If you’d like to endorse the statement, please contact WGNRR’s Asia Programme Officer Marevic Parcon [email protected]
Every year over 28 million women and girls in Asia have unwanted pregnancies and 10.8 million of them seek abortions. However, due to abortion stigma and lack of access to safe abortion information and services, thousands of them seek help from untrained abortion providers and have unsafe abortions that often result in life-long disabilities or even death. In Asia unsafe abortions account for up to 12 percent of maternal and pregnancy related deaths.
Safe abortion services continue to remain an unmet need in Asia. Restrictive laws, stigmatization of abortion and limited availability of comprehensive health care facilities increase the likelihood of women seeking unsafe abortion services.
On the occasion of September 28 Global Day of Action for Safe and Legal Abortion, women’s organizations and networks in Asia demand to end the stigmatisation of abortion.
Although the legal status of abortion varies across the region, abortion is legally permitted in some countries to save a women’s life. Whether legal or illegal abortion is usually stigmatized. Legal restrictions further perpetuates abortion stigma that in many cases is exacerbated by religious fundamentalisms, politicians and gender inequalities.
Abortion stigma is complex, multi layered and affects both women and the providers. It is a negative attribute ascribed to women who seek to terminate a pregnancy and marks them, internally or externally, as inferior to ideals of womanhood. At the legal and policy level it plays an important role in justifying restrictive abortion laws.
Working to promote access to safe abortion is therefore critical, and access has to be ensured by tackling legal and social barriers simultaneously. Abortion stigma and myths about abortion have worked against the welfare of women and girls, by preventing them from accessing available safe abortion services, and in many places justifying restrictive laws that seek to control women’s bodies and fertility. These patriarchal laws and norms have to be rejected, and along with them gender stereotypes that prevent women from gaining power in society and making informed choices about their bodies.
Across Asia, networks, civil society organizations, feminists and advocates work to promote safe abortion as a human right. Unfortunately, these people are often targets of harassment both by fundamentalist groups and by the state. It is time to end such aggression and harassment and to create a peaceful environment that will foster conversations on sexual and reproductive rights.
Repeal all laws criminalising, penalising and/or restricting women and adolescents’ access to abortion services. Specifically repeal laws requiring parental or spousal consent for adolescents and young women’s access to safe abortion services.
Work towards removing socio-cultural barriers that reinforce gender stereotypes about motherhood and stigmatise girls, adolescents and women, preventing them from making free and informed decisions about their sexuality and their own bodies, and empower women to act as agents of change by ensuring comprehensive sexuality education to all girls and women.
End the harassment, criminalisation and aggression aimed at networks, civil society organisations, feminists and advocates of sexual and reproductive rights. Ensure security and integrity for the women’s rights defenders threatened by repressive mechanisms of the state or by civil groups which carry hatred and fundamentalism.
Ensure access to contraception, including emergency contraception, of high quality and variety, user friendly and appropriate to the needs of girls, adolescents and women, while ensuring their confidentiality.
End Abortion Stigma Now!
Statement endorsed by:
Asia Safe Abortion Partnership (ASAP), regional
Asian-Pacific Resource & Research Centre for Women (ARROW), regional
Center for Reproductive Rights, global
Human Rights Law Network, India
TARSHI (Talking About Reproductive and Sexual Health Issues), India
Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR), global