I have the honour to make this statement on behalf of Albania, Austria, Colombia, Ghana, Denmark, Finland, France, Iceland, Mexico, Mozambique, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, Slovenia, Sweden and Thailand.
Unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions and sexually transmitted d infections, including HIV, remain a serious threat to the health of the youngest and poorest adolescent girls and women. Pregnancy and delivery are the two greatest causes of the rise in girls’ mortality between the age of 15 and 19 in developing countries. To save their lives, every effort to make the Cairo Programme of Action and Beijing Platform for Action and the MDGs a reality must be exerted.
Eighteen years ago in Cairo 179 governments committed to an ambitious Programme of Action to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights, gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. One year later in Beijing, 189 Member states affirmed that the human rights of women include their right to have control over and decide freely on matters related to their sexual and reproductive health. Significant progress has been made in many countries in order to reach these goals but adolescents’ sexual and reproductive health still remains an area with a critical need to strengthen the efforts.
Health is one of the fundamental human rights indispensable for the exercise of other human rights. Every human being is entitled to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health. Access to sexual and reproductive health services is crucial especially to young women and men. The largest generation of adolescents ever in history is now entering sexual and reproductive life. They need adequate and youth-friendly information, education, services and commodities. We need to make sure that the needs of women and girls− including their unmet need for contraception and family planning − are recognised, counted for and acted upon. Information and services need also to be provided for those young people who are outside formal schooling and employment.
In order to achieve the jointly agreed goals strengthened action and resources are needed. Universal access to contraception must be promoted and ensured. Health systems need strengthening through provision of integrated and youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services. The access to comprehensive sexuality education for all girls, boys, men and women is crucial. Sexual and reproductive health and rights are also one of the cornerstones of women and girls' empowerment.
Girls who marry early often have children very early too and face serious and immediate risks to their health and life. Moreover, they are thus deprived of their childhood and rarely have the possibility to get an education. The lack of decision-making power regarding one’s own life that forced marriage represents is a grave infringement of rights. Early marriages and other harmful practices such as female genital mutilation and cutting (FGM/C) endanger the lives and health of women and girls.
Indeed, young girls being forced into marriage represents an intersection between the denial of girls’ human rights and other obstacles to equality and human development. The unacceptably high rates of maternal mortality and morbidity in the world are largely made up of young mothers. The success in achieving internationally agreed development goals, including the MDGs, cannot be achieved unless the rights of children to health and education are fully respected and protected in this regards.
The Human Rights Council and its special procedures have an important role in advancing the goals agreed in Cairo and in Beijing.
Thank you Madam President.