Written Statement jointly submitted by the Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights (YCSRR) and the International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC) at the 48th Session of the Commission on Population and Development.
The International Women’s Health Coalition and the Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights welcome the opportunity to emphasize the importance of integrating population and development issues into the sustainable development agenda. Sustainable development will only occur when all individuals, including young people and adolescents, can fully realize their human rights. We firmly call upon the members of the 48th session of Commission on Population and Development to ensure a rights-based post 2015 development agenda that promotes and protects the sexual and reproductive health and rights of all young people and adolescents.
For young people, especially young people who belong to the most marginalized and stigmatized populations, many barriers continue to impede the full realization of their sexual and reproductive health and rights. They are regularly denied their rights to comprehensive sexuality education and to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, including safe and legal abortion, post-abortion care, emergency contraception, and HIV prevention, treatment, and care, among other essential services. Young people of diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions, young people living with and affected by HIV, and young people who engage in sex work, continue to be criminalized. Punitive legislation, together with discrimination, violence, stigma, and harmful norms about what is considered “appropriate” sexual behavior prevent young people from accessing quality youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services and realizing their human rights.
More than 20 years after the International Conference on Population and Development, the following facts remain:
- Approximately 34% of 20-24 year-old women in developing countries to be married before the age of 18 (12% married or in union before the age of 15) .
- Adolescents girls are significantly more likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth than those over age 20.
- In 2010, young people aged 15–24 accounted for 42% of new HIV infections in people aged 15 and older. Among young people living with HIV, nearly 80% (4 million) live in sub-Saharan Africa.
Young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights can no longer be deemed “too controversial”. All over the world, millions of women and young people are demanding justice. We call on governments to do better.
- We demand the full realization of the right to quality education for all young people, in formal and informal education systems. Such education must be gender-sensitive and accessible to all adolescents and young people, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, identity, or expression, disability, ethnicity, location, social, economic, or other status.
- We demand universal access to comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) for all young people and adolescents, in and out of school, is an urgent priority that can have a transformative impact for the world’s 1.8 billion young people. Grounded in human rights and based on scientifically-accurate information, CSE must address issues of gender, power, and human rights, enabling young people to make informed choices about their health and lives, negotiate healthy relationships, understand their rights, challenge gender norms and resist child, early and forced marriage. It places and emphasis on engaging learners to question prevailing norms that place a lower value of women and girls by helping them form personal and critical reflections about gender norms and gender inequalities.
- We demand universal access to safe, legal and accessible abortion. Adolescents and young women aged 15-24 account for 40% of all unsafe abortions worldwide and three million unsafe abortions occur every year among this age group. Even where abortion is legal, young women are more likely to seek out unsafe abortions because of economic, social, and legal barriers that prevent them from accessing services. Guaranteeing women’s and young people’s rights to make decisions about their own bodies and lives must be at the center of a rights-based post-2015 agenda.
- We demand the inclusion of all people and condemn discrimination. We call on governments to demonstrate their political commitment to sexual and reproductive health and rights by prioritizing the removal of financial and legal obstacles to essential services and repealing discriminatory laws and practices that violate young people’s human rights. Sustainable development will be achieved only if young people are able to make decisions about their bodies and lives.
To carry forward these demands, the development and implementation of the post-2015 agenda must ensure the participation of all stakeholders, including civil society. The processes for shaping and implementing the agenda must be transparent and participatory, ensuring the real and meaningful participation of young people and historically marginalized populations. We are hopeful that we are moving towards a more just world where all people, including young people and adolescents in all their diversity, are able to realize their human rights, including their sexual and reproductive health and rights.