WGNRR and ICW Oral Statement for the 58th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women

On behalf of the Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights and the International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS, I welcome the opportunity to represent today over a thousand organizations and individuals worldwide, who are committed to advancing sexual and reproductive rights.

While substantial progress has been made towards the achievement of the MDGs, the right of all women and girls to decide upon all aspects of their reproductive health has not been ensured. Women and girls living with HIV are particularly vulnerable to human rights violations when seeking sexual and reproductive health services. A recent report[1] published by the UNDP and affiliated partners revealed strong evidence of such violations, among them: discriminatory and humiliating treatment; forced sterilization and abortion; breaches of consent and confidentiality; physical and emotional violence and abuse; and denial of services, including access to voluntary safe abortion. These human rights violations have been experienced by HIV affected women and girls worldwide, affronting their dignity and degrading their personhood.

When states fail to recognize sexual and reproductive rights in a holistic way, they both tolerate and endorse institutional violence towards women. We thus call on Member States to end all forms of discrimination and violence against all women and girls, particularly those living with HIV. Member states must uphold their commitmentsas established in the ICPD Programme of Action and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, among them the right for all women to “have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality, including sexual and reproductive health, free of coercion, discrimination and violence.”[2] These rights have been asserted and demanded time and again, highlighted in human rights treatiesas well as in international and regional agreements.[3] Today, however, is not just about reaffirming past commitments and repeating past words; it’s about actioning obligations, and adapting to new realities in order to fulfill rights that for too long have been disregarded and even explicitly denied.The increasing feminization of the HIV epidemic entails that any development strategy overly focusing on preventing new infections, without accounting for the rights of HIV positive women and girls, will not only come up short but actively perpetuate violence and discrimination. As such, we urge Member States to ensure that sexual and reproductive health goals remain part of the Post-2015 Development Agenda, with explicit recognition of the sexual and reproductive rights of HIV affected women and girls.

Of the many lessons we have learned from the MDGs, one of the most critical is the imperative of adopting a rights-based approach to development. In this sense, it is our joint responsibility and necessity to position gender-based responses to HIV within a sexual and reproductive rights framework, in order to account for the wider contexts within which rights violations occur, and achieve the holistic wellbeing of all women. Thank you.   

UNDP et al (2013). “Protecting the Rights of Key HIV-Affected Women and Girls in Healthcare Settings: A Legal Scan.”

[2]Report of the ICPD (1994), Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, par. 96 (1995).

[3]CEDAW (Article 16.1 (e)), Maputo Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa (Article 14.1 and 14.2) and theICPD Global Youth Forum Declaration, the Montevideo Consensus on Population and Development, and the Report of the 6th Asian and Pacific Population Conference.