CHOICE's Statement at the 49th session of the Human Rights Council
Panel discussion on the importance of robust public policies and services for the protection of economic, social and cultural rights in contributing to the COVID-19 pandemic recovery
Thank you Mr President.
This statement is made on behalf of CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality and the Right Here Right Now 2 programme.
Due to COVID-19, we have seen an increase in issues related to sexual and reproductive health and rights, including a rise in sexual and gender based violence, restricted access to safe abortion and aftercare, compromised and under-available sexual and reproductive health services, and limited access to comprehensive sexuality education. This pandemic has not been a ‘great leveller’, affecting everyone the same, but rather has exacerbated existing inequalities and injustices.
Some countries have used the coronavirus pandemic to further conservative or religious fundamentalist rhetoric and increase restrictions on access to SRH services. These restrictions include prohibiting access to safe abortion by classifying it as a ‘non-necessary medical procedure’ and making it impossible to get one during the pandemic, spreading misinformed messages stigmatising use of contraceptives or hindering access to CSE. We have also seen a number of states using the pandemic as an opportunity to roll back legislation on SRHR, and making protesting such rollbacks extremely challenging with widespread lockdowns and bans on public protests.
Additionally, it is critical to remember that corona pandemic recovery can only occur if there is vaccine equality, as accessing SRHR, going to school to receive CSE, or being able to staff or attend abortion services are highly affected by the spread of COVID-19. Without global vaccine equality there will be no equitable pandemic recovery.
When considering public policies and services for the protection of economic, social and cultural rights for COVID-19 pandemic recovery, we urge states to;
- Ensure the meaningful participation of women, young people, and underrepresented populations in decision-making about their lives and communities where they live and work
- Ensure that women-focused and youth-led organizations receive adequate funding and be included in all COVID-19 decision-making bodies
- Ensure that decision-makers and stakeholders use more sex- and age-disaggregated data, which must be used to inform all policies and services
CSE: Comprehensive Sexuality Education
SRHR: Sexual and reproductive health and rights
SRH: Sexual and reproductive health