ORAL STATEMENT Presented by LACWHN and WGNRR at the 60th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) — March 14-24, 2016

Posted on March 29, 2016

This statement was presented by Marisol Ruiz  on behalf of LACWHN and WGNRR. Watch the video at 2:18:30


screengrab: UN Webcast


Mr. Chair,

As a young woman on behalf of the Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights and the Latin American and Caribbean Women’s Health Network, I value the opportunity to represent over a thousand organizations and individuals worldwide, who are committed to advancing sexual and reproductive rights.

The 2030 Agenda is impressive in its ambition and scope, recognizing the nexus between environmental, economic, and social development, and the importance of undertaking a sustainable development approach balanced across all three of these dimensions. The Agenda also acknowledges realizing gender equality and women’s empowerment as crucial to making progress across all of its goals and targets, while reaffirming the outcomes from the Beijing Platform for Action. This acknowledgment, however, has yet to be “matched by concrete policy implementation and demonstrable change on the ground.”[1] All too often an unacceptably narrow approach to development continues to be implemented, where women and girls’ human rights, including their sexual and reproductive rights, are left out of the picture.

Nowhere is this more evident than in governments’ initial responses to the recent outbreak of the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean, particularly in the calls for women and girls to avoid pregnancy in the face of the virus. Your Excellencies, my region is lamentably characterized by deep-seated patriarchal norms; high rates of unplanned pregnancy;[2] high levels of sexual violence; limited access to contraceptives and sexual and reproductive health services; and restrictive laws on abortion, where in some cases abortion is prohibited and even criminalized under any circumstances.[3] Moreover, young women and adolescent girls who are unmarried, from remote or low-income communities, or living in other vulnerable situations, disproportionately face multiple barriers when it comes to exercising meaningful decision-making power over their sexual and reproductive lives. In such a context, I ask you: how can calls for women to simply delay or avoid pregnancy be reflective of governments’ commitments to an integrated, balanced approach to women’s empowerment and sustainable development?

Young women and girls who are already made vulnerable by intersecting barriers and forms of discrimination are among those who stand to be the most affected by the consequences of simplistic approaches to development. It is thus imperative that governments ensure immediate, comprehensive and intersectional implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. Governments must also accelerate the full implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcomes of its review conferences, if we are to begin to approach development in a way that is truly sustainable and inclusive for all. And as affirmed by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, sexual and reproductive health and rights enable the attainment of a whole range of other rights, and are essential in order to achieve social justice and sustainable development.[4] It is therefore crucial that as part of a viable, balanced and rights-based approach to sustainable development and women’s empowerment, governments strengthen normative, legal, and policy frameworks by recognizing women and girls’ sexual and reproductive rights as central to the achievement of social, environmental, and economic justice. Anything less is careless and counter to governments’ human rights commitments. Thank you.

[1] S-G report, para. 3, http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=E/CN.6/2016/3

[2] Guttmacher Institute (2014), New Study Finds That 40% of Pregnancies Worldwide are Unintended.

[3] Center for Reproductive Rights (2014), Marginalized, Persecuted, and Imprisoned: The Effects of El Salvador’s Total Criminalization of Abortion.

[4] United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (2013), ICPD Beyond 2014 International Thematic Conference on Human Rights – 7-10 July 2013, Noordwijk, the Netherlands.