IN MERETO, SENEGAL — From the corner of his family’s bustling courtyard, El Hadji Fally Diallo looked out approvingly at his large extended family. Several women with babies on their hips prepared the massive midday meal, and children studying the Koran mumbled verses to themselves.
The year 2014 was meant to be the year that ended the Program of Action adopted by the Cairo Conference for Population and Development (ICPD) in 1994. The document was a paradigm shift in understanding and framing reproductive health and rights and prioritizing individuals’ rights to choose and make decisions with regards to their own bodies. Now that the General Assembly extended the PoA indefinitely, and will review country progress at its 2014 session, it is the right moment to evaluate the extent to which different countries in the region implemented the PoA and how this has changed the realities lived by women and youth regarding their sexual and reproductive health and rights. In the MENA region, acknowledging reproductive rights in a UN consensus document has greatly contributed in enhancing the countries’ policies especially in maternity care, family planning services and HIV/AIDS. Yet, cultural and religious discourses still play a major role in holding back sexual rights especially for young people. Women’s autonomy over their bodies is still a highly debated issue because of the deeply embedded patriarchal culture, which is also reflected in an unprecedented increase in the level of sexual violence against women.
This briefing paper is intended to provide guidance on how to incorporate the principles of substantive equality into the Post-2015 Agenda. Specifically, when considering reproductive rights and gender equality in these programs, states should take the following steps:
•Ensure that human rights guide and are present in all goals, targets, and indicators.
•Ensure that the core principles of human rights—including the need for states to respect, protect, and fulfill rights, ensure equality for all, and promote accountability for rights violations—are mainstreamed throughout the new framework.
•Use the principle of substantive equality to address underlying causes of gender inequality and other bases for discrimination such as race, disability, migration status, age and others that manifest as reproductive rights violations.
•Use the framework provided by international human rights law concerning the right to health (Accessibility, Availability, Acceptability, Quality (AAAQs)) to guide implementation of all goals, targets, and indicators on health.
•Ensure that women are able to meaningfully access effective administrative or judicial remedies for violations of reproductive rights, including access to information and comprehensive services, and that states promptly implement these decisions.
Betrothal of girls is pervasive in Afghanistan. According to the Ministry of Public Healths Mortality Survey that was conducted in all provinces of the country in 2010, 53 percent of all women in the 25 to 49 age group were married by age 18, and 21 percent were married by age 15. A report on Child Marriage in Southern Asia conducted by the International Center for Research on Women, Australian Aid and UNFPA states that 57 percent of Afghan girls are married before they turn 16 and 60 to 80 percent of them were forced into such unions by their families.
The following submission, is presented to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the occasion of the 26th session of the Human Rights Council, and provides a brief summary of violations of rights of girl children in the Islamic republic of Iran as a result of laws that permit and indeed condone the practice of early marriage in that country.
As my Egyptian grandmother used to say: “I am not a prostitute, and my husband isn’t giving me money, so where am I supposed to find the cash?”
With only a quarter of women across the Arab world, on average, in the workforce, this question is a lived reality for millions today.
For the half-dozen or so women sitting with me in a café in downtown Casablanca, the answer to that question was clear. Starting at 50-plus dirhams (6 USD) and up per client—and with the prospect of servicing several clients a day—prostitution provides much-needed income to women who are having a hard time to make ends meet by other means.