Will the World Meeting on Family Planning inspire governments to ensure gender equality?

Will the World Meeting on Family Planning inspire governments to ensure gender equality?

Gender equality is an essential cog in the wheel of human development that is socially just and environmentally sustainable. That’s why governments around the world have pledged to deliver on this promise by 2030 and other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). But progress on gender equality and other SDGs has been sketchy and far from satisfactory. With less than 97 months left to achieve these goals, it is high time to listen to the alarm bells and take corrective action to try to get on track to achieve all the SDGs, globally, including those of gender equality and human rights “where no one is left behind”.

The International Conference on Family Planning 2022 (ICFP 2022) will be held in Thailand for the first time in ICFP’s history. Co-hosted by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, along with the Thai Ministry of Public Health, the Royal Thai College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Population and Community Development Association, this conference is an important forum where a wide range of stakeholders and experts who work on a wide range of issues related to sexual and reproductive health and rights will attend. Will ICFP 2022 spur renewed commitments to gender justice?

Progress has been made but not enough, and not everywhere

Progress on gender equality and human rights is not on track to meet the 2030 goals. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit us, most countries around the world were not likely achieve the 2030 gender equality goals.

Agrees with Sonal Mehta, Regional Director for South Asia of the International Planned Parenthood Federation: “We would not have achieved our gender equality targets and goals by 2030 even if the pandemic of COVID-19 had not hit us.

Moreover, progress is not uniform. Some countries have made considerable progress, and some are lagging considerably behind. There are inequalities between the countries of the North and the South, and even within nations (rich and poor countries). Some countries have made progress on some goals and targets while turning a blind eye to other goals and targets, or even taking regressive and harmful steps on some goals and targets.

A UNICEF report highlights that in all South Asian countries, patriarchal values ​​and social norms maintain gender inequalities. Discriminatory practices begin even before birth and affect all aspects of a child’s future. Across the South Asian region, inequalities stemming from caste, class, religion, ethnicity and geographic location are further complicated by severe gender discrimination that holds back progress and the development of girls and boys.

During COVID-19, sexual and other forms of gender-based violence against women and girls and other people of different gender identities and expressions have increased dangerously and the demand for justice and reparation has increased. been seriously compromised. There was a high degree of intimate partner violence, Mehta said. She cites a UNICEF report that approximately 37% of South Asian women are victims of domestic violence.

“Marea Verde” or “Green Wave” Movement for #SafeAbortion Rights

“Profound changes have taken place in many countries to increase access to safe abortion and to ensure that young people have access to the information and education they need about sexual health and rights and reproductive health,” said Mina Barling, director of external relations for the International Planned Parenthood Federation. .

The “Marea Verde” or “Green Wave” movement for abortion rights has touched the hearts of young people across Latin America. These grassroots community movements led by the youth of Latin American nations demand the right to bodily autonomy and to sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Significant progress has been made in Argentina, Thailand and Mexico in favor of access to safe abortion. For example, the Supreme Court of Mexico has ruled that “the criminalization of abortion is unconstitutional”. Similarly, in Benin, Kenya, Ireland, young people are fighting hard for bodily autonomy and the right to sexual and reproductive health and rights, Barling said.

However, countries like the United States have made decisions on bodily autonomy that threaten advances in gender equality and human rights. “We all watched in horror what happened in the United States with the overturning of the Roe v. Wade decision, and saw those rights taken away from women,” Barling lamented. As a reminder, in 1973, the Supreme Court of the United States had legalized the right to safe abortion in the Roe vs Wade case, which was sad and very unfortunately canceled in June 2022 making access to abortion secured a major challenge.

Will men take responsibility for family planning?

“Family planning should not be the sole responsibility of women. Male sterilization is shamefully low in India and other South Asian countries. This trend must be reversed. We need to encourage permanent sterilization in both men and women, but more so in men,” said Dr. Amita Pandey, editor of the Asian Research Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics, and professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology from King George’s Medical University (KGMU) in India.

“For decades, we have observed extremely low rates of male sterilization compared to very high rates of female sterilization. Often, men don’t use condoms because they “don’t like with condoms”. Such attitudes must change so that men take responsibility not only for their own health but also for others. Condoms, for example, protect both sexual partners against HIV and 20-21 other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), as well as against unwanted pregnancies. We must ensure access to male and female condoms for everyone, everywhere, as well as all other science-based prevention options for STDs, HIV and unintended pregnancy,” said Dr Ishwar Gilada, who represents the Asia-Pacific region on the Board of the International AIDS Society (IAS), and is India’s senior medical expert on HIV.

Do young people have a full range of services to protect them from STDs, HIV and unwanted pregnancies?

A teenage girl or young woman contracted HIV every two minutes in 2021. “Today’s youth population is historically the largest in the world. In Asia-Pacific, we have around one billion people between the ages of 10 and 24 with great diversity,” Sonal Mehta said. “But numerous reports from UN agencies point out that most young people are ill-prepared or ill-equipped with insufficient knowledge and lack the life skills to negotiate safe and consensual relationships.”

Although teenage pregnancy rates have declined in most parts of the world, they remain alarmingly high. Child marriages have also declined, but in some areas they remain a serious concern. Countries are at different levels when it comes to rolling out comprehensive sexuality education for young people, but it is clearly not enough.

“If I’m 16 and can walk into a health facility without fear or taboo and ask for a contraceptive, then I think that day the young person can ask for an HIV test without any problem.” adult consent,” Mehta said. In India, people under the age of 18 must obtain the consent of their parents or guardians to take an HIV test.

Mehta thinks young people should be in charge. We must provide opportunities, safe spaces and empowering platforms where they can express themselves with confidence and access the full range of health and social care services.

Shobha Shukla – CNS (Citizen Press Service)

(Shobha Shukla is the award-winning founding editor and executive director of CNS (Citizen News Service) and is a feminist, health and development justice advocate. She is a former faculty of physics at the prestigious Loreto Convent College and current coordinator of the Asia-Pacific Regional Media Alliance for Health and Development (APCAT Media) Follow her on Twitter @shobha1shukla or read her writings here www.bit.ly/ShobhaShukla)

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