Background information for the petition

We demand that leaders across the world support sexual and reproductive health and rights so that everyone can decide what happens to their body, who they live with and the size of their families.

In the second decade of the 21st century, the more than 7 billion people sharing the planet face a number of global challenges: threats such as climate change and growing inequalities among and within countries persist alongside the unfinished agenda of poverty elimination at a time of reduced funding for international development.

In 2000 the Millennium Development Goals committed every country around the world to take action. The world agreed: we all want to live in a world without poverty, where people can achieve their potential, and where health and education are guaranteed.

Sexual and reproductive health and rights are central to achieving this vision. Poor reproductive health and rights are the cause and consequence of poverty. When everyone has access to sexual and reproductive health and well-being, the right to bodily integrity, and control over all matters related to their sexuality, sustainable development and gender equality will be realized.

However, since the Millennium Development Goals Declaration in 2000, the sexual and reproductive health and rights landscape has changed. Global health funding for sexual and reproductive rights and health has declined significantly, and in every region of the world, a maturing HIV epidemic increasingly affects women and girls. Rising conservative tides have threatened hard-won sexual and reproductive rights victories and compromised the safety and well-being of all, particularly of young women in poor communities. Despite increased political and media attention, among women of reproductive age in developing countries, 57% (867 million) are in need of contraception because they are sexually active but do not want a child in the next 2 years. Of these 867 million women, 645 million (74%) are using modern methods of contraception. The remaining 222 million (25%)  are using no method or traditional methods. Meeting this unmet need for contraceptives for 222 million women will avert 54 million unintended pregnancies in developing countries, which in turn would avert 55 million unplanned births, 26 million abortions (of which 16 million are unsafe), 7 million miscarriages and 79,000 maternal deaths.

Millions of lives have been saved and changed through reproductive health services, particularly in high - and middle-income countries. In many regions of the world, laws and policies are now in place to protect reproductive rights and prevent discrimination against women and girls. Most significantly, today’s is the largest-ever generation of young people and we should capitalize on the potential of these future leaders within the current development landscape, which provides unparalleled opportunities to secure a world of justice choice and well-being for all.

We want a world where all women, men and young people have access to the sexual and reproductive health information and services they need; a world in which sexuality is recognized both as a natural and precious aspect of life and as a fundamental right; a world in which choices are fully respected and where stigma and discrimination have no place. This vision must be realized within a context of sustainable development that seeks to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

By 2015 we want a new international development framework that includes sexual and reproductive health and rights as essential priorities, calling specifically for:

1.               A stand-alone goal on gender equality, women’s rights and women’s empowerment

  • Including universal access to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, elimination of violence against women and girls, and gender based violence, legal equality for women, and women’s equal participation in public life and decision making.

2.               Universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights as a target under a goal on health

  • Supplemented by Sexual and Reproductive Health services explicitly included in the essential package of services under Universal Health Coverage.

3.               Gender equality and SRHR to be mainstreamed through all other goals

  • All other goals to have specific targets that support Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights and gender equality

4.               All targets and indicators to be disaggregated by age, sex, educational background, economic quintile, geographic region, ethnic group and other relevant characteristics

To this end, IPPF calls on governments to:

  • Adopt a participatory process for designing a new international development agenda based on principles of gender equality, respect for human rights, and social justice in which all stakeholders, including young people can be heard;
  • Develop a unifying global framework that recognizes the needs of countries to establish relevant goals and indicators in respect of the needs of their citizens in general and their sexual and reproductive health and rights needs in particular;
  • Establish mechanisms for accountability and transparency regarding resource allocation and outcomes that include the participation of civil society.
  • Support civil society organizations to develop their own capacity to monitor the implementation of the commitments made.

The world is home to the largest generation of young people in history. They are a vastly diverse group of individuals whose life circumstances, including opportunities and obstacles to improve their lives, vary significantly from one country to the next, and even from one area to another within a single country. Many young people have yet to exercise their basic rights to choose a life that they value. In many societies, girls and young women have a lower status than males which means that they have less power to determine their own lives and decisions relating to their health, and sexual and reproductive activity.

By 2020 we want to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women and girls to achieve de facto equality of opportunity for both women and men.

