USA: “Assault On Reproductive Rights” Editorial From The Lancet
25 years of progress in strengthening the rights of women to equitable access to health services are now under threat. At the UN High-Level Meeting on AIDS, held in New York last month, those determined to stop progress for women achieved notable victories.
In a recent newsletter forwarded to members of Family Watch International, a network dedicated to conservative causes (such as fighting abortion), lobbyists proclaimed success in “removing many harmful provisions” and replacing these with stigmatising propaganda.What were the precise complaints about the draft language before Presidents and Prime Ministers in New York? The ideas that irked conservative campaigners embraced, among others, references to what they called “fictitious” reproductive rights, efforts to defeat homophobia, and education about sex and sexuality. They described programmes to improve awareness of sex and its relation to health as “insidious”. They warned that “We should all be deeply concerned that some governments were trying to establish this kind of education for children as an international human right”. Conservatives railed against the notion of changing gender and sexual norms to reduce the harm and stigma so often directed against women. They characterised educational initiatives as promoting promiscuity.And they largely succeeded in their mission. The UN buckled. Conservatives hailed their victory in removing all references to comprehensive sexuality education. Their success was such that in the literature they distributed after the UN meeting, they were able to stigmatise those living with AIDS as “active agents in spreading the disease”.Thankfully, some countries are fighting to challenge this thinking. The US Government, for example, issued guidance last month on requirements for women, girls, and gender equality in their Global Health Initiative programmes. Ten key elements are set out, including participation of women and girls in health programmes, targeting of gender-based violence, empowering girls through education, promoting policies and laws that improve gender equality and health status, and addressing the economic, social, legal, and cultural barriers to progress for women.What the US Government has announced is a new front in the culture wars—between those who want to see opportunities for the health of women become a global political objective and those who would prefer women to die on the altar of religious extremism.