Saturday, April 16, 2011

Cairo Agenda reaffirmed

Hilde Kroes, advocay officer of Rutgers WPF, a member organisation of Wo=Men is in New York at the 44th Session of the Commission on Population and Development.

After a very intense week, the UN delegations in the Commission on Population and Development reached a consensus. Until the very last minute, it was doubtful if they could agree on the package made by the facilitator. The negotiations reflected the polarization among states about sexual and reproductive health and rights. The Holy See, even though they represent the smallest 'country' in the world, was particularly vocal against ANY language in relation to sexuality, reproductive health, reproductive rights, gender, abortion, family planning, reproductive health services. They not only deny that people have sexual and reproductive rights, they also question the concept of sexual health, and deny that condoms prevent hiv transmission. They even disagree that unsafe abortions account for maternal mortality.

The Arab group, consisting of 22 countries, negotiated as a block against comprehensive sexuality education for young people. They successfully lobbied for the inclusion of the guidance of parents when it comes to young people’s sexuality. We are quite unhappy about that, but governments also pushed for strong language about young people’s sexual and reproductive health. The Arab Group also pushed for language on sovereignty of the states, which is very bad for those countries where governments really don’t care about women’s rights and sexual and reproductive health and rights.

On the other hand, the Commission defended the progress made in advancing women’s rights and access to lifesaving health services, and reaffirms the commitment of an overwhelming majority of governments to reaching a key Millennium Development Goal. The MDG 5b target, universal access to reproductive health, is the most off track of all the MDGs. Especially countries like Zambia, South Africa, Urugay, Dominica, Brazil, the Netherlands and the Nordics were amazingly supporting our issues, countering concerns and deliberate misunderstandings of opposing countries.

We were with over 100 pro-choice people in New York supporting the delegations in their battle. This mobilization and the good relationships with the majority of UN member states shows that there is a strong global commitment towards achieving women’s rights and sexual and reproductive health and rights of all, especially of young people!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The fight for sexual and reproductive rights and women's rights continues...

Hilde Kroes, advocay officer of Rutgers WPF, a member organisation of Wo=Men is in New York at the 44th Session of the Commission on Population and Development.

Little over one month after the CSW, the world leaders gather again in New York to discuss the issue of "Fertility, Reproductive Health and Development", in light of the International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action, that was signed in 1994. This annual meeting - the UN Commission on Population and Development - holds its 44th session this week.

We knew already about a year ago, that this session would be spectacular. Of all issues, the world seems to be most divided when it comes to sexual and reproductive health and rights, and gender equality. Discussions around development and how sexual and reproductive health and rights contribute to that, in terms of human rights, public health and eliminating poverty seems to be narrowed down to heated debates about abortion, sexuality education and reproductive health services. At least, by some states of which among in the Arabic region and the Vatican. They would rather have a world without sex (if it is not to make babies).

Obviously, such a world does not exist. And daily, thousands of women, of which many are young, face great challenges and risks in the sexual and reproductive health. In some areas in Sub Sahara Africa, complications around pregnancy and childbirth is the leading cause of death among women aged 15-19. Millions of young people lack access to comprehensive sexuality education and access to commodities and services. Yearly, over 350000 women die needlessly due to these complications, of which are many caused by unsafe abortions.

We know all that. And we are here - again - to remind governments about these facts, and the needs that need to be addressed. More updates, from the UN building, will follow. Stay tuned!