On World Population Day, Reaffirming CARE’s Commitment to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights
In 1968 at the International Conference on Human Rights, family planning was declared a human right. Today, we mark the 50th anniversary of World Population Day and we celebrate this watershed moment when the global community asserted the right of all individuals to plan their families.
While much progress has been made in the past five decades, we realize that the right to family planning has not been fulfilled or upheld in many contexts around the world. We are still far from ensuring that all women and girls can freely and voluntarily decide if, when and how often they become pregnant. We are also far from ensuring that the broad spectrum of rights related to sexual and reproductive health are respected, protected, and fulfilled for individuals everywhere—and especially for those from marginalized groups.
Despite the long road ahead, CARE celebrates World Population Day and welcomes this opportunity to recognize the importance of rights-based family planning to population health. For decades, we have invested in programs that promote access to family planning and sexual and reproductive health care, improve quality and equity of health services, and disrupt power structures and unequal social norms that disproportionately harm women, girls, and other marginalized groups. Acting director of sexual and reproductive health and rights for CARE USA, Jesse Rattan notes the importance of these programs to CARE: “We know that family planning saves lives. Access to voluntary family planning significantly and demonstrably reduces infant, child, and maternal deaths, and improves the health of the entire family. These services are critical to our mission to reduce poverty, promote social justice, and create a better world for women and girls.”
While acknowledging the importance of this day to family planning, CARE also recognizes the broader, unfinished global agenda for sexual and reproductive health and rights. The scope of this unfinished agenda was recently presented in a report by the Guttmacher-Lancet Commission on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, an international collaboration of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) researchers, practitioners, and other experts from around the world.
The report shares a snapshot of staggering global figures in SRHR:
“Each year in developing regions, more than 30 million women do not give birth in a health facility, more than 45 million have inadequate or no antenatal care, and more than 200 million women want to avoid pregnancy but are not using modern contraception. Each year worldwide, 25 million unsafe abortions take place, more than 350 million men and women need treatment for one of the four curable sexually transmitted infections, and nearly 2 million people become newly infected with HIV. Additionally, at some point in their lives nearly one in three women experience intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence. Ultimately, almost all 4.3 billion people of reproductive age worldwide will have inadequate sexual and reproductive health services over the course of their lives” (p. 2642).
In nearly 50 pages, the Commission lays out an ambitious vision for SRHR and identifies many areas for improvement and acceleration towards set targets and goals. CARE was especially pleased to see the new and more inclusive definition of SRHR, presenting a more positive and progressive approach to sexuality and reproductive health. The report gives attention to the most marginalized and disadvantaged groups such as people with disabilities, sex workers, and refugees and migrant populations, and shares information about neglected issues such as infertility, men’s reproductive health, and reproductive cancers.
On World Population Day, CARE reflects on the progress made in advancing the human right of all individuals to plan their families, and all the work that is left to be done. CARE is energized and committed to continuing our work to ensure that everyone has access to the information and services necessary to take control of their own health and wellbeing.
Read the Lancet-Guttmacher Commission Report on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights here.