Finland is known around the world as a champion of sexual and reproductive health and rights. As the anti-sexual rights movement gains momentum around the world, COFACE Member Väestöliitto (the Family Federation of Finland) calls on the Finnish government to strengthen its role and put sexual rights at the forefront of its development policy.
Sexual and reproductive health and rights, or sexual rights for short, are human rights for everyone. These rights include sexual education, sexual health services, safe abortion, contraception, maternal health, consent and the right to express one’s sexual orientation and gender.
Sexual rights around the world
There are major challenges to realising sexual rights, particularly in developing countries. For example, the right to one’s own sexuality, information, contraceptive decisions or bodily autonomy are far from being realised for everyone:
- One in three girls is forced to drop out of school because of child marriage or pregnancy. 257 million women would like to use contraception but have no access to it.
- One in three women experience physical or sexual violence.
- An estimated 25.1 million unsafe abortions are performed each year, 97% of which take place in developing countries.
- One in four people in the world live in a country where homosexuality is prohibited by law.
Realising sexual rights contributes to sustainable development
Väestöliitto believes primary health care must include sexual and reproductive health services, including safe abortion and post-abortion care, in order to achieve the goal of universal health coverage. Good sexual health and the realisation of sexual rights are a cornerstone of education and social participation, especially for women and girls. Women’s right to decide about their own bodies is a necessary starting point for achieving gender equality. The realisation of sexual rights enables girls and women in particular to participate in social decision-making, conflict prevention and peace-building. The greatest challenges to the realisation of sexual rights are faced by the most vulnerable. Promoting sexual rights supports everyone’s well-being and their ability to influence their own lives and society.
The conservative movement against women’s rights and sexual rights is gaining strength globally. There are also initiatives in the EU to undermine sexual rights. Sexual rights defenders are needed more than ever. The realisation of sexual rights must be safeguarded in the midst of conflicts and the climate crisis. In crisis situations, sexual health services are at risk of being undermined and gender-based violence is on the rise. At the same time, climate change threatens the sexual rights and services of the world’s most vulnerable.
Finland is a recognised and respected promoter of gender equality and sexual rights in international cooperation. Väestöliitto believes now is the time for Finland to boldly put sexual rights at the forefront of its development policy.
See more information and the recommendations of Väestöliitto here.