The Asian Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women and our partners from Asia Pacific and the global south welcome the theme “Realizing the future we want: integrating population issues into sustainable development” for this year’s CPD. This could not be more appropriate, as this year’s CPD session is happening right before the week of Intergovernmental Negotiations for Post-2015’s Means of Implementation and Global Partnerships.
We would like to start by stating that it is highly imperative for sexual and reproductive health and rights to be recognized and fully included into next week’s agenda of negotiations. It is without a doubt that a world where people, especially women and girls, are empowered to have autonomy of their choices and their bodies is a just, equitable one and most definitely, a world where sustainable development can be fully realized. Sexual and reproductive health and rights issues are critically inter-linked with most, if not all, of the proposed Sustainable Development Goals and the post 2015 development agenda in its spirit and entirety. Further we stress that the unfinished agenda of the ICPD PoA after 20 years, which puts women’s equality, sexual and reproductive health and rights at the center of development, should be incorporated into the post-2015 agenda.
Sexual and reproductive health and rights do not exist in isolation. They are further exacerbated at the intersectionalities of poverty, and lack of food sovereignty, including food (in) security and nutrition (in) security. Sexual and reproductive health and rights for all remains unattainable when people are deprived of their most basic rights, including the right to food and nutrition for all. The Asia-Pacific region has the world’s biggest share of the most hungry people with poor people having to spend as much as 60-70% of their income on food, a problem growing with rising food prices. Women and girls are over-represented in this context, constituting almost 60% of the under-nourished population.
Asia-Pacific has one of the largest population of young people – a vulnerable set of population with unique needs and challenges. Being a young person is hard enough trying to navigate circumstances due to their age and economic positions that they do not need additional negative and judgmental experiences while accessing services. What they need is to be consulted upon and included into the planning of youth-friendly services as well as be provided with comprehensive sexuality education that would enable them to make informed choices. The term “youth-friendly” would have to be exactly that – welcoming and open to this set of population. We use the term “set of population” because the youth community is not a homogenous one, even though they are categorized as a singular group. Youth come in all shapes and sizes as well as social and economic backgrounds – youths living in rural areas, urban poor, refugee youths, youths living with disabilities and many more. When it comes to engaging stakeholders of any category, a “one size fits all” approach cannot be applied.
Increased migration is also a dire issue for sexual and reproductive health and rights, as amplified migration due to employment needs, conflicts, natural disasters or famine can reinforce traditional gender roles, perpetuate inequalities and expose women and girls to risks of violence and exploitation. Therefore we call for ensuring the protection of migrant rights, inclusive of their sexual and reproductive health and rights and the key role of migration issues in post-2015 agenda must not be left behind.
Correspondingly vital is that climate change impacts women and girls detrimentally, constraining access to services, and increasing maternal health risks and exposure to unhygienic conditions. Climate change continues to erode gender equality and achievement of SRHR. Hence, we demand for policy coherence of commitments to gender equality, SRHR, and addressing climate change, as well as increasing women’s access to decision-making structures and climate change resources. We also recommend that Post-2015 agenda endeavours to eliminate social, political, and economic barriers to women’s enjoyment of human rights as this increases women’s vulnerability to the impacts of climate change.
Religious extremisms and fundamentalisms in the region has created a harmful ripple effect towards limitation and regression on sexual and reproductive health and rights, such as access to contraceptives, safe abortion services, early and child marriages, female genital cutting, bodily integrity, and violence as well as the ability to access other rights such as education. There must be a recognition of the implications of extremism and fundamentalism on rights and the political will to address it. We demand for protection from all forms of violence, including domestic violence and rape, and for the protection against gender based violence to remain an integral component of the post-2015 agenda, and within a human rights framework.
We ask for a greater resource allocation within the health sector to improve health facilities and systems to enhance sexual and reproductive health services. Access to a rights-based continuum of quality healthcare across home, community and health facilities, including access to contraception, emergency obstetric care, breastfeeding protection, promotion and support, and skilled attendants at birth should be prioritized to minimize maternal deaths, morbidities and adolescent birth rates. Unsafe abortions remain a large contributor to maternal deaths as very few countries have made provisions for legal and safe abortion services.
In realizing the future we want, we call for the post 2015 agenda to address universal sexual and reproductive health and rights in a truly comprehensive way and beyond the scope of family planning. Any approach must recognise that full access to sexual and reproductive health and rights is inextricably linked with gender equality and its connecting elements.
For the Sustainable Development Goals to be truly transformative, development needs to be contemplated and tacked holistically. The overarching aim of the post 2015 agenda to eradicate poverty can only truly be made a reality if the lives and sexual and reproductive health and rights of peoples, especially women and girls, are put at the forefront and made to matter significantly.