Understanding young people's right to decide

Young people’s capacity to exercise autonomy, choice and independence in relation to their sexual and reproductive health varies enormously between and within different countries, cultures and contexts, as do the legal systems that support or diminish these rights.

Making cross-national comparisons of research, policy and practice is complex since it requires knowledge of the specific national social, demographic and economic contexts. It is also important to recognize the cultural, social and national distinctions in understandings of ‘youth’ and the fact that broad conceptualizations of ‘youth’ may mean that the experiences and voices of certain marginalized and vulnerable groups of young people remain silenced.

Addressing the rights of ‘young people’ in general, however, is a valuable way to recognize the importance of ‘youth’ as a conceptual category and social status that has been previously marginalized and poorly understood in both academic research and international and national policy making.