“My body is my own. How many women and girls can freely make that claim?, asks the UNFPA’s 2021 flagship State of World Population report.
The report states that nearly half of women in 57 developing countries are denied the right to decide whether to have sex with their partners, use contraception or seek health care.
It is for the first time that a United Nations report focuses mainly on “bodily autonomy, the power and agency to make choices about your body, without fear of violence or having someone else decide for so.”
55 per cent of women fully empowered
In the Report, the UNFPA said that only 55 per cent of women are fully empowered to make choices over ability to say yes or no to sex, health care and contraception. The report further notes that only 71 per cent of countries guarantee access to overall maternity care. It also mentioned that 75 per cent of countries legally ensure full, equal access to Contraception and about 80 per cent of countries have laws supporting sexual health and well-being. The UNFPA report points out that only 56 per cent of teh countries have laws and policies supporting comprehensive sexuality education.
RIGHT TO BODILY AUTONOMY
UNFPA Director Dr. Natalia Kanem said the fact that nearly half of women still cannot take decisions about whether or not to have sex, use contraception, and seek health care should outrage everyone. “In essence, hundreds of millions of women do not own their own bodies. Their lives are governed by others,” she said.
She stressed, “each of us has a right to bodily autonomy and should make our own choices about our bodies, and to have those choices supported by everyone around us, and by our societies at large. Depriving women and girls of bodily autonomy is wrong. It causes reinforces inequalities and violence, all of which arise from gender discrimination.”
MARRY THE RAPIST
The report notes that twenty countries have “marry your rapist” laws. Here men can escape criminal prosecution if he marries the woman or girl he raped. It said that 43 countries have no legislation addressing the issue of marital rape. More than 30 countries restrict women’s right to move around outside the home. Girls and boys with disabilities are nearly three times more likely to be subjected to sexual violence, with girls at the greatest risk, the report notes.
The UNFPA report also comes up with many solutions to address the violations and abuse on bodily autonomy. It notes that a criminal justice system might require a survivor to undergo an invasive virginity test to prosecute a case of rape. It said that real solutions must take into account the needs and experiences of those affected.
Dr Kanem said that the denial of bodily autonomy is violation of women fundamental rights of women and girls. “It is nothing less than an annihilation of the spirit and it must stop,” she said.
The UNFPA Director says a woman who has control over her body is more likely to empower in other spheres of her life. “She gains not only in terms of autonomy changes in health and education, income and safety. She is more likely to thrive and so is her family,” she added.