SHOTLIST OF THE EDITED STORY
STORY: UNFPA State of World Population 2021
TRT: 02 min 24s
SOURCE: UNTV CH
LANGUAGE: ENGLISH / NATS
ASPECT RATIO: 16:9
DATELINE: 14 APRIL 2021 GENEVA, SWITZERLAND
“Nearly half of all women are denied their bodily autonomy”, says UNFPA’s latest report on the “State of World Population”
All around the world, women and girls are not in control over their bodies and their lives, states the 2021 flagship report “State of World Population” launched today by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). This year’s report “My Body is My Own – Claiming the right to Autonomy and Self-Determination” documents that nearly half of women in 57 developing countries don’t have the right to make their own decisions about their bodies.
“ ‘My Body is My Own’ is the first UN report focused on bodily autonomy: the power and agency to make choices about your body, without fear of violence or having someone else decide for you”, said Monica Ferro, Director of the UNFPA Geneva Office at the launch of the report at the United Nations in Geneva.
Through this groundbreaking report, UNFPA is measuring both women’s power to make their own decisions about their bodies and the extent to which countries’ laws support or interfere with a woman’s right to make these decisions. The data show a strong link between decision-making power and higher levels of education.
“Our new State of World Population report shows, that in countries where we have data, nearly half of women lack the power to make their own decisions about whether to have sex with their partner, about whether to use contraception, about whether to see a doctor”, said Ms Ferro. “Often these decisions are made or influenced by others, whether partners, families, societies or even the governments.”
According to the report, only 55 per cent of women are fully empowered to make choices over health care, contraception and the ability to say yes or no to sex, and only 75 per cent of countries legally ensure full, equal access to contraception.
UNFPA’s Geneva representative reported that “for many people, but especially women and girls, life is fraught with violations to their bodily autonomy and integrity. We see this when a lack of contraceptive choices leads to unplanned pregnancy. We see this in the terrible bargain made to exchange unwanted sex for a home and food. We see this in the life-derailing practices such as female genital mutilation and child marriage.”
The report shows how efforts to address abuses can lead to further violations of bodily autonomy. For example, to prosecute a case of rape, a criminal justice system might require a survivor to undergo an invasive so-called virginity test. Real solutions, the report finds, must take into account the needs and experiences of those affected.
“The right to bodily autonomy is violated when a husband or partner forces a woman to have an abortion or impregnates her against her will. Bodily autonomy is also violated by practices like so-called “corrective rape”, so-called “honour killings” and so-called “virginity tests” and the list goes on and on.”
UNFPA’s latest report also documents many other ways how the bodily autonomy of women, men, girls and boys is violated: Twenty countries or territories have “marry-your-rapist” laws, where a man can escape criminal prosecution if he marries the woman or girl he has raped.
Forty-three countries have no legislation addressing the issue of marital rape (rape by a spouse) and more than 30 countries restrict women’s right to move around outside the home. Girls and boys with disabilities are nearly three times more likely to be subjected to sexual violence, with girls at the greatest risk.
UNFPA’s Geneva Director stressed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women. “Now with the COVID-19 pandemic, which has further diminished women’s autonomy by increasing sexual violence, new barriers to healthcare, unplanned pregnancies and job losses and education losses.”
This lack of bodily autonomy has massive implications beyond the profound harms to individual women and girls: potentially depressing economic productivity, undercutting skills, and resulting in extra costs to health care and judicial systems.
“We must look beyond obligations, we must look to opportunities”, said Ms Ferro. “A woman who has control over her body is more likely to be empowered in other spheres of her life. She gains not only in terms of autonomy, but also through advances in health and education, in common safety. She is more likely to thrive and so is her family.”