The term “sexual and reproductive health and rights” (SRHR) was explored nearly 20 years ago at the Cairo International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD)11 and the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women (FWCW)12 held in Beijing. Building on the World Health Organisation's definition of health, the Cairo Programme defines reproductive health as:
a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and...not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, in all matters relating to the reproductive system and to its functions and processes. Reproductive health therefore implies that people are able to have a satisfying and safe sex life and that they have the capability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when and how often to do so. Implicit in this last condition are the right of men and women to be informed and to have access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable methods of family planning of their choice, as well as other methods of their choice for regulation of fertility which are not against the law, and the right of access to appropriate health-care services that will enable women to go safely through pregnancy and childbirth and provide couples with the best chance of having a healthy infant (para 72).
Furthermore, the Cairo Programme of Action clearly spells out the concept of reproductive rights in Chapter 7 which states in part that such rights "rest on the recognition of the basic right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so, and the right to attain the highest standard of reproductive and sexual health. It also includes the right of all to make decisions concerning reproduction free of discrimination, coercion, and violence as expressed in human rights documents.13
"The human rights of women include their right to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality, including sexual and reproductive health, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. Equal relationships between women and men in matters of sexual relations and reproduction, including full respect for the integrity of the person, require mutual respect, consent and shared responsibility for sexual behaviour and its consequences."
SRHR, as part of human rights, have the following principles of human rights described in the Universal Declaration and outlined by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA):
- Universality: They apply equally to all persons and they are the rights of every individual, there are no exceptions. This means that SRHR apply to everyone, including all children, adolescents and young people.
- Inalienability: This means that you can never lose your rights. You have them, from the moment you are born, because you are human.
- Indivisibility: No right is more important than another right, they are all connected and you cannot have one without the other. Denial of one right impedes the enjoyment of the other rights.
- Interdependency and interrelation: The fulfilment of one right may depend in part or in whole on the fulfilment of other rights.
11. UNITED NATIONS POPULATION FUND. (1994). International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action. [Online] Available: http://www.unfpa.org/webdav/site/global/shared/documents/publications/2004/icpd_eng.pdf
12. UN WOMEN. (1995). Fourth World Conference on Women. [Online] Available from: http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/beijing/platform/
13. GIRARD, F. Negotiating Sexual Rights and Sexual Orientation at the UN. Sexpolitics: Reports from the Frontlines [Online] p. 311-358 Available from: http://www.sxpolitics.org/frontlines/book/pdf/capitulo9_united_nations.pdf
14. LICUANAN, P (2006). After Beijing + 10: The Road Ahead. [Online] Miriam College, Philippines, South East Asia Women’s Watch (SEAWWatch) Available from: http://www.google.nl/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0ahUKEwj9svHKh6zMAhVJFMAKHQ0vBlcQFggcMAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.capwip.org%2Fpaperscongress%2FAfter%2520Beijing%2520%2B%252010---The%2520Road%2520Ahead%2520tati%2520licuanan.doc&usg=AFQjCNGYIOgnRe-Mp3l9wb6hfoBI3T_tFA&bvm=bv.120551593,d.d24&cad=rja
15. YOUACT. (2008) Sexual and Reproductive health and rights of young people: A Rights-Based Perspective. European Youth Charter on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights. [Online] Available from: http://www.coe.int/t/dg4/youth/Source/Training/Study_sessions/2008_YouAct_Charter_en.pdf