Today is International Day of Action For Women’s Health and a renewed push to ensure that every woman and girl has her right to bodily autonomy recognized worldwide.
To mark the day the Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights is launching its Call for Action 2012: “Full Recognition of Young People’s Sexual and Reproductive Rights! Recognise Reproductive Rights! Mobilise for Reproductive Justice!” The campaign is designed to reinforce the importance of recognition, protection and international adoption of sexual and reproductive rights of young people as human rights.
The call to action revolves around three key platforms, each of which is crucial in a full recognition of the human rights of young people recognized and legitimized by the state.
• The right of young people to decide on all matters related to their sexuality;
• Access to sexual and reproductive health services, including safe abortion where legal, that respect confidentiality and do not discriminate;
• The right of youth to comprehensive sexuality education;
• Protection and promotion of young people’s right to control their sexuality free from violence, discrimination, and coercion.
The need for such a day is clear by the WGNRR:
With more than 3 billion under the age of 25, this is the largest generation of young people in history. 85% of them live in the Global South, coming of age in the midst of systemic economic, social and political injustice. They are often deprived of access to basic education, and identified as high risk populations for HIV and other infections. Young women are disproportionately more vulnerable to maternal mortality and morbidity, and have restrictions placed on their freedoms and choices related to their lives, marriage and children. Worldwide, around 10 million girls under the age of 18 are married every year—often without their consent, before they are physically, emotionally and mentally ready for such a relationship. The practice is most prevalent in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, despite laws in most countries banning the practice.
As is always the case, a focus on sexual health extends beyond family planning services.
Almost a quarter of people living with HIV are under the age of 25. Globally, young people ages 15-24 represent 45 per cent of all new HIV infections. At least 95 per cent of all new infections occur in less developed countries. HIV positive young people equally face stigma and discrimination based on their HIV status. Oftentimes, programmes for YPLHIV do not take into account their sexuality or needs; denying them accurate and sensitive information and services that cater to them.
The consequences, when these realities go unaddressed, are tragic.
Every five minutes a young person commits suicide; often due to emotional and social problems related to sexual and reproductive health, such as sexual violence and the breakdown of relationships. Often among those put under unbearable emotional pressure by both individuals and the state are young people of diverse of gender and sexual identities. In many countries, the equal rights of gay, lesbian, transgender, intersex and other people of diverse sexual identities are yet not recognised, it is them who have to bear the biggest share of prejudice and discrimination; which makes their access to services, commodities, and information even more difficult; and denies them their basic rights.
The Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights’ call to action is equally fundamental and precise and calls on members:
• To renew your commitment to the vision of young people exercising and enjoying the full spectrum of their sexual and reproductive rights.
• To support and promote young people’s meaningful participation, leadership, involvement, and engagement at all levels and types of decision making in your working structures as well as at the level of policy making, in keeping with prior resolutions.
• To strengthen the old, and build new and genuine alliances with the young people’s movements through joint events, collaborative campaigning, combined fund raising, and meaningful solidarity.
There could hardly be a clearer picture of why reproductive and sexual rights are fundamental rights.
Photo from hdptcar via flickr.