To be empowered, every girl and woman needs to decide and control her body and sexuality. She needs to be able to choose if, when and with whom she wants to engage in safe and healthy sexual relations, and if and when she wants to have children in safe and healthy conditions free of coercion, discrimination and violence. Although at the heart of women’s empowerment and thus of sustainable development, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) are often misunderstood. This panel will present an evidence-based definition with the new Guttmacher-Lancet Commission on SRHR (European exclusive launch) and will discuss how to ensure a human-rights based approach to the continuum of care for all women and girls, and what the benefits are to do so.
- In developing countries, 214 million women want to avoid pregnancy but lack access to modern contraception; more than 45 million receive inadequate or no antenatal care.
- Sexual and reproductive health is a rights issue, not just a health or gender issue – empowering women through access to information and services is vital.
- Abortion for under-18s is a contentious issue that needs addressing. Contraception is a very cost-effective policy.
- Just US$ 9 per person per year is needed to ensure women’s sexual and reproductive health, but currently only half that amount is invested.
- This is not just about money but about commitment. Parliamentarians and leaders at all levels need to commit and to be held accountable.
Each year in developing regions, 214 million women want to avoid pregnancy but cannot access modern contraception, leading to 25 million unsafe abortions worldwide. More than 45 million women a year receive inadequate antenatal care, or none at all. At some point in their lives, about one in three women experiences gender-based violence, usually from an intimate partner.
The Guttmacher-Lancet Commission on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), in a major report published in May 2018, criticised policymakers for viewing sexual and reproductive health too narrowly as a health or women’s issue and argued that improving health depends on advancing rights.
This requires promoting sexual equality and empowering women through access to information and services. Women and girls should make their own decisions on whether and when to have sexual relations, get married, keep a pregnancy and have children – and they should be able to make those decisions free from coercion a
Abortion is going on regardless of whether it is legal or not. But when countries decriminalise the termination of pregnancies, mortality rates as a result of abortion are far lower than in countries where the practice is illegal.