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Unicef photo essay – the rights of the child 11

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Need to save your citations for later? Reproductive rights are legal rights and freedoms relating to reproduction and reproductive health that vary amongst countries around the world. Reproductive rights rest on the recognition of the basic right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so, and the right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health. Reproductive rights began to develop as a subset of human rights at the United Nation’s 1968 International Conference on Human Rights. Issues related to reproductive rights are some of the most vigorously contested rights’ issues worldwide, regardless of the population’s socioeconomic level, religion or culture. The issue of reproductive rights is frequently presented as being of vital importance in discussions and articles by population concern organizations such as Population Matters. Reproductive rights are a subset of sexual and reproductive health and rights.

In 1945, the United Nations Charter included the obligation “to promote universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without discrimination as to race, sex, language, or religion”. However, the Charter did not define these rights. Reproductive health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, in all matters relating to the reproductive system and its functions and processes. Reproductive health therefore implies that people are able to have a satisfying and safe sex life and that they have the capability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when and how often to do so.

Unlike previous population conferences, a wide range of interests from grassroots to government level were represented in Cairo. 179 nations attended the ICPD and overall eleven thousand representatives from governments, NGOs, international agencies and citizen activists participated. The Cairo Programme of Action was adopted by 184 UN member states. Nevertheless, many Latin American and Islamic states made formal reservations to the programme, in particular, to its concept of reproductive rights and sexual freedom, to its treatment of abortion, and to its potential incompatibility with Islamic law.

Implementation of the Cairo Programme of Action varies considerably from country to country. In many countries, post-ICPD tensions emerged as the human rights-based approach was implemented. Since the ICPD, many countries have broadened their reproductive health programs and attempted to integrate maternal and child health services with family planning. More attention is paid to adolescent health and the consequences of unsafe abortion. 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. Equal relationships between women and men in matters of sexual relations and reproduction, including full respect for the integrity of the person, require mutual respect, consent and shared responsibility for sexual behavior and its consequences . The Beijing Platform demarcated twelve interrelated critical areas of the human rights of women that require advocacy.

The Platform framed women’s reproductive rights as “indivisible, universal and inalienable human rights. State abuses against reproductive rights have happened both under right-wing and left-wing governments. Reproductive rights embrace certain human rights that are already recognized in national laws, international human rights documents and other relevant United Nations consensus documents. These rights rest on the recognition of the basic right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so, and the right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health. However, not all states have accepted the inclusion of reproductive rights in the body of internationally recognized human rights. At the Cairo Conference, several states made formal reservations either to the concept of reproductive rights or to its specific content. The reproductive rights of women are advanced in the context of the right to freedom from discrimination and the social and economic status of women.

Control over reproduction is a basic need and a basic right for all women. Linked as it is to women’s health and social status, as well as the powerful social structures of religion, state control and administrative inertia, and private profit, it is from the perspective of poor women that this right can best be understood and affirmed. Women’s reproductive rights have long retained key issue status in the debate on overpopulation. Women don’t want to have 12 kids of whom nine will die.

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