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Repoliticizing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Human Rights Approach Repoliticizing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Human Rights Approach.

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Presentation on theme: "Repoliticizing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Human Rights Approach Repoliticizing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Human Rights Approach."— Presentation transcript:

1 Repoliticizing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Human Rights Approach Repoliticizing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Human Rights Approach Wanda Nowicka

2 Objectives  In my analysis I am reviewing the current status of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) globally.  I am also trying to throw some ideas on possible ways how to move SRHR agenda forward by, among others, repoliticizing these issues in political agenda.

3 Conceptual comments  Conceptual comments about my understanding of the term SRHR especially sexual rights.  I understand sexual rights very broadly as embracing all rights related to sexuality. Opposite to what contained in narrowly interpreted international definitions, sexual rights are broader concept than reproductive rights as reproduction is only one of many aspects of sexuality. Therefore, sexual rights cover all issues related to sexuality. They encompass sexual orientation and gender identity. Sexual rights enable individuals full and positive enjoyment of their sexuality. They include all forms of prevention such as sexuality education for adolescents, prevention of sexual violence and exploitation but also reproductive choices of all despite their sexual orientation and gender identity. However, in this paper I will almost not address sexual orientation and gender identity due to the limited space and insufficient competencies on my part. My focus will be rather on reproductive rights especially on the right to abortion.  In general, use the term SRHR as a full package of rights used a lot by international community as addressing all rights related to sexuality and reproduction without clearly defining and distinguishing them.

4 Not addressed  I am NOT analyzing the problem which certainly deserves thorough analysis – the phenomenon of vanishing SRHR, especially abortion issue, from debates in which these issues should definitely be addressed. I mean in particular the debates about maternal health, maternal and infant mortality.  It is particularly disappointing if non-governmental organizations which should be in forefront of standard setting and have huge resources to do so, choose to avoid SRHR in its entirety due to controversies such issues might cause.

5 Major Successes  National level  abolishment of Indian “Sodomy” Law  Strict anti-abortion law in Nepal has been liberalized in 2004  In 2006 the Constitutional Court of Colombia overturned country restrictive ban on abortion, allowing voluntary terminations in cases of rape, fetal malformation, or when the life or health of the woman or fetus is in danger.  Abortion has been also liberalized in South Africa (1994), Ethiopia (2005) and Mexico Federal District (2007). In Europe abortion was liberalized in Switzerland (2002), Portugal (2007) and Spain (2010).

6 Major Successes con’t At the UN  Treaty Monitoring Bodies (TMBs)  The Human Rights Committee has adopted the groundbreaking General Comment on equal right of men and women to the enjoyment of all civil and political rights in 2000 in which reproductive health issues of women, incl. maternal mortality and unsafe abortions must be reported by the governments. The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) has adopted among others GC on women’s health (1999). In the introduction the Committee affirmed that access to health care, including reproductive health is a basic right under the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.  Human right committees address strongly women’s rights including SRHR in the monitoring processes of the states compliance with the conventions. They continue to issue powerful concluding observations on these issues. A number of committees including CEDAW in its recommendations on Ecuador in 2008 and CESCR on Poland in 2009 issued strong recommendations on abortion.  The Committee against Torture (CAT) at its 42nd session (2009) in Geneva expressed its profound concern about Nicaragua’s strict ban on abortion. The Committee described the criminalization of abortion under any circumstances in Nicaragua as a violation of human rights.  Conclusion. Progress has been possible at expert bodies not political bodies

7 Major Successes con’t  Litigations  KL against Peru (UN HRC)  Alicja Tysiac against Poland (ECHR)  Litigations have significant potential in strengthening SRHR. However, the fact that the cases need to be brought up to courts by individuals poses major limitations to such legal measures. 

8 Global arena – challenges to implementation   MDGs – opportunity or drawback?  Not much has been achieved, especially in the context of another global strategy – Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) adopted in 2000 which focusing on the basic needs of the least developed countries such as poverty alleviation, basic healthcare, primary education, AIDS pandemic, essentially lost human rights perspective in a first place. The MDG framework forced many women’s groups to engage for a number of years with this process in order to mainstream into it SRHR issues to full possible extent with significant successes. Certainly though in spite of some successful policies and programs implemented under MDGs, the MDG framework had not had much potential to progressive development of human rights.

