What Are Sexual And Reproductive Rights, Anyway?

While most Americans are aware of the ongoing debate over sexual and reproductive rights, a lot of people are unaware of what those rights actually are and what they mean.  Many people think of sexual and reproductive rights as solely about the right to abortion, but it is so much more!

reproductive rights, women's rights, children's rights, women's health, pregnancy, pro-choice, my body my choice, abortion, birth control, sex education debate, child marriage, female genital mutiliation, sexual violence and rape,

We all have the right to make decisions about our own health, body, sexuality and reproductive life, without fear, coercion, violence or discrimination.

But all over the world, people’s freedom to make these decisions is controlled by the state, medical professionals, even their own families and those who break these types of laws and cultural traditions are often harshly punished criminally, by families and by communities. Women and girls and people from marginalized groups (such as gay and lesbian individuals, trans people or people from so called “lower” castes, people living in poverty, or minorities) risk a huge amount when they try to exercise choice.

  • ·      Make decisions about our own health, body, sexual life and identity without fear of coercion or criminalization.
  • ·      Ask for and receive information about sexuality and reproduction, health services and contraception.
  • ·      Have access to comprehensive education on human sexuality, sexual and reproductive health, human rights and gender equality.
  • ·      Decide whether and when to have children.
  • ·      Choose our intimate partner and whether and when to marry.
  • ·      Live free from sexual violence and rape, female genital mutilation/cutting, forced pregnancy, forced abortion, forced sterilization and forced marriage.
  • ·      Access to family planning, contraception, legal abortion, and maternal health care, among a range of other heath care services

-Among the leading causes of mortality for young people is complications during pregnancy and childbirth, gender-based violence and AIDS.

-Despite high sexual activity rates among adolescents worldwide, gaps in laws and regulations, poor application in practice, social and cultural taboos, gender discrimination and geographic and financial barriers prevent many adolescents from reaching sexual and reproductive health information and services.

-According to UN estimates, the vast majority of adolescents and young people around the world still do not have access to the comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services and education that they need for a healthy life.

-Young people aged 15-24 account for 41% of all new HIV infections among the 15-49 age group. Nearly 3000 young people are becoming infected with HIV every day, and yet only 34 % of youth in developing countries can answer correctly the five basic questions about HIV and how to prevent it, far below the global target of 95% by 2010.

-Child marriage is still widespread, especially in least developed countries, where 30% of women aged 15-19 are married.

-Maternal deaths are 28% higher among adolescents than among those aged 20-24 due to child marriage, unsafe and unprotected sex and inadequate care during pregnancy, Most adolescent girls, whether married or unmarried give birth with poor information, health care or support.

-Approximately 150 million girls under the age of 18 are estimated to have experienced some form of sexual violence. Up to 50% of sexual assaults are committed against girls under age 16.

-Between 100 and 140 million women and girls in Africa have been subjected to Female genital mutilation (FGM) and 3 million girls worldwide remain at risk of the procedure every year.

-Adolescent girls and young women face high levels of injury and death as a result of unsafe abortion. In 2008, there were an estimated 3 million unsafe abortions in developing countries among girls aged 15- 19. More than 90% of maternal deaths occur in the developing world.

Governments have an obligation to ensure that everyone can enjoy these rights freely, without fear, coercion or discrimination! Laws, policies, and other barriers to the services and information people need for a healthy life have to be removed, and this is what the fight for sexual and reproductive rights is all about!

Courtesy of Amnesty International.
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