Family Planning is Every Woman’s Rightby Yash Saboo July 27 2018, 2:18 pm Estimated Reading Time: 2 mins, 33 secs
“Parents have a basic human right to determine freely and responsibly the number and the spacing of their children.” This was declared fifty years ago, at the United Nations International Conference on Human Rights in Tehran, on 13 May 1968. And yet, millions of girls and women globally are still fighting to get access to the information and services necessary.
In developing regions, some 214 million women still lack safe and effective family planning methods, for reasons ranging from lack of information or services to lack of support from their partners or communities. This threatens their ability to build a better future for themselves, their families and their communities as family planning is not only a matter of human rights; it is also central to women’s empowerment, reducing poverty and achieving sustainable development.
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With World Population Day having just passed, I can’t help but think about what this means in relation to population. We know that 308 million unintended pregnancies are prevented each year using modern methods of contraception, and if we managed to meet the needs of all girls and women we would be able to avert 67 million more unintended pregnancies annually. And yet, as of 2015, there were approximately 35 countries globally that had at least one policy restricting girls and young women’s access to contraceptive services.
These policies include the exclusion of unmarried women from accessing contraception and the need for parental consent to uptake contraceptive services.
There are, in addition to laws, many other barriers that impede a girl or woman from accessing the full extent of her reproductive and sexual rights including (but not limited to) a lack of youth-friendly services, insufficient information, social stigma and financial resources.
Girls should have autonomy over their own bodies. Ensuring all girls and women realize their full sexual and reproductive health and rights are vital to achieving gender equality. What do we mean by realizing her sexual and reproductive rights? Simply put, it’s the right to make free and informed decisions. To have control over one’s sexual and reproductive health and lives, free from coercion, violence, discrimination and abuse.
Sophie, a 24-year-old young woman lives in Uganda. Her hobbies are crafts and jewellery-making. As a Sunday school teacher, she loves working with children. She is a founder of the Hands of Hope initiative, which offers counselling and training to teenage mothers and is currently studying for her master's degree. She is a sexual and reproductive rights advocate.
There are millions of young girls and women like Sophie who are trying to assert their own sexual and reproductive health choices. They have hopes, ambitions, and potential. They struggle because they have rich and complex lives, and because it’s their right.
Every girl and woman is different, and their hopes and dreams reflect those differences. However, despite all their personal diversities, their human rights are the same. They each have the right to decide, freely and responsibly, the number and spacing of their children.