Open access to sexual, reproductive health, rights urged

The Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW), a Non-Governmental Organisation in Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council has in a statement said, Universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights and gender equality are foundational to the full implementation of the International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the Asia Pacific region.
The ARROW is a regional women’s organisation working in the Asia Pacific, since 1993 to advance gender equality and women and young people’s rights, particularly their sexual and reproductive rights. It works closely with national partners in 17 countries, regional and global networks around the world, and are able to reach stakeholders in 120 countries, predominantly in the Global South regions.
ARROW and other organisations have endorsed the statement and welcomed the theme of the 52nd session: Review and appraisal of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and its contribution to the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. “We recognise the strong interlinkages of both these transformative and visionary frameworks in furthering gender equality and universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights.
“The Asia Pacific region is home to 4.3 billion people of the world, and 60% of the world’s young people reside in the region. These people dynamics call for immediate implementation of effective policies and programmes that ensure gender equality and universal access to sexual and reproductive rights without stigma, discrimination and violence An evidence-based situational analysis in the region points to some progress, however huge gaps and challenges are emerging in the achievement of ICPD PoA and Agenda 2030 goals and targets of achieving gender equality; universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, including for contraception, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programmes; and the universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences.
“Evidence also points to many people in the region falling through the cracks, facing multiple discrimination in access to SRHR. These people include women, young women including adolescent girls; ageing persons; trans-persons; people from poor; lower wealth quintiles; from rural areas and hard to reach places; minority and indigenous communities facing ethnic and caste-based violence;
“LGBTIQ communities; women engaged in informal labour; refugees; indigenous people; stateless people, internally displaced; women and trans people with disabilities; women and young people from conflict-affected areas in the region.
“High out-of-pocket expenditure, unregulated privatisation of health, including unaffordable health insurance result in a denial of services to the most marginalised people. Poor public health expenditure and lower health worker to population density in the region further impede universal access to SRHR.
As we celebrate the 25th year of ICPD implementation, we call upon the Member States , to:
● Uphold commitments to the principles of the International Conference on Population and Development; the Beijing Platform for Action and the Agenda 2030 to realise universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights.
● Enact legislation, formulate and implement policies to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health information and services through publicly funded health systems including social health insurance. This includes access to the full range of SRH information, contraceptives services, maternal health services including emergency obstetric care, safe abortion and post-abortion care, infertility treatment, HIV, STIs and reproductive cancers. Ensure respect for women, and young people, informed decision making, autonomy, confidentiality, informed choice, consent and privacy in the provision of such SRH services.
● Eliminate all punitive measures for women and girls seeking abortion, and health care providers performing abortions. Enable change in attitudes and perceptions that result in stigmatisation within health institutions and communities.
● Ensure full integration of comprehensive SRHR information and services, delivered through strengthened health and education systems, with focus on primary health care and referrals.
Such services need to be provided through public financing, with a focus on patient centeredness, efficiency, accountability, and sustainability.
● Protect and promote women’s human rights, and commit to advance gender equality in all its diversity, identity and expressions and ensure substantive equality of women
● Eliminate all forms of multiple intersecting sexual and gender-based discrimination and violence including intimate partner and non-partner violence.
● Eliminate harmful and traditional practices by influencing all formal and informal institutions and discriminatory patriarchal socio-cultural norms and practices
● Address data gaps and ensure disaggregated data on SRHR information and services indicators.
● Ensure gender responsive budgetary allocation and expenditure tracking for SRHR information and services in the national health and development plans. Ensure governments increase financial and human resources for health systems strengthening and gender equality.
Lastly, we call for a rigorous and regular monitoring framework on the follow-up and review of the ICPD Programme of Action in the Asia Pacific region and globally, precisely because the Agenda 2030 will not be achieved without concerted action on implementing the ICPD Programme of Action.”