Sexual and reproductive rights are human rights that relate to the ability to make sexual and reproductive choices for oneself. The ability to exercise sexual and reproductive rights is critical for women in particular, because they so often bear the consequences when those rights are restricted. Of the 287,000 maternal deaths that occur each year, about 13% are the results of complications of unsafe abortions. Up to 80% of the 19 million women that undergo unsafe abortions each year suffer illness, injury, or disability (IPPF). Young girls forced into marriage – and then pregnancy – are more likely to die from labour complications or develop injuries like obstetric fistula. In Africa, women face serious gender inequality that leaves them with less information about how to prevent HIV and barriers to negotiation for safer sex practices (including violence and economic dependency). As a result, young women are three times more likely to be HIV-positive than young men. (UNIFEM)
Sexual and Reproductive Rights Include the Right to:
|the highest attainable standard of sexual health||to be free from coercion discrimination and violence||respect for bodily integrity|
|consensual sexual relations||sexuality education||pursue a satisfying, safe and pleasurable sexual life|
|choice of partner||deciding freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of your children and to have the information and means to do so||consensual marriage|
|seek, receive and impart information related to sexuality||access to sexual and reproductive health services|
These tragic consequences are often a direct result of women being unable to exercise their sexual and reproductive rights: restricted access to contraceptives, the inability to choose whether or not to have sex, or even a simple lack of reliable information regarding reproductive health and pregnancy are all ways that sexual and reproductive rights may be disregarded. Empowering women with education and legal protection are crucial in promoting sexual and reproductive rights, and in efforts to protect sexual and reproductive health.