Reproductive and sexual rights: a feminist perspective.

Correa S; Petchesky R
In: Population policies reconsidered: health, empowerment, and rights, edited by Gita Sen, Adrienne Germain, Lincoln C. Chen. Boston, Massachusetts, Harvard University, Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, 1994 Mar. 107-23. (Harvard Series on Population and International Health)

Four ethical principles have provided the foundation for reproductive and sexual rights for women: bodily integrity, personhood, equality, and diversity. The 1975 Declaration of the International Women's Year Conference firmly proposed that the human body was inviolable, and respect for the male and female body was directly related to human dignity and freedom. Bodily integrity has been construed as an individual and a social right with the implication of entitlement to health, procreation, and sexuality. Treatment of women, as not merely objects and as a means of achieving social goals such as population control, must be assured through decision making autonomy. Family planning and health providers must trust and take seriously women's desires and experiences. Enabling conditions such as provision of day care or transportation to health facilities has empowered and supported women. Coercive incentives and disincentives has denied personhood. Equality must be evident in gender relations and relations between women. The UN article 16(e) with its emphasis on the same rights of men and women for family size and spacing has violated the principle of equity for women. Giving men responsibility for contraception has done little to change women's social rights or to alleviate the burdens of child care. Women as the primary child care givers under this convention would lose equity. Equity issues for women must be resolved in ways that address the blatant differences in power and resources between men and women and within countries. Population policy which gave freedom of choice to women without providing geographic access, high quality services and supplies, and economic support was considered gratuitous. The diversity principle required respect for differences among women in values, culture, religion, sexual orientation, family, or medical condition. International human rights statements, particularly those framed in a Western liberal tradition, have had different applications and meanings in different social and cultural contexts. For example, women's individual rights were a foreign notion to Yoruba women who placed high value on fertility and the subordination of women's fertility to group welfare. However, women would use spacing methods of contraception as their "collective" right. Governments have a social responsibility to enforce women's equality regardless of traditional patriarchal practices that subordinate women.

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