Joint Oral Statement at the 47th Session of the Commission on Population and Development

Submitted by ICW Global and WGNRR at the 47th Session of the Commission on Population and Development (CPD47), April 7th – 11th, 2014
 
On behalf of the International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS, the Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights, and the undersigned organizations, I value the opportunity to represent over a thousand organizations and individuals worldwide, who are committed to advancing sexual and reproductive rights.  
 
As a young woman, I welcome that both the ICPD Programme of Action and reviews of its implementation acknowledge violence against women as “one of the most prevalent forms of human rights violations worldwide,”(1) constraining women’s empowerment and impeding sustainable development. Yet one form of violence, particularly experienced by young women
and girls, remains rampant and unaddressed: namely, the institutional violence when they are unable to access sexual and reproductive health services.  
 
Now some might dismiss this language as too radical. However this language isn’t actually new: as defined by the 1993 UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, violence against women includes “physical, sexual and psychological violence perpetrated or condoned by the State or its agents regardless of where it occurs.” (2) With this in mind, let’s reflect on what numbers of young women and girls experience when trying to access sexual and reproductive health services, particularly if they are unmarried, poor, HIV affected, of diverse sexual orientations or gender identities, living with a disability, or in other vulnerable situations.  All too often they are turned away, humiliated, or ostracized; subjected to emotional or physical abuse; or denied their right to health and bodily autonomy as a result of parental consent limitations. Nowhere is this abuse more evident than when young women and girls in vulnerable situations undergo forced sterilization or abortion; or inversely, when they are coerced by restrictive laws to carry unwanted pregnancies, even resulting from rape or incest, and thereby subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, as acknowledged by the Committee against Torture and other human rights bodies.  
 
In light of these realities, I ask you: how can consigning young women and girls to the emotional turmoil, physical abuse, psychological pain and trauma resulting from obstructive laws and patriarchal norms, be described as anything other than State condoned and perpetuated violence?  
 
As recently asserted by CEDAW, the “failure of a State to provide services and the criminalization of some services that only women require is a violation of women’s reproductive rights and constitutes discrimination against them.” And as established in Article 6 of the Belem do Para Convention, the right of every woman to be free from violence includes the right to be free
from all forms of discrimination.  
 
In 1994, governments promised young women and girls that their human rights would be promoted and protected, including their right to be free from coercion, discrimination, and violence. If left unaddressed, the above forms of structural and institutional violence will render meaningless any efforts towards women’s empowerment.  Governments are capable of more,
and young women and girls deserve more. It’s high time we ensure young women and girls’ sexual and reproductive rights, and eradicate violence against women in all its forms. Thank you.   
 
This statement was delivered on behalf of the International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS (ICW Global), the Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR), and the following endorsing organizations:  
 
Aliansi Remaja Independen (ARI), Indonesia  
Asia Pacific Alliance for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (APA)
ASTRA Youth
Colectiva Mujer y Salud, Dominican Republic
Dandelion Africa, Kenya
Federation for Women and Family Planning, Poland
Generation Initiative for Women and Youth Network (GIWYN), Nigeria
Health Education and Research Association (HERA), Macedonia
Women’s Promotion Centre, Tanzania
Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights (YCSRR)
   
  
1. Framework of Actions for the follow-up to the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development Beyond 2014 (2014), p. 36, retrieved on 14 March, 2014 from http://icpdbeyond2014.org/uploads/browser/files/icpd_global_review_repor...  
2. 1993 UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, Retrieved on 14 March 2014 from http://www.un.org/documents/ga/res/48/a48r104.htm.