Gender Equality and SRHR: Crucial Components of the Asia-Pacific Roadmap for Agenda 2030*

November 11, 2015 aprcem@agenda2030roadmapexpertconsultation_9-10nov2015

Expert Consultation on Implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific; UN ESCAP, 9-10 November 2015

The Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development is an ambitious and transformative sustainable development agenda for the world, and it requires an equally ambitious and transformative regional response. The interlinked and integrated nature of the goals is crucial to achieving the agenda and is imperative to be reflected in the creation of a Roadmap for the region. All the unique priorities and dimensions of this region—social, economic and environmental—must be addressed in order to achieve sustainable and just development. Moreover, for a people-centered development in Asia and the Pacific, the roadmap must be underpinned by principles of gender equality, human rights, and development justice.

The Agenda 2030 pledges to “leave no one behind,” and to prioritize those who are farthest behind first. This cannot be achieved if the needs and rights of the people in Asia Pacific, the largest in the world, are not prioritized. Nor can it be achieved if we do not consider the rights and needs of various constituencies and marginalised populations, such as women, rural and urban poor, young people, indigenous people, farmers, fisherfolk, people with disability, people living with and affected by HIV, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer/questioning (LGBTIQ), people affected by conflicts and disasters, older people, and migrants.

Marginalized populations are vulnerable to human rights violations, such as forced abortion and sterilization of women with disabilities and women living with HIV, forced pregnancy and HIV testing of migrants, and criminalization of consensual sexual relations and sex work. Women with lower or no education, poor women, women who lived in remote, hard-to-reach areas have less access to contraception and other sexual and reproductive health services and find it hard to realize the autonomy of their bodies. Young people are unable to access critical sexual and reproductive health services because of the need for parental and/or marital consents. Comprehensive sexuality education is also widely unavailable in formal and informal education systems. Religion, religious fundamentalism and extremism, as well as cultural and traditional practices, are key factors that contribute to the above limiting of rights of women, young people and people of diverse sexualities. These also restrict and criminalise abortion, thus forcing women to avail unsafe and illegal abortions and thereby endangering their lives and health. These leave women vulnerable to violence including sexual violence, rape, marital rape, female genital mutilation, honour crimes, and early, forced and child marriages.

Asia and the Pacific is the most disaster-prone region in the world, and disasters, climate-related events and conflict exacerbate existing inequalities. This worsens an already precarious environment for achieving gender equality, sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), and poverty eradication. Women of all ages in all their diversity are disproportionately negatively impacted by climate disasters and conflict, and are particularly vulnerable to gender-based violence. Intensified levels of insecurity on roads and lack of transport may limit women’s mobility and therefore be a barrier to accessing to healthcare. The lack of access to contraceptives, safe abortion and skilled delivery services may expose women to unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions and childbirth in dire situations.

Realization of full gender equality and the human rights of women and girls, including SRHR, are essential to achieve sustainable development. Sexual and reproductive health problems take a huge toll on lives, families, societies and economies —and public budgets—yet they are preventable, with proven, cost-effective solutions. Investing in sexual and reproductive health and rights has high payoffs for poverty eradication, social, economic and sustainable development, and for equality and equity.[1] For example:

  • Meeting the unmet need for modern contraception and achieving universal access to SRH services by 2030 is estimated to yield impressive returns of US$120 for every dollar spent, and over US$400 billion in annual benefits.
  • Integrating life-saving antiretroviral treatment to people living with HIV will yield US$10 for every US$1 spent.
  • Satisfying demand for contraception in low and middle-income countries could save US$5.7 billion in maternal and newborn healthcare costs alone. Increasing health expenditure for reproductive, maternal and newborn health by just US$5 per person per year through 2035 in 74 countries with high child and maternal mortality, could yield up to 9 times that value in economic and social benefits, including by preventing the deaths of 147 million newborns and children and 5 million women and increasing labour force participation and productivity.
  • There are similar arguments for achieving gender equality, addressing gender-based violence, and investing in young people.
  • The fulfillment of commitments already agreed and included in Agenda 2030—including the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD PoA) and their subsequent review documents, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)—are building blocks to realizing gender equality and fulfillment of SRHR, and achieving the sustainable development agenda.

A robust, transparent and participatory follow-up and review process is critical to ensure that all stakeholders are accountable for the commitments that have been made. Full civil society participation in regional reviews is a crucial part of this process. The Asia Pacific Regional Civil Society Engagement Mechanism (RCEM) should be institutionalized as the key stakeholder mechanism in the Regional Roadmap.

* This document was developed by the following members of the Gender, Sexuality and SRHR Thematic Working Group of AP RCEM: Asia Pacific Alliance for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (APA); Apcaso -Strengthening Community Systems Advancing Human Rights Asia Pacific; Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW); International Planned Parenthood Federation East and South East Asia and Oceania Region (IPPF ESEAOR); International Planned Parenthood Federation South Asia Regional Office (IPPF SARO); Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH); Youth LEAD (Asia Pacific Network of Young Key Populations)

[1] Source: High-level Task Force for ICPD. Smarter Investments for Financing the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

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