BDS endorses ARROW statement on the status of Women

Kathmandu(Pahichan) March 20 – Blue Diamond Society, a largest LGBTI network of Nepal has endorsed the statement made by Asian Pacific and Research Center for Women (ARROW). The statement was presented on 62 session of Commission on the Status of Women.

The summary of statement is as followings:

The world is increasingly urbanized yet 46 per cent of the world’s population is still rural.1 Women’s experiences in the Asia-Pacific Region in various communities are very diverse yet there is a common thread among rural women’s issues, through the multiple and serious challenges they face in their productive and reproductive roles and the discrimination they face as a result of deeply entrenched cultural, social and patriarchal norms. Women and girls in rural areas face “inequities based on gender which are rooted in organised oppression through class, caste, race and ethnicity,” among other factors including patriarchy. A fundamental aspect of this, is the control of and undermining women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

If women do not have the right and access to make decisions on their own body, their sexuality, they are further pushed into a poverty with unwanted pregnancies, poor health outcomes, increased impact on their health and well-being. It is critical to recognize this and the related interlinkages and ensure that it is factored into addressing conditions of rural women.

Rural women have always been the unsung heroes of food and agricultural production. Unseen by the world, forgotten by the public, and least prioritized by politicians, rural women toil night and day to feed their families, communities, and people from all around the world. Female employment in the agricultural sector continues to exceed the percentage of male employment. 2 However, when women are contributing to the economy, they are most often in low-status and low-skilled work, which also have limited or no social protection intensifying the effects this work can have on wellbeing. They perform crucial roles as seed savers and land tillers, as community leaders, and family managers.

Yet, rural girls and women are still the ones who eat the last and the least, who are not sent by their parents to school, who are forced into early marriage, who die giving birth or who are weakened by closely spaced births, who hide in their homes during menstruation, who are forced to have unsafe abortions, who have never seen a doctor or a nurse, who have had their genitals cut, and who everyday face stigma and violence, trapped in patriarchal power structures that pervade deep into unequal socio-economic structures.

Maternal mortality is higher in women living in rural areas in the region and among poorer communities. In many developing countries, women who are poor, in the bottom 20 per cent of the income scale, and particularly those who are in rural areas, are far less likely to have access to contraceptives and to quality care during pregnancy and birth than their wealthier urban counterparts.3 This may result in unintended pregnancies, health risks and lifelong economic repercussions. Further, Women in rural areas have less access to quality antenatal and obstetric care than wealthier women in urban areas. An estimated one quarter of pregnant women in developing countries today lack access to skilled birth attendants, and many have no alternative but to deliver on their own.

In many developing countries, women who are poor, in the bottom 20 per cent of the income scale, and particularly those who are in rural areas, are far less likely to have access to contraceptives and to care during pregnancy, at birth and post-delivery than wealthier urban women.

The lack of power to decide whether, when or how often to become pregnant can limit education, delay entry into the paid labour force and reduce earnings. This continues the cycle of poverty, further marginalizing the women in poor, rural and hard to reach areas. Further, Social determinants such as poverty, educational status, food and nutrition, water and sanitation affect their health of rural women. This continues the cycle of poverty, further marginalizing the women in poor, rural and hard to reach areas.

There are no shortcuts to achieving equitable access to good quality comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services. Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) are the fundamental human rights and are already recognised in national laws, international human rights documents, and other consensus documents. Ensuring SRHR information and services empowers rural women and girls to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so, and the right to attain the highest standard of gender equality and sexual and reproductive health. It is critical to recognize this and the related interlinkages and ensure that it is factored into addressing conditions of rural women.

We call on the member states to

  • Take active measures to put in place gender responsive laws and policies, eliminate gender barriers and discriminatory laws, negative social norms to enable rural women and girls full enjoyment of their human rights.

  • Eliminate gender disparities in health including sexual and reproductive health and rights and provide comprehensive sexuality education for girls living in rural areas

  • Recognize contributions of rural women in the development and economy and put in place policy measures to ensure their wellbeing including their Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights.
  • Fulfill the rights of rural women and girls by addressing and eliminating all forms of sexual and gender-based violence such as intimate partner violence, domestic violence and sexual violence, as well as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation through cohesive policy and programme implementation.

  • Address unmet need for all SRH information and services including full range of contraception and safe abortion services for rural women and girls with special attention to women in the hard to reach areas.

  • States should ensure that the number of domestically trained health workers is commensurate with the health needs of the population, subject to progressive realization and resource availability. In this context, appropriate balances must be struck between, for example, the number of health workers at the community or primary level and specialists at the tertiary level.

  • Increase capacities of the national statistical offices to generate age, sex, and rural-urban disaggregated data to support policies in the area of gender equality and SRHR for rural women and girls

  • And finally, States should ensure Ensuring a Continuum of Quality Care (CQC) and universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights across a woman’s lifecycle—from preconception and pregnancy, to postpartum/post-abortion and menopause, and across various locations, e.g., home, community, and health facilities—is important to reduce adolescent, maternal, newborn, and child mortality and morbidity and improve women’s reproductive health.