Young women and girls deserve empowerment and ownership over their sexual and reproductive rights. Access and education are key aspects of that empowerment.
- Less than 25% of married girls between 15-24 years in Africa and South Asia have used contraception
- In developing countries, complications from pregnancy are the leading cause of death among adolescent girls age 15-19; risks include prolonged labor, fistula, and infection after giving birth
- Even though the UK is ranked second highest for contraception use, it remains one of the highest for teenage pregnancies and abortion rates in Western Europe
- During 2012, the US placed 43 abortion restrictions in 19 states
A woman’s rights to control her sexual reproductive health and choices are some of the most robustly contested rights worldwide regardless of socioeconomic status, religion or education. We believe that the right to exercise control over one’s own sexuality and reproduction is fundamental for all people.
These rights are important for both men and women but women, especially young women, are not only more vulnerable than men to sexually transmitted infections, HIV and violence, in addition, traditional practices such as FGM/C and forced child marriage further threaten the sexual and reproductive health of girls and women. Universal and free access to SRHR (Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights) is necessary in order to address these social, economic, and political inequalities.
FGM- What may appear to some as an easy solution to a life-threatening problem – “just stop doing it because it is harmful”- the reality is that there are an array of cultural and societal beliefs and practices that must be addressed in order to eradicate female genital mutilation (FGM). It is not a matter of criminalizing the practitioners but of changing the behavior of communities if we want to defend the human rights of women and girls.
Child Marriage- In Senegal it is estimated that 33% of girls are married before they turn 18. In Malawi it is close to 50% and in Niger it is 75%. According to Lakshmi Sundaram, Global Coordinator for Girls Not Brides, child marriage “holds girls back.” “This practice is denying millions of girls their opportunity to thrive, and getting married as children denies girls the ability to determine their own paths. It is an infringement of girls’ rights and threatens their health and makes them more likely to drop out of school, contributing not just to their personal underdevelopment but that of the whole community.”
- Complications in pregnancy and childbirth are among the leading causes of death in girls aged 15-19 in low and middle income countries.
- When a mother is under 20 her child is 50% more likely to die within its first weeks of life than a baby born to a mother in her 20s.
- Girls under 15 are 5 times more likely to die in childbirth than women aged 20-24.
HIV/AIDS- The world’s women are at disproportionately greater risk than men for HIV and AIDS. According to UNAIDS, in 2008 women in Sub-Saharan Africa accounted for 60% of HIV infections.
Roles: In many countries women have a limited role in their ability to protect their sexual and reproductive lives.
Violence: If women fear violence they are more vulnerable to HIV; if they fear abuse they are less likely to get tested for the virus.
Education: Low status prevents women and girls from obtaining an education which robs women of having a voice at home and in their community.
But with these powers women become active agents in the prevention of HIV/AIDS.
While this is not a comprehensive list of all the issues and agendas surrounding SRHR it is a peeling away of the layers in order to reveal the complexities and interconnectedness of the problems and possible solutions.