On March 8, the Center for Reproductive Rights joins women around the world in celebrating the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, as well as the official launch of UN Women, the newly created United Nations agency that is dedicated to advancing gender equality worldwide.
As we honor the tremendous strides women have made in the past century, we call on governments and the international community to immediately and decisively confront the obstacles that remain on the path to gender equality, including pervasive violations of women’s reproductive rights.
Reproductive Rights Are Vital for Women’s Human Rights
In order to exercise their full range of human rights, women must be able to claim their reproductive rights. Empowering a woman with the means to make her own decisions about whether and when to have children also enables her to improve her economic situation, to promote the wellbeing of her family, and to participate fully in her community on her own terms.
Securing reproductive rights is also essential to addressing violence against women. The Center’s work demonstrates that, around the world, women routinely face discrimination and violence when accessing reproductive health services—whether it is coercive sterilization of an HIV-positive woman in Chile, denial of care for a woman facing post-abortion complications in the Philippines or female genital mutilation of a woman who just gave birth in a hospital in Kenya. Violence against women in the context of reproductive healthcare is a very real problem that is all too often overlooked.
UN Women: A Critical Step Forward for Securing Women’s Human Rights
UN Women is in a key position to provide leadership on reproductive rights and recognize that they are not “standalone” rights.
The Center urges UN Women to ensure that the promotion and protection of reproductive rights is fully integrated into its programs at the country, regional and international levels and across thematic areas. We also hope that the agency will collaborate with other UN offices and agencies that are also working to advance these rights.
Advancing women’s political, economic and social empowerment is a vital mission—but one that cannot be accomplished if women are not able to make decisions about their own bodies and health.