September 25, 2023
United Nations Special Rapporteurs, Working Groups and independent experts emphasized the urgency of upholding sexual and reproductive rights, particularly in times of emergencies, humanitarian crises and conflicts.
This is especially important to consider as the world approaches Contraception Day on September 26 and International Safe Abortion Day on September 28. Experts highlighted the pressing need for comprehensive action and made sure it was spelt loud and clear in a statement published on Monday, September 25.
In the statement, they acknowledged progress being made in decriminalizing abortion in some nations, but expressed concerns over persistent neglect and potential regression of sexual and reproductive health rights in several other regions.
They emphasized the integration of these rights with fundamental human liberties, including the right to life, freedom from torture, privacy, health, education and equality.
The statement underscored that these rights play a pivotal role in achieving sustainable and equitable development, aligning with the UN Secretary General’s ‘Our Common Agenda’ and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly Goal 1 ‘no poverty’ and Goal 5 ‘gender equality’. However, these rights continue to be a subject of contentious political debate.
Amidst ongoing global crises, the experts also voiced alarm over heightened risks of violations against sexual and reproductive health rights, particularly impacting women and girls. They further pointed out that individuals from marginalized groups, including LGBTIQA+ persons, ethnic and racial minorities, displaced populations, and those facing political persecution, are especially vulnerable and often experience further marginalization during crises.
The experts urgently called for robust commitments from states to ensure continuous access to modern contraceptives, including emergency options, and to safeguard legal and safe abortion services. They also stressed the need for training healthcare providers to offer safe abortion and post-abortion care, while also regulating conscientious objection.
The experts also advocated for comprehensive sexuality education, enabling individuals to make autonomous decisions regarding their bodies. Highlighting the potential of digital innovation and technology, they stresses its capacity to bridge gaps in access to sexual and reproductive health services, especially for remote and marginalized communities. They urged investment in overcoming gender disparities in technology access.
The statement emphasized inclusive policies, evidence-based proposals, well-funded services, and adherence to international human rights standards.
The principles of non-discrimination, equality, empowerment, participation, and accountability were reaffirmed as central to protecting these rights. The experts collectively denounced efforts to curtail women’s rights for political or ideological reasons.
In a call to action, the experts urged governments, local NGOs, UN agencies, and partners to prioritize support for the most vulnerable, with a shared vision of creating healthier and more just societies.