Beyond Borders: Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights
September 29, 2004
Interview with Monika Rahman, Youth Coalition
Subject: Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights
Beyond Borders is a radio show broadcast on CHUO in Ottawa as part of a weekly current affairs program called Click Here. Hosted by Brynna Leslie of South Asia Partnership Canada, Beyond Borders seeks to bring issues of international development to Canadian airwaves. This week Monika Rahman from the Youth Coalition talks about Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights.
At the Canada Fit for Children Conference in mid-September, Monika Rahman, a policy researcher at the Youth Coalition was invited to speak in the Healthy Living workshop. She focused on the necessity of integrating Sexual and Reproductive Health and Issues with international development agendas.
Beyond Borders wanted to determine the definition of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, and look at how youth around the world are tackling the issue and trying to raise its profile in international development agendas.
Youth Coalition is an advocacy group that promotes Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights at the United Nations and in different regions throughout the world. But it also works to protect those issues in what can be a tense, conservative international climate. The Youth Coalition has a secretariat of three people that work in Ottawa, who work to network twenty-five individual members around the world. They work at the national and international levels to empower young people, so that they may influence decision-makers in their own countries on policy to do with Sexual and Reproductive Rights.
Action Canada for Population and Development offers a comprehensive summary of Sexual and Reproductive Rights:
ï¿½These rights rest on the recognition of the basic rights 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. It also includes the right to make decisions regarding reproductive free of discrimination, coercion and violence, as expressed in human rights documents.” ICPD Programme of Action, Para 7.3
Sexual and reproductive rights include:
ï¿½ reproductive and sexual health as a component of overall lifelong health;
ï¿½ reproductive decision-making, including choice in marriage, family formation, and determination of the number, timing and spacing of one’s children; and the right to the information and the means to exercise those choices;
ï¿½ comprehensive, good quality reproductive health services that ensure privacy, fully informed and free consent, confidentiality and respect;
ï¿½ sexual and reproductive security, including freedom from sexual violence and coercion.
Cultural differences in many parts of the world make it challenging to put Sexual and Reproductive Rights on the agenda. Getting people to talk openly about sex is something that is often restricted by religious, political and tribal taboos.
Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights are barely mentioned in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). MDGs are a relatively new framework for international development that focus around eight goals. Many countries, including Canada, are using as the foundation for their South Asian development agendas. HIV and AIDs are mentioned in the MDGs, along with the goal to reduce maternal mortality rates. The difficulty is that these issues are discussed in isolation from other Sexual and Reproductive Health issues, making it difficult to break the taboos and get people to look at other specific problems, such as marriage coercion, preference for the male child and the secondary role of women within the family.
Ten years ago, Sexual and Reproductive Rights issues were raised with a fury and the international world realized that these issues were at the center of development issues. People have since become complacent or uncomfortable talking about sexual issues in the current conservative international climate. The Youth Coalition will continue to train young people around the world to teach and influence civil society groups, policy-makers and decision-makers about Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, in order to get them back on national and international agendas.