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Bodily autonomy and sexual rights are integral to development justice

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Bobby Ramakant, Citizen News Service (CNS)

Rudolf Bastian, LGBTIQ leader
Rudolf Bastian, LGBTIQ leader
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(CNS): The dream of development justice cannot be realized unless governments also recognize bodily autonomy and sexual rights for every human being, especially for those who are marginalized and seldom heard or 'visible'. If we look closely at the data, it will become evident that women and girls are among those key populations whose rights get violated when it comes to bodily integrity and sexual and reproductive health, and rights. Susmita Choudhary from International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) said that "sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) are not only women's issues but also issues of other constituencies we work with, and different areas we work on, are also linked to SRHR. It is indeed a cross-cutting issue!"

Susmita was moderating a special session before the intergovernmental meeting (Asia Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development - APFSD 2015) opens in Thailand.

Why is SRHR so important to post-2015 agenda?

Malyn Ando from Asian Pacific Resource Centre for Women (ARROW) explained why are SRHR issues so important for development justice and also for post-2015 sustainable development agenda. "SRHR are a set of interconnected human rights related to sexuality and reproduction of a person recognizing international laws, international human rights and consensus documents, and based upon the principles of bodily autonomy and integrity ('my body and my rights'); right of self-determination; equality (amongst men, women, transgender and intersex people); and respect cultural diversity."

Malyn Ando said: "SRHR concerns all human beings. If we cannot control our own bodies, sexualities, or fertility, then we cannot also fully access other rights such as economic, social, and cultural rights. It is about our health, getting information about sexuality and reproduction, and about choosing who we are! Whether we want to be sexually active or not - celibacy is also a valid option - whether two consenting people want to get married or not, have children or not - it is important to have that right to choose, and means to realize these rights, free from coercion or violence."

"Our governments too have an obligation to protect SRHR. SRHR is a critical development issue, and yet lot of gaps remain. In a study done by ARROW in 21 countries in Asia-Pacific, we found very little progress done on SRHR. For example, women are having less children but still they are having more children than they want. The burden of contraception still falls heavily on women - male sterilisation for example has a very poor or negligible uptake. Adolescent pregnancies still remain a challenge. Liberalisation of safe abortion policies has been too slow. More women die from reproductive cancers than child births or during pregnancy, yet our governments are not prepared to address this."

Malyn added: "SRHR is central to achieving gender equality, women's empowerment and achieve sustainable development. Poverty, disasters, climate change and conflicts are also linked to SRHR. Moreover SRHR is a smart investment for governments!"

Even where 'all looks good', look deeper to see inequities!

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