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in brief: experts reiterate gender equality impossible without sexual and reproductive health and rights

An old refrain has rung loud and true this week: sexual and reproductive health and rights are integral to the empowerment of women.

A number of organisations congregated in New York on Monday to discuss the role of said health care and rights in women’s lives at an International Planned Parenthood Foundation forum.

Western Hemisphere IPFF Director, Carmen Barroso told the crowd securing such status for women ‘goes to the very heart of poverty eradication and development goals’.

‘Sexual and reproductive health and rights give women the ability to control their fertility which, in turn, affects many other aspects of their lives – employment, education, family life, and social and economic participation,’ Barroso said.

‘It’s the freedom from which all other freedoms flow.’

Scientific studies show low education levels correlate with increased risk of maternal mortality, and two thirds of the world’s 1.4 billion people living in extreme poverty line are women.

An IPFF report launched at the event – marking the 20th anniversary of the United Nations Beijing+20 Platform for Action – outlined a number of recommendations for governments and multilateral organisations, including:

  • Commitment to women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, and to sustain services to secure them,
  • Ending domestic and gender-based violence,
  • Measuring successes and failures in relation to gender equality policy,
  • And engaging men in the fight for gender equality, through programs aimed at achieving the aforementioned rights

The report has increasing global and local significance.

The Iranian parliament is considering a policy regression, seeking tighter restrictions on contraceptives, voluntary sterilisation and abortion.

In our own Australian backyard, the New South Wales Liberal and Labor parties have admitted they have no interest in decriminalising abortion in the lead up to the state election on March 28.

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