My Body My Choice, well, not really
Nearly half the women and adolescent girls are denied the right to decide whether or not to have sex with their partners, use contraception, or seek healthcare, according to a new report by the United Nations.
The UN’s Population Fund (UNFPA) on Wednesday called the finding “alarming” and said the lack of bodily autonomy threatened women’s safety, potentially reduced economic productivity and resulted in extra costs to a country’s healthcare and judicial systems.
The report, titled My Body is My Own (PDF), looked at both women’s power to make their own decisions about their bodies and the extent to which countries’ laws support or interfered with that right.
Here’s what you need to know:
- 45 per cent of women were not fully empowered to make choices over healthcare, contraception, and whether or not to have sex.
- In some countries – Mali, Niger and Senegal – more than 90 per cent of women are deprived of their bodily autonomy
- 20 countries or territories worldwide have “marry-your-rapist” laws
- 43 countries have no legislation addressing the issue of marital rape
- 30 countries across the world restrict women’s right to move around outside the home
- Only 71 per cent of countries guarantee access to overall maternity care, while 75 per cent ensure full, equal access to contraception
- Women globally enjoy only 75% of the legal rights of men
These are not just numbers or data to be analysed. It is a living reality for billions of women. The fact that women have no right to their bodies should be startling enough to press for change. Make laws and amendments that protect our young girls and women.
Interestingly, the report said the existence of supportive sexual and reproductive laws did not depend on a country’s income level, with low-income countries such as Cambodia, Laos and Mozambique enacting laws and regulations that guaranteed both men and women equal access to sexual and reproductive health care, information and education. Thereby, busting myths that developing or low-income countries are the reason behind lack of body autonomy. Clearly, that’s not the case.
Income has nothing to do with basic respect, dignity to life, and the same law for one and all.
However, the questions that continue to haunt us: When will this change? When will we discuss achievement and growth without any gender stereotypes? When there will be no such reports that demean the very existence of life? When will women be seen as human deserving of a better life and equal right?
Yes, things are changing. But, they are not enough.