Ensuring women and girls have access to safe contraceptive methods part of the responsibilities of states to ensure the highest possible level of physical and mental health for all, three special rapporteurs and a UN working group on human rights stressed on Friday*.
In a joint statement, the experts referred to the failures registered in some countries that affect the right to sexual and reproductive health, including the right to abortion, and stressed that the autonomous decisions of women and girls must be respected.
“Human rights laws provide for this women should be free to decide when to get pregnant, how many children to have and how to space the pregnancies. The full enjoyment of sexual and reproductive health guarantees is essential for women and girls to exercise all other human rights and achieve gender equality,” they affirmed.
They also argued that laws and policies that deny women and girls their rights to sexual and reproductive health are “inherently discriminatory”.
Prioritize sexual and reproductive health
The experts’ declaration was drawn up on the occasion of World Contraception Day, which will be celebrated on September 26, and the International Day of Safe Abortion on September 28, dates which experts are taking advantage of to call on countries and their institutions to “give priority to rights to sexual and reproductive health, adopt legislation, policies and decisions that guarantee women and girls the full exercise of their rights access to sexual and reproductive health and health services, including safe abortion, without fear of intimidation, stigma or criminalization, in accordance with their international human rights obligations”.
The speakers highlighted the negative consequences of legal restrictions on contraceptives for ideological reasons and the disruption of sexual and reproductive health services due to the COVID-19 pandemic on historically discriminated groups of female populationsuch as girls, black women and women of African descent, indigenous peoples, migrants, refugees and displaced persons, among other groups.
This is indicated by the data of the World Health Organization in the announcement every year up to 39,000 women die because of a lack of safe abortion services and emphasizes the importance of preventing unintended pregnancy through access to contraception, safe abortion services, and quality post-abortion care.
Population Fund/Ruth Carr
Religion and culture should not be a pretext for discrimination
“Women and girls it should not be instrumentalized to serve fundamentalist ideologies and populist agendas. Religion and culture must not be abused to further discriminate and suppress them in a global context of serious backlash against gender equality.
They insisted that all women and girls have appropriate access to safe, effective and affordable contraceptive methods of your choice, including modern short-acting and long-acting contraception and other methods such as emergency contraception, as well as any other method to prevent forced pregnancy.
Rapporteurs explained that in guaranteeing this right, States must respect the capacity of women and girls to make autonomous decisions and does not restrict access to contraceptives until permission is obtained from spouses, partners or parents.
They also argued that sexual and reproductive health strategies should take into account the needs of lesbian and bisexual women, trans men and all gender diverse people for whom they are relevant.
They warned that the states they are responsible from any actions, including acts of omission, that violate the fundamental rights of women and girls by state and non-state actors.
This responsibility includes the obligation to investigate, prosecute and punish such actions, they restrict.
The speakers urged the States to work hard for removing all practical barriers anchored in the absence of regulations such as conscientious objection and imposing a requirement of spousal consent even when not required by law.
Human rights experts praised constitutional recognition of sexual and reproductive rights that some countries have done and urged all countries to adhere to follow this path.
The signatories of the declaration are:
Tlaleng Mofokeng, Special Rapporteur on the right to health; Reem Alsalem, Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls; Victor Madrigal-Borloz, independent expert on sexual orientation and gender identity; and the Working Group on Discrimination against Women and Girls.
* Special rapporteurs, independent experts and working groups are part of the Human Rights Council’s so-called special procedures. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN human rights system, is the collective name for the Council’s independent investigative and monitoring mechanisms that deal with specific country situations or thematic issues around the world. Special procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN employees and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent of any government or organization and provide their services in a personal capacity.