the promises of the ICPD remain unfulfilled. Progress has been unequal, and often hampered by discrimination and inequality.

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  • http://www.34millionfriends.org Jane Roberts

    This is so common sense that it boggles the mind that it needs to be said.

  • Vestias

    rights rights the health to all womens of the poorest in the world

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