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Ensuring Women and Girls’ Sexual and Reproductive Health and Reproductive Rights in the Post-2015 Agenda

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This 28 May 2015, on the international day for action on women’s health, the Women’s Global May-28-slogan-finalNetwork for Reproductive Rights (WNGRR) and partners launched a Call to Action to ensure that women and girls’ sexual and reproductive health rights are included within the Post-2105 agenda.

The action called on governments worldwide to respect, protect, and fulfill women’s right to health, dignity and bodily integrity, and end violence against women in ALL its forms, including the one form of violence particularly experienced by women and girls if they are young, unmarried, poor, HIV affected, of diverse sexual orientations or gender identities, living with a disability, or in other vulnerable situations, that remains rampant and unaddressed: namely, the institutional violence they experience when they are denied their right to health and are unable to access sexual and reproductive health services. 

“Institutional violence,” or violence perpetrated by the State, has traditionally been understood as largely occurring within extreme circumstances of conflicts, disasters, and economic crises.[3] As defined by the 1993 UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, however, violence against women includes “physical, sexual and psychological violence perpetrated or condoned by the State or its agents regardless of where it occurs.”[4] With this definition in mind, examples of violence and discrimination resulting from the violation of women’s right to sexual and reproductive health are far too common and widespread, such as:

  •  The denial of the right to access safe and legal abortion services, thereby forcing women through restrictive abortion laws to carry to term an unwanted pregnancy, even if it puts their health and life at risk, or even in cases of rape or incest, subjecting them to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, particularly if women are then criminalized and incarcerated;
  • Forced or coerced sterilization or abortion, as all too often experienced by women living with HIV, women living with disabilities, individuals of diverse SOGI, among others;
  • Obstetric violence, discrimination and denial of medical care to pregnant women, particularly if they are single and/or unmarried, forcing them to go through their pregnancy and/or labour in unsafe and life-threatening conditions;
  • The denial of young people’s access to comprehensive SRH services, particularly in the form of denying access to emergency contraception even in cases of rape, thereby subjecting young women and girls to forced teenage pregnancy and exacerbating the violence they already experienced.

While these examples may seem extreme, they happen all too frequently, and share a common root cause: namely, the denial of women’s right to sexual and reproductive health, and the denial of women and girls’ right to exercise autonomous decision-making over their bodies and their lives. The denial of these rights results in violence against women[5] and in some cases results in cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment paramount to torture, as recognized by Human Rights Bodies.[6]
As a follow-up to the action, WNGRR submitted a letter to the delegates of 58 UN Member States who delivered a joint statement in support of SRHR at the OWG13 session.

See the original call to action here: http://www.may28.org/call-to-action/, and the final letter to UN delegates endorsed by 177 organizations and 290 individuals worldwide here.


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