Speech by Michelle Bachelet at High-level task force for ICPD

Date : 07 March 2013

Speech by Michelle Bachelet at High-level task force for the International Conference on Population and Development. 5 March, 2013. New York

[ Check against delivery]

Good afternoon, President Tarja Halonen, President Joaquim Chissano,
Excellencies, Colleagues and Friends.

Thank you for inviting me here to this important event and discussion. The recommendations put forth today on sexual and reproductive rights are crucial to this Commission on the Status of Women, to all discussions on ending violence against women, and to the future of development.

And we are in excellent company with fellow discussants Leymah Gbowee and Rashida Manjoo.

Today, more and more, we see recognition of a connection made by the International Conference on Population and Development in 1994, nearly 20 years ago– the connection between women’s empowerment, sexual and reproductive rights, and sustainable development.

There is recognition that there can be no peace, no progress, no equality without women’s full and equal rights and participation. And there is recognition that there can be no gender equality without women’s realization of their full sexual and reproductive rights.

Yet because of discrimination, violent coercion, or the simple lack of information and services, women all over the world are still being deprived of their human right to make decisions on their sexual and reproductive health—decisions such as whether and when to get pregnant, and how to protect oneself from HIV infection.

And many women and girls are left with no support services and no choices to mitigate the short- and long-term effects of violence.

That is why access to all sexual and reproductive health services must be universal. And every victim of violence must have prompt access to the full range of services and support to ensure mental and physical health and well-being, safety and other basic needs.

The right to decide freely and responsibly on matters of sexual and reproductive health also belongs to young women and men. The Commission on Population and Development recognized this in its resolution passed last year.

And the 2012 Bali Global Youth Forum Declaration, adopted during the ICPD Beyond 2014 consultation process, promotes sexual rights as human rights and calls on governments to provide young people with access to sexual and reproductive health services.

Our goal has to be the promotion of the full and healthy development of the individual and relationships built on mutual trust and respect. Sexuality education does not promote promiscuity; it promotes healthy, informed and responsible behavior.

We know that community dialogue and change from within is the most effective way to eliminate harmful behavior and practices such as early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.

And I would like to add that men and boys are agents of change and should be engaged in all of these efforts to end violence against women and girls and advance sexual and reproductive health and rights.

With the deadline of the Millennium Development Goals fast approaching, we are at a turning point. Discrimination and violence against women remains the biggest obstacle we face in advancing sustainable development.

Together we must ensure that guaranteeing women’s right to sexual and reproductive health and ending violence against women, the “missing MDG,” be prioritized in the new development framework.

At UN Women, we are working closely with our UN partners, including UNFPA, to ensure that the hard work of these past decades is protected and reinforced at every opportunity.

UN Women is advocating for a separate gender equality goal in the post-2015 framework that will include ending violence against women, with gender equality mainstreamed into all other goals.

As we move forward with this Commission, with ICPD Beyond 2014, and with the new development framework, the voices of women and girls, of survivors, of advocates and civil society must not only be heard; they must drive decision-making and policy-making.

And Governments must also do their part to use tools such as gender-responsive budgeting and data disaggregation to inform their policies and track progress.

To achieve real and sustainable change, we must promote the full and equal rights of every individual to sexual and reproductive health, to education, to be equal participants and leaders in our economies and societies, and to be free from violence and discrimination.

We must promote the right to the highest standard of health, including sexual and reproductive health for all.

Thank you.