WGNRR March 8, 2013 Statement: Stop Institutional Violence against Women! Ensure Access to Safe and Legal Abortion Now!

On the occasion of the International Women’s Day on March 8, 2013 coinciding with the 57th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (“CSW” or “the Commission”), the Women's Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR), draws attention of the Commission and the State parties, to the direct relationship  between violence against women and their ability to exercise sexual and reproductive rights (SRHR) without fear of violence and coercion.

Inability to exercise SRHR results in many acts of violence against women including rape, forced sterilisation, early marriage, female genital mutilation and assaults against transgendered individuals and those in same sex relationships. 

WGNRR also asserts that the lack of access to safe and legal abortion is an institutional violence against women. The lack of action on the part of the states to meet the needs of women constitutes an act of torture and inhuman treatment affecting all women but particularly impacting the most marginalised such as girls, young unmarried women, women with disabilities, HIV positive women, ethnic minorities, sex workers, LGBTQI and others. 

We also denounce the restrictive abortion laws enforced by the State as it infringes women’s human dignity and restrict freedoms to which individuals are entitled under the right to health, particularly in respect to decision-making and bodily integrity.

Similarly, we believe that when access to safe abortion is legal but services are inaccessible, because of cost or location, or lack of skilled providers, or because of mandatory waiting times or the requirement for multiple medical personnel to authorise the procedure, this also constitutes violence against women condoned by the State. By denying universal access to high quality abortion services, the State commits a violation of women’s right to autonomy and self-determination and inflicts psychological damage and mental suffering. WGNRR asserts that women seeking an abortion or post-abortion care in restrictive settings are subject to psychological violence. Such psychological violence includes but is not limited to: threats of harm and intimidation, withholding medical care, and inhuman and degrading treatment.

In the light of the gravity of institutional violence against women due to restrictions on access to abortion services, WGNRR, on the 103rd year of the International Women’s Day recommends to the Commission the following actions:
  • Repeal all laws criminalising, penalising and/or restricting women’s access to abortion services. Specifically, repeal laws restricting young women’s access to safe abortion services on grounds of requiring parental or spousal consent;
  • Ensure women who seek abortion services are not subjected to judicial and non-judicial persecution, including imprisonment, or to harassment and degrading treatment by state authorities, institutions, and non-state actors;
  • Implement current laws and public health policies that guarantee and uphold women's access to safe abortion services without restrictions, ensure that healthcare workers and health systems are equipped with the necessary knowledge, equipment and resources to provide safe abortion services.
  • Ensure that religious institutions and groups do not influence the state's judicial, policy and programming efforts in relation to sexual and reproductive health and rights. The sexual and reproductive rights and dignity of all must be guaranteed, not subject to constraints imposed by religious authorities.

We urge you to speak out and reach out your country’s official delegation to the CSW to ensure that SRHR and access to safe and legal abortion is heard at the Commission. 
You can join local actions, marches, forums and other protest/awareness raising activities organised by women’s movements on March 8. As defenders of sexual and reproductive rights from the Global South and the North, we will continue to raise our concerns at the international platforms as well as in community gatherings, in the workplace, on campus and in schools, in the streets and the parks, during cultural events, in the media, in the halls of parliament, and in the courts. 
Stop Institutional Violence against Women!
Ensure Access to safe and legal abortion now!

To view the listings of local actions worldwide, click here.
Vanessa Coria, Programme and Advocacy Manager
Marevic Parcon, Programme Officer