Access to Contraceptives

The right to "decide freely and responsibly" the number and spacing of one's children, and the right to a "satisfying and safe sex life” is clearly articulated in the Programme of Action of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD)in Cairo.  However, many women are still unable to exercise this right due to deficient government policy making and implementation, inadequate access to contraceptives, lack of education and autonomy in decision making and prohibitive social norms and religious beliefs. On the one hand, coercive population control policies in some places have led to forced sterilisation and use of other methods to prevent women from exercising their right to reproduce.  While at the same time, one in six married women are estimated to have an unmet need for family planning.  This means they want to postpone their next pregnancy or stop having children but they are not using a method of contraception; many unmarried women face the same challenge.  As a result, an incredible 76 million women in developing countries still experience unintended pregnancies each year and 19 million resort to unsafe abortion.1 , 2In recognition of the importance of this issue unmet need for family planning was added to the fifth Millennium Development Goal (MDG) as an indicator for tracking progress on improving maternal health.  Improvements are taking place but this needs to be accelerated.  Access to contraceptives therefore remains a central focus of our sexual and reproductive health and rights advocacy.


1UNFPA and PATH. Outlook.  Volume 25.  No. 1.  November 2008.
2“Abortion Worldwide:  A Decade of Uneven Progress,” Guttmacher Institute, October 2009