To this end IPPF calls on governments to:

  • Empower women economically by investing in policies and programmes that reduce the time burdens of women and girls; increase access to economic opportunities, close the gender gap in earnings and occupational segregation; and guarantee women’s and girls’ property and inheritance rights, including the right to own land, secure loans, etc;
  • Expand educational opportunities for all, close gender-related education gaps at all levels, including higher education, and adopt comprehensive sexuality education to eliminate discrimination against women and girls and facilitate the development of the skills they need to protect themselves from sexual abuse, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections;
  • Reduce all forms of violence against women and girls - including in conflict situations - by adopting and enforcing national laws to prevent violence and punish violations; eliminating early and forced marriage; combating son preference; and promoting public awareness campaigns on these issues;
  • Respect, protect and fulfil all women’s human rights, especially sexual and reproductive rights, without which the ability to exercise other rights is significantly constrained. Create an enabling environment for the exercise of those rights, including equal pay and full participation in parliamentary and other policy making processes.

All individuals should have the right to decide what happens to their body. Governments must:

  • End violence against women - currently 1 in 3 women has experienced violence, making gender-based violence one of the most pervasive human rights violations. Women who have experienced violence are more than twice as likely as non-abused women to have poor health, including poor reproductive health, and both physical and mental health problems. They also have an increased risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. Investing in gender equality ensures healthier and more prosperous societies. When women have control over their bodies, access to education, decision making roles and meaningful employment, and can live lives free from violence, they will be able to participate in the sustainable development of their communities. Addressing root causes of inequality and aiming at gender parity at all levels and in all areas is a means to eradicate poverty.
  • Provide access to safe and legal abortion - Every year 47,000 women die of unsafe abortion and since 2003 the incidence of unsafe abortion has increased; contributing to 13% of maternal mortality, it is 1 of the 3 leading causes of mortality. With few exceptions, the criminal laws of most countries restrict the grounds on which an abortion is legal. Service providers and women’s lack of awareness of the legal status of abortion can severely limit access to services. This places women at risk when seeking abortion services. Restrictive laws are not associated with lower abortion rates, they only lead to unsafe abortions. Restrictions mean the well-off can buy safe services, while the poor resort to dangerous methods. The high costs to treat complications from unsafe abortions force women and their families into even greater poverty. In addition to the risks to women’s health and lives, legal prohibitions on accessing abortion can place women at risk of imprisonment. Removing legal and policy barriers to increase access to abortion services, would have a huge impact in reducing maternal mortality.

All individuals should have the right to decide who they share their lives with. Governments must:

  • End early and forced marriage - although 158 countries have implemented laws to increase the legal age of marriage to 18, an estimated 67 million girls are married before their 18th birthday. 90% of the 41 priority countries, where early marriage affects more than 30% of girls, have expressed a commitment to address the issue. Turning commitments into realities requires civil society, parliamentarians, legislators, communities and other stakeholders to implement policy which protects the sexual and human rights of girls and young women.
  • Strengthen LGBTI rights - although discrimination based on gender is ubiquitous, in many parts of the world individuals face discrimination, stigma and violence based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, 76 countries have discriminatory laws which criminalize private, consensual same-sex relationships - exposing individuals to the risk of arrest, prosecution and imprisonment. In at least 5 of these countries the death penalty is applicable. Discrimination of any kind, including hate crimes should be eradicated.  

All individuals should have the right to decide the size of their own family. This includes:

  • Whether or  not to have and plan a family, when to have children and with whom, and to decide the number and spacing of their children freely and responsibly, within an environment in which laws and policies recognize the diversity of family forms, including those not defined by descent or marriage.
  • The  right of all people to have access to the information, education and to the means they need to be able to decide whether or not and when to have children and to decide freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children.
  • All persons have the right to make free and responsible choices regarding reproduction and family formation; including the right to decide whether or not to have biological or adopted children, as well as to all safe, effective, acceptable and affordable methods of fertility regulation, reproductive technologies, and treatments.
  • All persons have the right to counselling and other services related to reproduction, infertility and pregnancy termination, irrespective of marital status, and within a framework of non-discrimination and taking into account the evolving capacity of children.
  • All women have the right to information, education and services necessary for the protection of reproductive health, safe motherhood and safe abortion, which are accessible, affordable, acceptable and convenient to all users.

All individuals should have the right to decide their own future:

Sexuality is an integral part of the personhood of every human being in all societies. Sexual rights are universal human rights based on the inherent freedom, dignity and equality of all human beings. Poverty is both a cause and consequence of sexual ill health and sexuality-based inequalities and exclusions. The next development framework must address the interconnection of poverty with these issues, recognizing its role in the enjoyment and denial of human rights and, in particular, its effects on sexual rights. Sexual rights are fundamental to sustainable development. The person is the central subject of development and it is important to create a favourable environment in which every individual may enjoy all sexual rights in order to be able to take an active part in processes of economic, social, cultural and political development. Sexuality is an aspect of human and social life which is engaged always with the body, the mind, politics, health and society.