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New partnerships to promote sexual rights in South Asia

Aug 22, 2013

Forty Parliamentarians from nine countries in South Asia supported the need to highlight sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

Bangkok and New Delhi:The South Asian region saw birth of two new regional partnerships to take forward the agenda of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights. The partnerships were formed between the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), Partners in Population and Development (PPD) and Asian Forum of Parliamentarians for Population and Development (AFPPD) at a two day consultation for Parliamentarians organised by IPPF and AFPPD.

The consultation brought together forty Parliamentarians from nine countries in South Asia to support the need to highlight sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

The initiative with PPD has been formed with the aim of influencing policy reforms and working with the parliamentarians to ensure inclusion of SRHR in the respective frameworks of International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Beyond 2014 and Millennium Development Goals (MDG) post 2015. The partnership will promote implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action especially in sustainable development and women empowerment through addressing SRHR needs.

The parties intend to: Align to be responsive to Member Country priorities in the area of SRHR, HIV/AIDS, poverty alleviation and women’s empowerment and advocate for the promotion of SRHR, Population and Development programs by promoting South-South Cooperation.

They also intend to build Alliances to expand networks and reinforce partnerships with government and civil society stakeholders and enhance coalition building to promote ICPD Goals as per the Programme of Action and Millennium Development Goals and beyond.

The MOU with AFPPD will help to engage with parliamentarians who are champions of SRHR at regional level and to take it forward in their respective countries through Member Associations of IPPF.

Speaking on the occasion Tewodros Melesse, Director General of IPPF said, “The hypocrisy of humanity is to deny sexuality, the most basic aspect of human nature. It has existed from the dawn of time, yet we find it difficult to come to terms and address it. When we view it through political, religious and cultural lenses we begin to withhold dignity, respect and rights of one half of the population- women and girls.

The concerns about upholding the rights for women and the rising religious and cultural extremism in the region were expressed in the consultation. The Parliamentarians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Iran, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka supported the need for governments to take greater ownership of the SRHR agenda and to promote progressive policies for women and disadvantaged sections of the society. They supported women’s and young peoples’ participation in decision making at all levels – individual, community and policy level.

“The issue of SRHR has two levels – one is ensuring legislation for penalising and second level is to change mindset of people to reclaim dignity of women, girls and young people. I believe that discussion on violence against women and girls rights and empowerment should start from the intimacy of the bedroom where instances of marital rape are common. Giving dignity in such intimate spaces should be our starting point,” said Ibrahim Zuhuree, from the Secretary-General's Office in the SAARC Secretariat.

The forum during the two day consultation discussed at length the role parliamentarians can play for achieving SRHR for all. The parliamentarians accepted their responsibility in pushing the boundaries for promoting issues of SRHR and addressing challenges posed by culture, religion, social and economic scenario in their respective countries

“We recognize SRHR as a priority for achieving equality, security, development and peace across all communities and countries in the world. As parliamentarians you play an important role in promoting and prioritizing SRHR in this very crucial time in your respective countries Policy hindrances and resource gaps impede the vision of SRHR for all.” said Anjali Sen, Regional Director, IPPF, South Asia Region (SAR)

Sujatha Natarajan, Chairperson, Regional Council, IPPF, SAR emphasised that it is time to ensure a society that is inclusive, protective and ensures well-being and universal safety especially of women and girls.”

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