RESURJ: Making a Feminist Statement at the United Nations

This week at the Commission on Population and Development at the United Nations, our colleagues in the newly formed feminist alliance RESURJ, which IWHC is funding, have been very active in shaking things up. Last night they got to make the following statement – in video and transcription below.

At this CPD, an alliance of feminist activists, from 14 countries in the global South come to hold all of you, our governments, accountable for ensuring that you re-commit to sexual and reproductive health and human rights, particularly of women and young people.

In India, more than 50% of children are sexually abused, 78% of young people less than 20 years don’t know about safer sex, 49% of girls get married before the age of 18 years and nearly 45% of all new HIV infections are in people under 25 years of age. We are a population of more than 300 million young people, we are still struggling to make sexuality education and youth friendly health services available. This is inexcusable, governments do not have the right to play with our lives in the name of economics and prosperity. Put our rights first!

Young women’s Sexuality in Indonesia is invisible. In 2010, 57% of new HIV infections were among young people, half of them young women. Within our Health Law, young people are entitled to information on reproductive health but do not have access to an HIV test, contraception, or a safe abortion service

In Egypt, despite the fact that the 2009 World Health Statistics confirm that about 60% of Egyptians use some form of contraception, research indicates that family planning messages are not reaching women in communities. Moreover, a survey carried out in 2008 found that 83% of Egyptian women reported being exposed to sexual harassment on the streets on a daily basis.

Even though Poland has been part of the European Union for seven years, Polish women are still denied their basic sexual and reproductive rights especially the right to choose. Polish law on abortion is one of the most restrictive in Europe, with dramatic consequences for the health and lives of women. With a population of almost 40 million, 10 million women of them in reproductive age, the annual number of legal procedures is around 500 but the number of illegal abortions, many of them unsafe, is estimated between 80 and 190 thousand a year. The ban on abortion hits poor women the most, as they cannot afford to travel abroad for a safe procedure.

Despite being a middle-income country, in Mexico the percentage of pregnant women living with HIV receiving profilaxis treatment is estimated to be between 5 and 9%. However, reproductive rights violations such as mandatory sterilization and discrimination of health services is a daily reality.

In Kenya, there are many cases of young women who are arrested on prostitution charges, using the fact that they are carrying condoms as evidence.  This is counter-productive and contradictory.  If the government prioritizes the procurement and distribution of female condoms, putting the control over sexual & reproductive health in the hands of women, fertility rates decline naturally.  Currently, the contraceptive prevalence rate for women between 15-49 years is less than 40%.  Instead of investing in women’s sexual and reproductive health, millions of shillings are being spent on male circumcision, leaving millions young women & girls vulnerable.  Finally, at least 3 months of school time is lost for thousands of poor girls around the country who do not have access to sanitary towels – this is a total disgrace.  We simply cannot talk about population and development if we are not addressing the crtical needs of women and adolescent girls who make up more than half of the nation’s population.

The RESURJ Alliance places women’s and young people’s human rights, particularly sexual and reproductive rights, participation in decision-making, and accountability at the center of health programs and development efforts.

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