WASHINGTON, D.C. — United States Representative Yvette Clarke (D-NY) introduced the Global Sexual and Reproductive Health Act September 27, 2013. The bill supports sexual and reproductive health in developing countries.
Women’s Health and Empowerment
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon referred to sexual and reproductive health as a fundamental human right. He further explained that empowering women and girls is important to improving the quality of life for individuals, families, countries and the entire world.
Access to sexual and reproductive health services is unavailable to many individuals, especially those who live in poverty. Family planning is largely inaccessible. The developing world consists of 200 million women who cannot obtain contraception.
The lives of women and girls are put at risk when sexual and reproductive health services are unavailable to them. United Nations Population Fund (UNPF) Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin revealed that the daily rate of women who die while giving birth is around 800.
Women and girls in developing countries are unable to get the information and care they need to maintain their sexual and reproductive health. Their rights also suffer. Osotimehin noted that one in three girls married in developing countries are under 18 years old. The legal age for marriage in 158 countries is 18, which means child marriage is illegal.
United States policies in the Global Sexual and Reproductive Health Act support the reproductive rights of individuals and couples. Individuals and couples are empowered to make their own reproduction choices. They will have the right to decide the number, spacing and timing of the children they have.
The bill protects individuals and couples from being pressured by government fertility goals in the family planning process. The use of discrimination, coercion and violence to influence reproduction decisions is a human rights violation prohibited by the bill.
The bill ensures that the responsible exercise of reproductive rights will be promoted as an essential part of U.S. sexual and reproductive rights programs in developing countries.
All sexual and reproductive health programs and services will adhere to the principle of free and informed consent. The policy prohibits the forcing of pregnancies, abortions and sterilizations. Individuals must receive the proper information, counseling and services before deciding on contraceptive methods. The bill requires contraception decisions to be made on an informed and voluntary basis.
U.S. Assistance in Developing World
The Global Sexual and Reproductive Health Act provides assistance that will help make sexual and reproductive health universally accessible in developing countries.
The bill makes voluntary family planning information and services more widely available. Couples will be able to prevent unplanned pregnancies and protect themselves from sexual and reproductive health problems such as sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
The use of education and awareness programs, mass media, community mobilization and outreach will inform the public more about contraceptives and where to acquire them. Such information includes risk-reduction strategies and family planning. Other sexual and reproductive health care needs are also to be addressed.
The bill works to make sexual and reproductive health programs more responsive to those who need such services throughout their sexual and reproductive lives. Services are to be made available to both young people and older adults.
Traditions like female genital mutilation, early marriage and early childbearing can be harmful. The bill seeks to end traditional practices detrimental to sexual and reproductive health. Gender equality is promoted to encourage healthy reproductive behaviors and improve the resulting health of the individual.
Developing countries must have policies that allow reproductive health programs to succeed. The Global Sexual and Reproductive Health Act intends to achieve that by making conditions suitable enough to sustain reproductive health programs such as family planning.