Finland is a global leader in supporting sexual and reproductive health and rights for women and girls, including the right of persons with disabilities to live free from discrimination, stigma, and violence. In order to bring these issues to the forefront, COFACE member Väestöliitto has taken part in a key seminar to discuss the various realities, challenges as well as best practices along with the NGO Fingo and in cooperation with the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, UNFPA, and the Disability Partnership Finland. The aim was to examine the topic from a broad international angle involving researchers, civil society organizations, politicians, and practitioners.
The event was opened by Deputy State Secretary Pasi Hellman, who expressed that sexual rights are at the core of human rights and a prerequisite for sustainable development. Therefore, safeguarding the rights of people with disabilities is at the heart of Finland’s foreign policy.
Sexual and reproductive health and rights belong as much to persons with disabilities as to everyone else. Yet lack of knowledge and information often create barriers for access. Women and girls with disabilities also have a clearly higher risk of facing human rights violations such as forced sterilization or denied access to contraception, and they are more vulnerable to encountering violence including sexual and gender-based violence. Exclusion from sexual and reproductive health services as well as comprehensive sexuality education and information fundamentally violates the rights of persons with disabilities. Now is the time for action, and action starts with raising awareness.