Posted by Maria Codina on February 25, 2019 at 1:14 pm
Health and bodily integrity lie at the heart of well-being for all. Sexual and reproductive health and rights are critical elements of health and bodily integrity, pecially for women and girls. Poor health and violations of bodily integrity are not only poor development outcomes, but also violations of fundamental human rights. Healthy and well-spaced and timed pregnancies, together with protection from infections with HIV, and other sexually transmitted diseases, have a large mpact on women and girls’ health and lives. In order for that impact to be positive, women and girls need to have the freedom to make choices about fertility, pregnancies, contraception and on how to protect themselves and be protected from HIV and other STIs.
Access to sexual and reproductive health services as well as comprehensive information and education is indispensable to support women and girls in making these choices. For that impact to be positive and women and girls’ health and bodily integrity to be promoted and realised, they need to be able to choose and decide on sexual partners and relations, and when desired, on their marriage partner. And it requires that women and girls are free from violence, discrimination and coercion, and in particular to be free from child marriage, female genital mutilation and other harmful practices. That points to the need to challenge gender
inequalities and patriarchal norms and practices, and to promote gender equitable relations that respect and promote consent, freedom and choice of all women and girls. These gender relations manifest themselves in intimate relations, marriage, and communities, as well as in interactions with health service providers or police or judiciary officers.
This year marks the fifteenth anniversary of the Maputo Protocol, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, adopted in 2003. This anniversary offers an excellent opportunity to take stock of gaps and contestations around the realisation of women and girls’ rights, and to identify where progress needs to be accelerated.
The upcoming 25-year review of the ICPD (International Conference on Population and Development, ICPD+25) also calls for review of progress made. This review, especially in connection to the five-year review of the Addis Ababa Declaration of Population and Development in Africa Beyond 2014 (AADPD+5), provides the moment to see where progress has stalled, and what the unfinished business is for the near future in realising women and girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights. Achieving full gender equality in all spheres of life is a critical element of the ‘aspirations of the Africa we want’ articulated in Agenda 2063. Addressing the unfinished agenda is also keyto realising the SDGs, and in particular SDG Three and Five. Sexual and reproductive health as well as financing for health systems are key priorities to meeting SDG Three (to promote healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages). In order to meet SDG Five (to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls), more efforts are needed to end gender-based violence against women and girls, as well as harmful practices, such as child marriage and FGM. It also requires women and girls being able to make decisions about sexual relations and partners, and about choice of contraception and access to and use of SRH services and information. Addressing this unfinished business is of pivotal importance as we embark on the last three years of the Africa Women’s Decade (2010-20), that aims to hold government to account on their continental and international commitments for gender equality and women and girls’
empowerment. This State of African Women report aims to contribute to the realisation and promotion of women and girls’ rights, in particular in SRHR, by raising awareness of the commitments and tracking progress made towards their full implementation.
Read the ‘The state of African women Report’