9 Global arena – challenges to implementation con’t  UN Human Rights Council  UPR  Challenges to the universality of human rights Two highly controversial resolutions “Combating Defamation of Religions” (2007) and the resolution on traditional values (Promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms through better understanding of traditional values of humankind) (2009) Two highly controversial resolutions “Combating Defamation of Religions” (2007) and the resolution on traditional values (Promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms through better understanding of traditional values of humankind) (2009)

10 Human rights of women in Europe  European Union and Human Rights  Chilling effect to the advancement of human rights especially SRHR has been a result to some degree of the Enlargement process of the EU in 2004, when Poland and Malta joined the EU and together with “the old” EU member – Ireland – increasingly and more assertively form a kind of “the unholy alliance” – coalition which has been breaking the consensus regarding rights related to sexuality and reproduction issues in numerous EU and UN meetings and other international forums.  Currently, the major threat to reproductive rights in Europe we are facing now, appeared as a result of the anti-discrimination directive (Council Directive on implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation) which is now under negotiations among EU governments and if adopted may lead to exclusion of reproductive rights from new EU binding human rights law. The draft as it is now explicitly states that the Directive “does not apply to laws on reproductive rights.”

11 Human rights of women in Europe con’t Council of Europe Resolution on safe and legal abortion in Europe (2008). “The (Parliamentary) Assembly affirms the right of all human beings, in particular women, to respect for their physical integrity and to freedom to control their own bodies. In this context, the ultimate decision on whether or not to have an abortion should be a matter for the woman concerned, who should have the means of exercising this right in an effective way. (…) 7. The Assembly invites the member states of the Council of Europe to: 7.1. decriminalize abortion within reasonable gestational limits, if they have not already done so; 7.2. guarantee women’s effective exercise of their right of access to a safe and legal abortion; 7.3. allow women freedom of choice and offer the conditions for a free and enlightened choice without specifically promoting abortion.” Unfortunately, the resolutions of the CoE do not have a binding character, however, it is certainly of moral significance that first international institution agreed on the woman’s right to decide.

12 Moving forward  The SRHR agenda has become gradually depoliticized, especially since 21 st century, when no serious efforts have been made to push it forward. Due to extremely unfavorable political environment NGOs working on SRHR issues chose strategically not to propose initiatives going beyond Cairo, Beijing and other international agreements on the assumption that it would be unrealistic to believe in progressive change. Rather the opposite, many believed that the more offensive approach the more backfire effect it could have.

13 Moving forward con’t  For a couple of years women’s movements proactively made efforts to bring new actors to the table which included social movements – youth movements, human rights movements, LGBTQI, HIV/AIDS, sex workers – most of which equally or even more marginalized. This outreach needs to be continued and strengthened by developing partnerships with trade unions, professional organizations (health providers, lawyers, media etc.), educational institutions etc. On the other hand, women’s movements are still very weak and marginalized while confronted with other movements. The attempts to mainstream gender issues into other movements have rather moderate successes, gender remains to be on the margins rather than being fully integrated. World Social Forums could be only one example. Lessons need to be learnt how to mutually support and more efficiently integrate our agendas with other movements, especially the stronger ones.

14 Moving forward con’t  Paradoxically, the global economic crisis might create such a window of opportunity. The crisis made many people highly unsatisfied, abandoned and unsecured. Among many problems such as unemployment, shrinking social security systems, access to health care is a big issue. In so many places public health care is not functional and private health care is non-affordable.  The challenge remains, though, how to channel these feelings into positive energy which would push progressive development, how within this framework promote human rights including SRHR. We certainly should focus more on economic rights as human rights and how they relate to SRHR. We know how economic situation impacts and often limits people’s reproductive choices and influences decisions. Therefore, in movement building and repoliticising its agenda, the global crisis and its impact on SRHR has potential to generate significant mobilization.  I’ am truely grateful to Rhonda Copelon for all insightful comments and suggestions which moved the paper into new direction.

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