Written contribution to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights On the occasion of the Day of General Discussion on "The right to sexual and reproductive health" (15 November 2010)
Submitted: 18 October 2010
This submission is made on behalf of the Sexual Rights Initiative and the Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights.
With the adoption of its landmark resolution 11/8, entitled “Preventable Maternal Mortality and Morbidity, and Human Rights”, the Human Rights Council has affirmed that the issue of maternal mortality and morbidity is a part of the global human rights agenda and has also placed the issue squarely within the Council’s own agenda. The resolution represents the first international intergovernmental recognition that maternal mortality and morbidity is a human rights issue.
Through this submission the SRI would like to highlight the links between adolescents’ sexual rights and education. Gender-based discrimination, social control over girls’ sexuality and sexual abuse lead to high drop out of girls from formal education systems. Discrimination against and humiliation of gender non-conforming and transgender children causes them to drop out as well. In South Asia, for example, intersex children are often given away to hijra communities who, facing social ostracization, live in poverty and are kept out of formal education systems.
Despite several initiatives to improve children’s health and reduce preventable mortality, including, among others, those undertaken to implement the Millennium Development Goals, the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Secretary General’s Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health, several challenges remain. As noted in the Human Rights Council’s resolution 19/37, more than 7.6 million children under the age of 5 die each year, mostly from preventable and treatable causes.
The right to health is central to the achievement of sustainable development and the realization of all other human rights. This submission focuses on sexual and reproductive health, which are confirmed to be “integral elements of the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health” and yet, often marginalized; for instance, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) added target 5B on ‘universal access to reproductive health’ as late as 2006, and this target is among the ones least likely to be met by 2015.