In the Conclusions of the Foreign Affairs Council on Gender in Development last Monday the issue of “sexual and reproductive health and rights” is addressed as follows:
“10. The Council remains committed to the promotion, protection and fulfilment of all human rights and to the full and effective implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the Programme of Action of the ICPD and the outcomes of their review conferences and remains committed to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), in this context. Having that in mind, the Council reaffirms the EU’s commitment to the promotion, protection and fulfilment of the right of every individual to have full control over, and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality and sexual and reproductive health, free from discrimination, coercion and violence. The Council further stresses the need for universal access to quality and affordable comprehensive sexual and reproductive health information, education, including comprehensive sexuality education, and health-care services. The Council invites all EU institutions to continue their work on these issues in line with the Policy Coherence for Development principles. The Council stresses the importance of advancing understanding of the components and elements related to SRHR in EU’s development policy and invites the Commission to report back to the Council within a year on that matter.”
This is quite a set-back for those who have been pushing for an explicit mention of a “right to abortion” as one of those ominous “reproductive rights”. But the Council does not mention such a “right to abortion”. On the contrary, its conclusions include language that, quite in line with what is pointed out on a dedicated page on this website, provides valuable clarification:
- If every individual has the right to decide freely and responsibly, one must conclude therefrom that “sexual and reproductive rights” do not comprise a right to act irresponsibly, i.e. in a way that endangers one’s own, or someone else’s, life or health. This means that neither abortion (which, legal or not, is dangerous for women and lethal for their children) nor sodomy (which involves considerable health risks for those involved) are understood to be “sexual rights”.
- The perceived need for comprehensive sexual and reproductive health information, education, including comprehensive sexuality education must thus be understood as information and education that enable addressees to act responsibly. This implies full and correct information about what abortion is, what sodomy is, and which health risks they involve. It effectively can be read as a ban on misleading propaganda on both issues.
- In the light of what is said in the preceding two paragraphs, there can be no doubt about the importance of advancing understanding of the components and elements related to SRHR.