Why Does A Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Target Matter in the Health Goal?

14 JULY 2014 | UN HEADQUARTERS; NY

The Permanent Mission of France to the United Nations and the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health hosted a technical discussion on the Post-2015 Development Agenda at UN Headquarters on “Why a sexual and reproductive health and rights target matters in the health goal.” The event brought together more than 50 participants from UN missions, UN agencies, and civil society to discuss the rationale for including sexual and reproductive health (SRH) as a targets under health in the Post-2015 Development Agenda. The event was held on the sidelines of the thirteenth session of the Open Working Group for Sustainable Development and was intended to contribute to those deliberations.

The event was moderated by Dr. Rama Lakshminarayanan, Senior Adviser, Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health, who introduced the panel discussion by laying out the importance of fully reflecting sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) within the sustainable development discussions. She pointed out that the Communiqué issued from the recent Partners’ Forum held in Johannesburg, South Africa, had identified the centrality of SRHR within the post-2015 development agenda, and how critical it is to take a life course development approach with regard to sexual and reproductive health.

In her opening remarks H.E. Mrs. Marla Cristina Perceval, the Permanent Representative of Argentina to the United Nations, highlighted why universal and free access to SRHR in the Post-2015 Development agenda is necessary to address social, economic, and political inequality. She acknowledged that such rights are equally important for men and women but made the point that “women get pregnant, men don’t”, and that women, especially young women, are not only more vulnerable than men to sexually transmitted infections and HIV but also face more severe consequences than men from these diseases. In addition, violence against girls and women, harmful traditional practices, and child, early and forced marriage further threaten the sexual and reproductive health of girls and women.

Ms. Fabienne Bartoli, Counsellor in the Permanent Mission of France, emphasized France’s commitment to ensuring that quality sexual and reproductive health information, education and services are universally accessible and available. While recognizing the progress made in reducing maternal mortality by nearly 50% over the last 23 years, she said that it was unacceptable that in today’s society, 290,000 women and adolescents die from pregnancy or childbirth complications and that 3 million newborns die every year. Ms. Bartoli reiterated France’s commitment to fully reflect the unique aspects of reproductive health information and services within the broader universal health coverage target.

Ms. Amy Boldosser-Boesch, Interim President, Family Care International, stressed the point that SRHR is relevant for all seven billion people inhabiting this planet. She urged the international community to ensure that every woman, throughout her life, has access to a comprehensive, accessible, and integrated package of sexual and reproductive health services of high quality and that fully respects and protects her sexual and reproductive rights. Ms. Boldosser-Boesch specifically raised the critical role of reaching adolescents and youth in this context, and explained why SRHR is an important part of preventing and treating the new and emerging challenges being posed by non-communicable diseases, cancers and mental health.

Ms. Diah S Saminarsih, Republic of Indonesia, spoke about the unfinished MDG agenda, and the inter-linkages between sexual and reproductive health and maternal, newborn, child health as well as communicable diseases such as HIV and non-communicable diseases. She stated that countries do have national laws and customs to take into account, but that the need for a separate target on sexual and reproductive health within the health goal was clear.

Dr. Laura Laski, UNFPA, elaborated on the SRHR target that UNFPA, together with a number of partner agencies such as WHO, and USAID, has prepared as technical guidance for its inclusion under the health goal. She emphasized the vital role universal health coverage will play in increasing both access to SRH services but also provide much needed financial protection to the vulnerable populations, but laid out some areas that need to be carefully considered when a country designs and implements universal health coverage.

During the discussions, the US Mission representative made a strong statement regarding the commitment of the United States to ensuring that sexual and reproductive health and rights remain a priority within the Post-2015 Development Agenda. The need to prioritize SRHR both within the health goal as well as other relevant goals such as gender and education, in order to promote sustainable and equitable development, was a clear conclusion that emerged from the panel discussion.

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  • The Lancet
    Sexual and reproductive health and rights: a global development, health, and human rights priority