How to promote and protect sexual health and rights in times of populism and conservatism? This was the key question of the EuroNGOs’ conference, the European network of organisations that advocate sexual and reproductive health and rights, organised in Brussels on 27-28 September. Growing support for conservative and populist movements leads to a political and societal climate in which sexual and reproductive health and rights are marginalised if not criminalised.
Together with other members of the Be Cause Health Working Group on SRHR, Sensoa developed three information sheets and infographics on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) with a particular focus on young people, gender and the linkages between HIV and SRHR.
These info sheets give an overview of the latest facts and figures and contain a number of guidelines for Belgian development stakeholders. The info sheets should contribute to a better knowledge and understanding among Belgian development stakeholders such as diplomats, Belgian Development Agency employees and representatives of NGOs as well as identify needs and good practices better. With this initiative, the Working group on SRHR aims to encourage Belgian development stakeholders to dedicate more attention to young people, gender and the links between HIV and SRHR in development programmes and policies.
Body & Rights, the e-tutorial developed by Sensoa the expertise centre for sexual health and member association of IPPF in Belgium and commissioned by the Institute of Tropical Medicine and Be-cause Health, the Belgian platform for international health is now available in English.
The Commission on Foreign Affairs of Belgium’s federal parliament has unanimously adopted a resolution for the implementation and follow-up of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in the 2030 Agenda.
The resolution identifies the challenges with regard to SRHR. To mention a few: 225 million women who want to prevent or avoid pregnancy lack access to contraception, one in three women is a victim of partner violence or sexual violence in her lifetime and every year 16 million teenagers give birth. The 2030 Agenda contains specific targets to tackle these problems, such as universal access to family planning and the elimination of violence against girls and women.
The members of parliament call upon the Belgian government to implement the Agenda and to encourage other countries to do so. They want systematic attention for SRHR in the negotiations of collaboration programmes with partner countries of the Belgian development cooperation. They also want Belgium to increase the support for SRHR within international organisations, such as the WHO, UNICEF and UNWOMEN, and to call on other countries in the UN Human Rights Council and other international forums to protect and promote SRHR.
The resolution was submitted by Hon. Sabien Lahaye-Battheu, president of the Parliamentarians for the 2030 Agenda. With Belgium presenting its Voluntary National Review to the UN in mid-July the timing is perfect.
Member associations of the International Planned Parenthood Federation stand to suffer from the Global Gag Rule or Mexico City Policy. Across the world, IPPF expects to forgo $100 million in funding from the United States Government.
In 32 countries, including Belgian partner countries Burkina Faso, Burundi, Mali, Senegal, Uganda, Tanzania and Flemish partner country Mozambique, IPPF member associations have indicated they will forgo funding because of their refusal to sign the Global Gag Rule.
As part of the She Decides-Initiative, Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Development Cooperation, Alexander De Croo visited Benin and Senegal, partner countries of the Belgian Development Cooperation. In Benin, the Minister signed two programmes promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights.
During a She Decides visit to Benin and Senegal, the Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Development Cooperation, Alexander De Croo announced an increase of his support to the UNFPA and International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF).
The Trump-Pence administration has decided to cease all support to the United Nations Population Fund UNFPA. In 2016 only US support to UNFPA helped to prevent 2.340 maternal deaths, 947.000 unplanned pregnancies and 295.000 unsafe abortions. It allowed an estimated 800.000 people to freely decide about their number of children. US support to UNFPA also reached no less than 9 million people in humanitarian emergencies and refugee camps, where the organization provides sexual and reproductive health services and tries to prevent genderbased violence.
“It is proving increasingly difficult to discuss sexual and reproductive health and rights in UN texts. Sexual orientation, gender identity and sexuality education are also particularly hard to address. These concepts are seen as a threat to so-called ‘traditional family values’, Senator and Prof. Dr. Petra De Sutter explained. “Family is understood as a unit with a male breadwinner and the woman in the role of house wife”.
An important win for women’s rights activists at the 61st session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women as the Commission recognized sexual and reproductive health and rights as human rights of women, “that include their right to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on all matters related to their sexuality, including sexual and reproductive health, free of coercion, discrimination and violence, as a contribution to the fulfilment of their economic rights, independence and empowerment”.