Advocacy Statement from Youth Activists and Advocates from Asia Pacific for the 45th Session of the Commission on Population and Development

Young activists and advocates from Asia-Pacific demand full recognition of young people’s Sexual and Reproductive Rights for the 45th session of the Commission on Population and Development

We, young activists and advocates from across Asia and the Pacific belonging to various backgrounds and a range of movements; and organizations [1], welcome the forty-fifth theme of the Commission on Population and Development – ‘Adolescents and Youth’.

In 2011, there are 7 billion people in the world; with young people between the ages 10 and 24 accounting for nearly half that number. Eighty-five percent of young people live in developing societies and face grave health concerns, including sexual and reproductive health that have grave implications on access to information, services, and resources. Fulfillment of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) is an integral part of our health, and has an impact on all aspects of a young person’s life, and thus must be prioritized to enhance our health, well-being, and rights. Keeping this at the forefront of the agenda, we make the following recommendations:

Recommendation 1: Protection of reproductive rights as human rights, and international recognition and adoption of sexual rights as human rights
Asia and the Pacific accounts for approximately 850 million young people [2]. We face multi-layered problems such as the issues of employment, poverty, education, and health that intersect with harmful cultural and traditional norms; impacting and restricting our access to a spectrum of rights, including SRHR, which are protected under instruments such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), and Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). In addition, the International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action, Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS, the Yogyakarta principles, and the World Programme of Action for Youth affirms our SRHR, bodily integrity, and the right for young people to meaningfully engage in decision making process.

Recommendation 2: Mainstreaming gender and a youth-centered budget in health system financing
Young women and girls in low-income countries continue to face the risks of permanent disability and death due to pregnancy-related conditions and experiences severe forms of gender-based violence.[3],[4] Young women and girls in the region also face the politics of gender inequality, puberty[5], parental and marriage consent[6]which pose further challenges in obtaining accurate and rights-based information about their own bodies, reproductive health, and sexuality[7]; thus endangering their health & well-being even more. Each year, there are an estimated 2.7 million unintended pregnancies among adolescent women living in South Central and Southeast Asia [8]. Ninety-three percent of unintended pregnancies in South Central and Southeast Asia are experienced by adolescent and young women, and occur among those who are using traditional or no contraceptive methods [9]. There is an added concern of access and support networks available for young married women, as services and relevant information are not accessible and available to them.

Recommendation 3: Provision of access to Comprehensive Sexuality Education and access to Youth Friendly Services for all young people; including pre and post safe abortion care and services

The South-East Asian and the Pacific regions have the second highest HIV prevalence rates with about 1.27 million young people currently living with HIV [10]. The United Nations Secretary General’s report reflects that in 2007, national surveys found that 40 per cent of young males (ages 15-24) and 36 percent of young females had accurate knowledge regarding HIV — still well below the goal of achieving 95 per cent of young people having accurate HIV knowledge, which was unanimously endorsed by Member States in the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS[11].

Young peoples’ lack of access, especially young girls, to information on sexual and reproductive health and rights is of intense concern. Comprehensive Sexuality Education that is framed in a positive, gendered manner and grounded in a human rights approach will go a long way towards empowering young people with the knowledge, tools, and skills to determine and enjoy their sexuality in a safe, comfortable, and healthy way.

Recommendation 4: Removal of legal, policy and cultural barriers, including parental and spousal consent for young people, particularly young women to exercise their rights.

The 1994 International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action (ICPD PoA) explicitly recognizes the sexual and reproductive health needs of young people; identifying it as an issue requiring urgent attention and efforts. It also emphasizes the right of young persons to access services & information; respecting their right to privacy and confidentiality. However, matters of age; marital status; parental consent; and related cultural/traditional concepts restrict young people’s access to services, resources, information, and rights,

As the leaders within our communities today and as leaders of the future; we make the following recommendations:

1. Protection of reproductive rights as human rights and international recognition & adoption of sexual rights as human rights.
2. Mainstreaming gender, and a youth-centered budget in National health system financing
3. Provision of access to Comprehensive Sexuality Education and access to Youth Friendly Services for all young people, including comprehensive services for unintended pregnancies with pre and post safe abortion care and services
4. Removal of legal, policy and cultural barriers, including parental and spousal consent for young people, particularly young women, to exercise their rights.
5. Support for young people’s meaningful participation, leadership and involvement at all levels and types of decision making on development issues, especially sexual and reproductive rights and health, including in policy creation, planning, implementation & evaluation.
6. Ensuring the availability of quality, scientific-based data on Asian and Pacific young people’s Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights that enables communities to actively engage in data collection and analysis for the creation of evidence based advocacy and policy making. .

We strongly believe that it is only with meaningful investment in young people and the fulfillment of our rights that we can achieve the goals of the ICPD PoA, and continue to lead healthy lives. We strongly urge the commission to consider and adopt these recommendations at the earliest.

[1] Young people whose Working with communities of young women and girls, young people living with HIV/AIDS, young people who use drugs, young sex workers, young people of diverse sexualities, young transgendered persons, young men who have sex with men, young environmentalists.
[2] Civil Society Statement for the 42ND Session of the Commission on Population and Development 2009.
[3] WHO. 2009. Women and Health: Today’s Evidence, Tomorrow’s Agenda. WHO Press: Geneva.
[4] WHO. 2005. Summary Report: WHO Multi-Country Study on Women’s Health and Domestic Violence Against Women: Initial Results on prevalence, health outcomes and women’s responses. WHO Press: Geneva.
[5] International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education: An evidence-informed approach for schools, teachers, and health educator. UNESCO. 2009
[6] ARROW for Change: Young and Vulnerable—The reality of unsafe abortion among adolescent and young women. Vol.13 No.3.ARROW. 2006.
[7] ARROW for Change: HIV/AIDS and SRHR—How was Funding Fuelled the Divide. Vol 12 No.1.ARROW. 2006
[8] The Guttmacher Institute. Facts on the Sexual and Reproductive Health Of Adolescent Women in the Developing World. New York: The Guttmacher Institute, 2010.
[9] Rosen, J. Position paper on mainstreaming adolescent pregnancy in efforts to make pregnancy safer. World Bank: Washington, DC, 2010
[10] Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS. Young People and HIV factsheet. GYCA. New York: 2007
[11] International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education: An evidence-informed approach for schools, teachers, and health educator. UNESCO. 2009