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Rio+20 Agreement a major disappointment

Reproductive rights for women were excluded from draft agreement after campaign led by Holly See (the Vatican).

21.06.2012 | American Progress

Countries representatives at Rio+20—the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development had a unique opportunity to create a link between sustainable development, women’s human rights and gender equality. The hopes were high as this document could have pointed out a significant role of women in sustainable development. 

Apparently, participating countries were not ready to take this step, as on Thursday the draft agreement was reached without women’s reproductive rights and gender equality. The objections against the reproductive rights were raised by Holly See. According to the Vatican it is not acceptable to link sustainable development and the rights to abortion or birth control as those may be included in reproductive rights. However other governments such as the United States, Finland or Norway and NGOs were in favor of those, they were not able to include them into the draft.

Currently the document only promotes the equal access of women and girls to education, basic services, economic opportunities, and health care services instead of ensuring them.
We could ask ourselves: why reproductive rights are so controversial? The Vatican believes that by ensuring the reproductive rights and health, it gives green light to abortion. Holly See couldn’t be more wrong. The main aim of reproductive rights is to ensure women freedom to decide whether they want to have the baby or not and also the basic service care. However it may also go beyond contraception in order to guarantee women’s rights.  

Many women representatives were disappointed about the outcome of the final draft. Sacha Gabizon, executive director of Women in Europe for a Common Future and a representative for the Women’s Major Group pointed out that women need to fight constantly to keep the link between women’s rights and sustainable development. Moreover Connie Hedegaard, EU commissioner for climate action has criticized the soft language used in draft agreement where instead of ensuring, it only undertakes or assess women’s rights.

It is vital for the future generation to accept that reproductive rights are inseparable part of women’s rights. The world’s population is constantly growing. However the birth rates are and still will be high in developing countries where women do not have even access to effective contraception. It is also linked to the unstable climate that has an effect on women’s life e.g. in Somalia.

The role of women within sustainable development was acknowledged in two crucial declarations, namely the 1992 Rio Declaration and the 1999 Beijing Declaration. As without full participation of women in economic and social development the goals of sustainable development will not be achieved.


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