ICPD+15 in asia : report finds asia lagging behind in women’s health

December 23, 2009 logo





The 1994 PROGRAMME OF ACTION of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD PoA) called for the achievement by 2015 of universal access to a package of basic reproductive health services and for specific measures to foster human development, with particular attention to women. The Asian-Pacific Resource & Research Centre for Women’s (ARROW), based in Kuala Lumpur, has been monitoring and reviewing the implementation of the ICPD PoA in the region periodically.


ARROW’s most recent report ‘Reclaiming & Redefining Rights – ICPD+15: Status of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Asia’ is the culmination of 15 years of monitoring. Encompassing 12 countries in Asia, this is the only report of its’ kind in Asia and covers 80 indicators[i] which emphasises women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights. The report shows mixed results in terms of progress in achieving the commitments of the PoA and points to areas where urgent improvement is needed to achieve the full realization of the PoA.


The report shows that political will of governments is crucial in ensuring positive sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) outcomes.  Reducing maternal deaths in Malaysia and Thailand; providing safe abortion services in Vietnam and China; addressing reproductive cancers in Malaysia; reducing fertility in China, India and Indonesia; passing legislation to recognize same-sex sexual relationships and transgenderism in Nepal are concrete examples of political will towards SRHR. More generally in all countries, passing legislation on domestic violence and providing VCT and ART are examples of governments acting in accordance to international standards acted upon by national and regional catalysts.


Despite some considerable successes, access to marginalised groups is a concern across all countries: women who are poor, less educated, are younger, live in remote and/or rural areas, from tribal groups, from ethnic minorities, from lower castes face greater difficulties in accessing services and realizing autonomy of their bodies.


The other large gap is that policy-making and programme development continue to relegate sexuality and the role of sexuality to the reproductive functions and shifting the paradigm to the non-reproductive functions, continues to be a challenge. This is most amply demonstrated by the lack of access to comprehensive sex and sexuality education for adolescents; and the lack of recognition to the concepts of marital rape and sexual harrassment, the role of sex-work as well as the sexual and reproductive rights of people of diverse sexual and gender identities.


Regional disparities have also been noted: maternal health outcomes in South Asia are abysmal and action by governments needs to be stepped up.


The report makes 4 main recommendations:


Policy change needs to be underpinned by commitment to the ICPD POA and respectful of reproductive rights and sexual rights;

Universal access to affordable, quality gender-sensitive sexual and reproductive health services through functional and integrated health systems starting from the primary health care level needs to be ensured;

Continued and sustained investments in women sexual and reproductive health and rights by both the government and the donors;

Improve access to adolescents, marginalized groups of women and those with diverse sexual orientation and gender identities.

Other issues covered in this report include contraception, pregnancy and childbirth-related mortality and morbidity, abortion, reproductive cancers, STIs, HIV/AIDS, adolescent sexuality education and sexual rights.


This report is available online at the ARROW website. To view it, please click here.


To obtain full details of the report please contact:


Sai Jyothi: [email protected], or


Sulo: [email protected]


[i]ARROW, with input and verification from 22 national partners across 12 countries, collected and analysed the 80 cross-country indicators for the ICPD+15 project. These 80 indicators were divided into 5 different sections: women’s empowerment, reproductive health, reproductive rights, sexual health and sexual rights, ensuring that each aspect of sexual and reproductive health and rights were covered.


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