|Supporting Women's Health|
Supporting Women's and Girl's Health
By Paula Daeppen,
A decade after the landmark International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, known as the ICPD, the UN General Assembly held a day-long session to promote implementation of the 20-year blueprint adopted by the 179 nations that attended the original U.N. gathering.
On October 13, 2004 the UN was presented with a statement signed by more than 250 global leaders - including 85 heads of state and government and 24 Nobel Prize winners - again endorsing the Cairo plan. The US Administration refused to sign the statement which notes that "the world's governments and civil society committed to an action plan to ensure universal access to reproductive health information and services, uphold fundamental human rights including sexual and reproductive rights, alleviate poverty, secure gender equality and protect the environment". The statement goes on to say that "the exponential increase in HIV/AIDS, persistently high levels of death and ill health due to preventable complications from pregnancy and child birth, inadequate access to family planning services and weak public health systems are still major challenges."
In a letter to the organizers of the statement, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kelly Ryan reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to "the goals and objectives" of the Cairo Conference and "to the empowerment of women and the need to promote women's fullest enjoyment of universal human rights", but stated "the United States is unable, however, to endorse the 'world leaders' statement on supporting the ICPD. The statement includes the concept of 'sexual rights', a term that has no agreed definition in the international community, goes beyond what was agreed to at Cairo and is not a component of the ICPD."
However "sexual rights" were specifically mentioned in the platform of action adopted by over 180 countries including the United States at the 1995 U.N. women's conference in Beijing. That platform, which the United States also took a leading role in drafting, states: "The human rights of women include their right to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality, including sexual and reproductive health, free of coercion, discrimination and violence."
The past three years have seen a dramatic about-face by the US administration on all issues related to a woman's sexual reproductive rights and health.
On July 19th the Bush Administration announced that it would again, for the third consecutive year, withdrew $34 million in funding that the bi-partisan Congress had approved for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), against the recommendation of a US State Department blue-ribbon panel of experts. The United States is the only country ever to deny funding to UNFPA for non-budgetary reasons.
The Director of UNFPA, Ms. Thoraya Obaid noted that in concrete terms the $34 million for reproductive health and family planning would be enough to prevent 2 million unwanted pregnancies, prevent nearly 800,000 induced abortions, 4,700 maternal deaths, nearly 60,000 cases of serious maternal illness and over 77,000 infant and child deaths. Considered one of the strongest advocates of women's health worldwide, UNFPA works in 140 countries and offers counseling, health care, HIV/AIDS prevention, education, health screenings, maternal health programs and family planning services.
FAWCO's Resolutions and Recommendations adopted unanimously at the Stockholm Biennial conference set clear goals and mandates for the protection of the rights and welfare of women and children, specifically advocating support of health services and programs including HIV/AIDS and sex education programs. Such services are vital to the human rights and well-being of women and children around the world.Note:
In mid July FAWCO issued a statement in response to the Bush Administration's withholding of funds to the United Nations Population that had been approved by the bi-partisan Congress.
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