Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Equality between women and men, and gender perspective 6/16

25. Due to women’s reproductive capacities, the realization of the right of women to sexual and reproductive health is essential to the realization of the full range of their human rights. The right of women to sexual and reproductive health is indispensable to their autonomy and their right to make meaningful decisions about their lives and health. Gender equality requires that the health needs of women, different from those of men, be taken into account and appropriate services provided for women in accordance with their life cycles.

26. The experiences of women of systemic discrimination and violence throughout their lives require comprehensive understanding of the concept of gender equality in the right to sexual and reproductive health. Non-discrimination on the basis of sex, as guaranteed in article 2 (2) of the Covenant, and the equality of women, as guaranteed in article 3, require the removal of not only direct discrimination but also indirect discrimination, and the ensuring of formal as well as substantive equality.22

27. Seemingly neutral laws, policies and practices can perpetuate already existing gender inequalities and discrimination against women. Substantive equality requires that laws, policies and practices do not maintain, but rather alleviate, the inherent disadvantage that women experience in exercising their right to sexual and reproductive health. Gender-based stereotypes, assumptions and expectations related to women being the subordinates of men and their role being solely as caregivers and mothers, in particular, are obstacles to substantive gender equality, including the equal right to sexual and reproductive health, and need to be modified or eliminated, as does the role of men solely as heads of household and breadwinners. 23 At the same time, special measures, both temporary and permanent, are necessary to accelerate the de facto equality of women and to protect maternity. 24

28. The realization of the rights of women and gender equality, both in law and in practice, requires repealing or reforming discriminatory laws, policies and practices in the area of sexual and reproductive health. Removal of all barriers interfering with access by women to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, goods, education and information is required. To lower rates of maternal mortality and morbidity requires emergency obstetric care and skilled birth attendance, including in rural and remote areas, and prevention of unsafe abortions. Preventing unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions requires States to adopt legal and policy measures to guarantee all individuals access to affordable, safe and effective contraceptives and comprehensive sexuality education, including for adolescents; to liberalize restrictive abortion laws; to guarantee women and girls access to safe abortion services and quality post-abortion care, including by training health-care providers; and to respect the right of women to make autonomous decisions about their sexual and reproductive health. 25

29. It is also important to undertake preventive, promotional and remedial action to shield all individuals from the harmful practices and norms and gender-based violence that deny them their full sexual and reproductive health, such as female genital mutilation, child and forced marriage and domestic and sexual violence, including marital rape, among other things. States parties must put in place laws, policies and programmes to prevent, address and remediate violations of the right of all individuals to autonomous decision-making on matters regarding their sexual and reproductive health, free from violence, coercion and discrimination,

22 Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights general comment No. 16 (2005) on the equal right of men and women to the enjoyment of all economic, social and cultural rights. 
23 See Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, art. 5.
24 Article 4 (1) of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women is concerned with “temporary special measures aimed at accelerating de facto equality between men and women”, while article 4 (2) focuses on “special measures… aimed at protecting maternity”. See also Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights general comment No. 16, para. 15.
25 A/69/62; see also WHO, Safe Abortion: Technical and Policy Guidance for Health Systems, 2nd ed. (2012).

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