Everyone's social life is affected by the corona epidemic. However, many women are forced to work from home now, often in combination with children at home. Even before the crisis, statistics showed that women generally do more unpaid domestic work and have more caring responsibilities than men, including caring for children, the sick and the elderly. With increasing pressure on hospitals and health services, women will inevitably have to meet even more of the growing unpaid care needs. This includes cleaning, preparing food or looking after seriously ill or disabled people.
Every country, both in the global south and north, will have a different answer to this. In general, women and girls will face significant restrictions in safe and timely access to essential sexual and reproductive health services, in particular timely abortion care, post-abortion care and emergency anticonception. Such restrictions disproportionately affect persons belonging to marginalised groups, including women living in poverty, women with disabilities, women belonging to ethnocultural minorities (e.g. Roma women), migrants, stateless women, adolescents and women at risk of domestic and sexual violence.
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.
On October 10th, at the federal parliament in Brussels, the ‘Parliamentarians for the 2030 Agenda’, Belgium’s APPG on sexual and reproductive health and rights, kicked off for a new legislative period. The group unites parliamentarians from all colours, invested in advancing gender equality, health and rights internationally, as put forward in the ICPD Programme of Action and the SDGs.
The group, likely to make up around 30 members, will see to Belgium’s international role to achieve the ICPD PoA and the SDGs, and more specifically SDG 3, to achieve health and wellbeing for all, and SDG 5, to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment. They will do so by convening regularly, informing the public, participating in international delegations, visiting the field, inquiring the government and drafting resolutions.
In the Flemish government agreement for 2019-2023, the government is committed to combating sexual and gender based violence, with particular attention for the prevention of forced marriages, honour-related crimes and female genital mutilation. Sexual health should equally receive the needed attention. In Flanders’ international cooperation the government is also quoted as being committed to projects that improve equality between the sexes, with a special focus on women’s education and the promotion of SRHR.
The promise of 0.7%
The new Flemish government will contribute to the realisation of the SDG Agenda 2030 in developing countries. Belgium currently spends only 0.4% of its GNI on development cooperation, despite the legal obligation of 0.7%. In the coming legislature, the Flemish government promises to make further efforts to finally reach the 0.7% standard at Belgian level.
Flanders' bilateral cooperation plans
The Flemish government is to continue its bilateral cooperation with Malawi and Mozambique, whereas cooperation with South Africa will be reoriented from development to “strong political-economic diplomatic cooperation”. The new Flemish Prime Minister Jambon also expressed the intention to set up a new cooperation with one or more countries in the North and East Africa region. The future partner country is said to be selected based on its current cooperation with the EU in the fight against human trafficking and illegal migration. The new government is thus joining the trend of using development cooperation funds for the management of migration flows.
Should we be counting on the private sector?
In addition, the new government is looking at the private sector to step in with development cooperation through public-private partnerships. Public funds are only deemed needed where private partners cannot bear the risk (alone), or when they fail to deliver a suitable solution. The call for private sector support for development should not come at the cost of social sectors, including SRHR, as these are traditionally dependent on ODA support. Mechanisms seeking to mobilise private sector resources are primarily focused on non-social sectors such as infrastructural projects. Moving away from traditional ODA support and towards private sector mechanisms thus brings a real risk of reducing donor investments in sectors such as health, education and SRHR.
Finally, the government sets out to move part of the development cooperation resources towards more Flemish emergency aid. Increasing support for humanitarian aid is welcome, but it should not come at the cost of development cooperation, which could help prevent disasters from happening in the first place.
The Center for Reproductive Rights published it's 2019 edition of the World Abortion Laws Map.
26 countries prohibit abortion in all circumstances, 39 countries only allow abortion when the mother's live is at stake.
The Center for Reproductive Rights' new interactive website provides up-to-date information on the right to abortion across the world and includes an abortion law and policy guide, to support advocates in advancing reform, and a tool to track progress over time.
Do sex and pleasure belong in a classroom? Destemwijzer.be guides voters through their views on sex, gender and well-being
Which Belgian (Flemish) political parties want free childcare? Does your identity card have to mention your gender? And according to which political parties do 'enjoyment and pleasure' belong in sexuality education classes? In the run-up to the Belgian and European elections of 26 May, Sensoa, the Belgian member association of IPPF, çavaria, the Flemish LGBT+ umbrella organisation and the Flemish Women's Council developed a unique vote advice application.