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This week, the United Nations (UN) is host to the 45th session of the Commission on Population and Development. This annual meeting builds on a resolution made in Cairo back in 1994 that outlines how country governments can ensure the sexual and reproductive health and rights needs of their people, and of women and young people in particular. Each year, the Commission assesses countries’ progress on this agreement and new commitments are made to prioritize efforts for the forthcoming year. This year, for the first time, it’s focused exclusively on the needs of young people and we are here at the UN, en force.
As a young sexual and reproductive health activist, I believe in the importance of a rights-based approach to all aspects of sexuality, realized through the provision of basic health services like comprehensive sexuality education and safe abortion. It is not my opinion that we should force these, or any other, services on young people, but rather that we should have the ability to access them if we want to.
Clearly, not everyone believes this. Over the past few years, as the global economic recession and a neoconservative shift has swept the globe, there are more and more organisations that exist to oppose the values and missions of rights-based organisations like the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), which I’m here representing. Many of these opposition efforts are religiously-motivated. Their ‘anti-sexual and reproductive health and rights’ discourse is forever present in the media and continued debate occurs over these controversial issues.