Lack of information, misinformation, myths about sex and contraception, poor access or even no access to contraception, but also the lack of dialogue about contraception use and pregnancy between partners cause many (young) women to become pregnant unplanned. These challenges mean that one of the most fundamental choices, to become pregnant or not, is not a free and informed choice for many women worldwide. This is the gist of the State of The World Population report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), 2022.
What happens when Antwerp youth and Palestinian teenagers (virtually) sit together? Curiosity, recognition and humbleness. That is what we were witness to. On September 22-23rd Sensoa co-organised an exchange with UNFPA Palestine for young people from 15 Palestinian schools in Jerusalem and a class of 3rd graders of Koninklijk Atheneum Antwerpen.
The youngsters talked about their lives during the lockdowns – “My life was put on hold” -, their expectations as to marriage and relationships – ‘love’ and ‘spending time together’ ranked highest - and their ideas about gender and situations of sexual transgressive behaviour.
The parliamentarians for the 2030 agenda and UNFPA Brussels co-hosted the Belgian launch of UNFPA’s 2021 State of the World Population report that carries the meaningful title ‘My Body is Own’/ ‘Mon Corps m’Appartient’. UNFPA presented its report that discusses what bodily autonomy is and how we can measure it. It poses the question how we can achieve bodily autonomy for everyone.
“Macho politics uses the emotional debate and media attention generated by sexual and reproductive rights issues to appear “strong”. It uses criminalisation to persuade voters that their real problems - of insecurity, inequality, poverty, powerlessness, anger - can be solved by attacking these groups rather than by a fundamental redistribution of political and economic power”, asserted IPPF General Director Alvaro Bermejo in an exchange with the members of the ‘Parliamentarians for the 2030 Agenda’, Belgium’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Anti-gender movements have been on the rise in Europe and beyond, outright questioning gender equality, opposing sexual and reproductive rights of women, sexual minorities and young people’s access to information and education about their sexuality. The current Covid-19 response has provided these professionally organised groups with new opportunities to reinforce their agendas.
All over the world, we see sudden and drastic restrictions on democratic freedoms. Our movements are monitored increasingly. Public meetings are prohibited; the state of emergency is announced; legislative debates are postponed and, in certain countries, the operation of parliaments is suspended or their oversight role is severely curtailed in favour of the executive branch. All over the world, governments are ramping up digital surveillance. In Europe for example, Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán granted himself dictatorial powers to ignore laws indefinitely and to suspend elections and referendums. In Israel, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued an emergency decree preventing the parliament from meeting, in what newspaper Haaretz called a 'corona-coup'. Experts are already pointing to the increasing pressure on the sexual and reproductive rights of women and girls everywhere in the world.
Belgium put sexual and reproductive rights in the spotlight during the ‘European Sustainability Week’ in Berlin, June 2019. Sensoa participated in a panel with Moroccan documentary maker Mohammed Nabil and human rights activist Katrin Erlingsen of the NGO Deutsche Stiftung Weltvölkerung (DSW) at the Belgian Embassy in Berlin.
UNFPA launched the State of the World Population 2019 in Brussels, May 7th, entitled ‘Unfinished Business. The pursuit of rights and choices for all’. Marking the 25th anniversary of the ICPD Programme of Action (PoA) as well as the 50th birthday of UNFPA itself, the report highlights the progress made, and the challenges ahead.
Belgium’s Directorate General for Development (DGD) Deputy Director Guy Rayée opened the launch, reminding everyone about the milestone the Cairo Programme of Action was. Tremendous progress has been made since, particular for women and their access to family planning.
“Belgium is determined to build a world in which no one, not a single child, not a single young person, not a single woman nor a single girl is left behind.” These were the closing words with which Belgium reconfirmed its strong commitment to the full implementaton of the International Cairo Programme of Action (ICPD) at the 52nd CPD, 1-5 April 2019.
The power to choose. That is the central theme of the 2018 State of the World Population (SWOP), the annual report of the UN fund on population, UNFPA, which was presented in the Belgian parliament on Nov 8th.
Individuals and couples need to be able to choose if, when and how many children they want. It sounds simple but it’s not. Reproductive rights are violated when health services are not able to provide essential care and means, such as contraceptives, or when women and young people have no access to information about relationships and sexuality. In these cases it is hard to prevent unplanned pregnancies.