The effects of the current health crisis are far-reaching and are still unwinding. But it is clear that the most marginalised will be the hardest hit. Reproductive freedom is not a reality for many women across the globe. For too many women, access to quality family planning still depends on where they live and how much money they make.
Belgium and 57 other countries call for the protection of SRHR and the promotion of a gender sensitive response to the Covid-19 pandemic
In a powerful joint statement, 58 countries, including Belgium expressed their concern about the impact of COVID-19 on women and girls’ human rights, the deepening of existing inequalities and the worsening discrimination of other marginalised groups such as persons with disabilities and people living in extreme poverty.
To raise awareness of the unmet need for family planning, 12 Belgian members of parliament of 9 different political parties revealed the size of their families to the Belgian public. They did so in a joint video message, in which they explained they were free to decide on the size of their family, while 214 million women in the Global South who want to avoid or postpone a pregnancy, cannot do so, because they lack access to contraceptives.
Quarantine affects the access to contraceptives for women worldwide:
Contraceptives are threatening to become scarcer and scarcer. This is due to different factors. For example, large NGOs as well as contraceptive manufacturers warn that the supply chains of various contraceptive products are severely disrupted. China, the world's second-largest exporter of pharmaceuticals, has closed several drug production plants, which in turn has caused delays in Indian plants producing generic drugs, including anticonception.
The demand for long-term contraceptives (such as the coil or the implant) will increase. For example, after Trump took office as president of the US, the demand for coils increased as women feared that access to other contraception would become more difficult.
As governments around the world are severely restricting the mobility of their citizens, the use of contraceptives will also decline. Particularly women who depend on public transport to travel, or who are currently without income, may find it difficult to get anticonception prescriptions and buy anticonception. What's more, family planning clinics might be temporarily closed.
The reduced access to contraceptives comes on top of the already existing needs of women. 214 million women in the Global South who want to use contraceptives already had no access to it before the crisis. Their numbers are increasing.
“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.
For Valentine’s Day, the European Parliamentary Forum on population and development launched its third edition of the European Contraception Atlas in the European Parliament. The Atlas is a map that marks 46 countries throughout geographical Europe on access to modern contraception. The Atlas reveals a very uneven picture across Europe.
Belgium top of the list
From the 46 countries surveyed, Belgium ranks first, in joint position with France, thanks to its reimbursement schemes, including for long-term contraception, special arrangements for young people and government supported websites such as the multilingual website zanzu.be for migrants and allesoverseks.be (everythingaboutsex.be) a website that specifically addresses the needs of young people. Compared to the Benelux, France and the UK, contraception policies are weak in Latvia, Slovakia, Switzerland, Italy and Denmark.
According to Professor in bio-ethics Peter Singer (DM, 7 July) population growth has become a taboo due to “a bizarre coalition of the Vatican, which has always been against anticonception and birth control, on the one hand, and radical feminists on the other, who gave priority to women’s freedom to choose how many children they want.” I choked in my coffee. Peter Singer is not an opponent of women’s rights, quite the contrary. And indeed, immediately after, the professor stated that these feminists “had a point, namely that family planning is a women’s right”. “But”, he continued, “at the level of the collective this leads to problems they forget to take into account, as an increase of young children equally increases the need for more schools, hospitals, jobs, etcetera.”
With a High-Level Panel on the European Development Days, Belgium raised attention for the unmet needs of adolescents.
June 6, Brussels. "Unsafe abortion is more accessible then contraceptives”, Young EDD leader Archane Phonsina said, in her testimony of young women’s challenges in the DR Congo. Phonsina lost one of her best friends to an unsafe abortion and is one of the leading voices for adolescents’ access to family planning and safe abortion in her country. “Simply speaking about family planning is still stigmatised and many girls will have at least two unsafe abortions in their lifetime”, she explained.