Via Planned Parenthood, the UNFPA has recently released its 2005 State of the World Population report. Which in my opinion states the obvious. That the elimination of extreme poverty cannot be achieved without ensuring gender equality and making reproductive healthcare readily available to all women, especially those living in ‘developing nations’.
[…]The report focuses on the fact that the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), eight goals aimed at eliminating extreme poverty worldwide, cannot be achieved without significant investments in furthering gender equality and reproductive health.
Gender inequities can take the hardest toll on women living in poverty. Gender discrimination in education and employment can lead to poverty. Today, nearly twice as many woman as men are illiterate, and women continue to face discrimination in employment and lower pay in the workplace.[…]
And we are living in a world where millions of women have no access to reproductive health care, because they cannot afford services, because their husbands or parents won’t allow them to get services, or simply because there is no provider available.
The lack of access to care is compounded by harmful traditional practices like female cutting/female genital mutilation, early marriage, and transactional sex, which increase women’s risk of HIV/AIDS and leave many women unable to negotiate sex or condom use.
Every minute of every day, a woman dies of a pregnancy-related cause. In sub-Saharan Africa, one in 16 women is likely to die as a result of pregnancy. In some of the poorest parts of this region, as many as one in six women face these odds. (To compare, this risk is one in 2,800 women in industrialized nations.)[…]
A severe lack of access to family planning leads to 76 million unintended pregnancies each year in the developing world alone.
When women cannot decide freely when and whether to have a child (or even when or whether to have sex) they are left with multiple unintended pregnancies, which prevent them from working outside the home, trapping them in poverty.
Too often, to make ends meet, parents decide to pull their daughters out of school so they can earn money or marry their daughters off to have fewer mouths to feed.
Giving women the right to education, the right to control their bodies, and the right to equal treatment in the workforce can help break the cycle of poverty.[…]
But we cannot achieve these goals unless governments commit to gender equality and reproductive rights.
Guess one of the nations that’s not entirely committed to this effort.
Though UNFPA is the only multilateral agency devoted to providing adults and adolescents with family planning and reproductive health care services, the Bush administration has withheld congressionally approved funding to UNFPA for the past four years.[…]
And with Bush nominating people like Ellen Sauerbrey to be Assistant Secretary of State on the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, there’s no doubt of how “committed” the administration is to this effort of eliminating poverty, via gender equality and reproductive rights.
[…]Sauerbrey, the current U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, is not well prepared to take the job, having little experience working with refugees and a long record of opposing reproductive rights.[…]
However, Sauerbrey’s record on reproductive health and family planning raises more than a few red flags:
—She has not only repeatedly stated her opposition to the right to choose abortion but has also declared that abortion is not a legitimate element of reproductive health assistance.
—She approves of President Bush’s withholding of funding to UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, charging that the money is “being used for coercive abortions in China,” despite numerous findings to the contrary.
—Sauerbrey has also denied that adolescents have any right to exercise autonomous control over their reproductive health and has called abstinence-only-until-marriage sex education the healthiest and most responsible method of HIV prevention suitable for adolescents.
Along with opposing reproductive health and rights, Sauerbrey has taken extremist positions on other women’s rights issues in the context of the United Nations.
In her role at the U.N. she has opposed ratification of the Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), a United Nations treaty agreed to by more than 180 countries (excluding the United States), and has also objected to language in U.N. documents that requires countries to “condemn violence against women and refrain from invoking any custom, tradition or religious consideration to avoid their obligations with respect to its elimination as set out in the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women.”[…]
So does allowing governments to invoke certain religious customs in the form of the law, no matter how misogynist they can be, take precedent over ending violence against women–because it’s “religious?” And does ideology take precedent over helping efforts such as the UNFPA’s to eliminate extreme povery, by supporting gender equality and reproductive rights? Perhaps for people like Sauerbrey and this administration it does.