Almost half of the world’s women and girls feel unable to decide about their bodies, according to a study

Denounce the setback in rights generated by the pandemic

Almost half of the world’s women and girls, 45%, do not feel capable of deciding about their bodies, that is, to determine whether to take contraceptives, have children, refuse to undergo genital mutilation or to have sexual relations.

This is stated in the report ‘My body belongs to me’ of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The study has focused on two indicators of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda: the one that measures the power of women to make autonomous decisions about health care, contraception and sexual relations, and the which evaluates the laws and policies of the countries on this same subject.

Through these analyzes and the testimony of women and girls between the ages of 15 and 49 from all over the world, data has been collected that, for one of the study researchers, Jaume Nadal, is “alarming” and “worrying”.

Starting, he has explained, by the fact that “almost half” of the respondents do not feel with the necessary capacity to decide on their body. In addition, he has specified, it is mostly because he does not know that he has the right to decide about his body and because in his community there are deeply rooted laws or cultural practices.

Thus, when Nadal has referred, in a press conference, to the factors that prevent these women from making autonomous decisions about their bodies, he has referred to laws that allow or root “gender inequality, such as child marriage, denial of affective-sexual education, female mutilation, forced anal examination, homophobic and transphobic rapes, honor killings or sexist violence within marriage.

He has also referred to regulations that force raped women to marry their aggressor or virginity tests to women. “They are practices that violate the most fundamental human rights and that are still present in many societies,” he said.

In addition, he has warned, with the emergence of the health crisis generated by Covid-19, this situation has worsened and, in some cases, has meant a “setback” in practices that had brought a country closer to gender equality .

As an example, the study includes the increase in 4 million cases, worldwide, of women subjected to genital mutilation as a consequence of their confinement and isolation. “The public powers could not intervene to prevent this situation,” lamented the expert.

In relation to the second indicator that the study has analyzed, the one that refers to the legislation of the countries, Nadal sees “clear contradictions” between the information provided by the states and the reality of the population.

Thus, the report collects that 80% of the countries claim to have laws favorable to health and sexual well-being; 75% indicate that they have laws that guarantee full and equal access to contraceptive methods and 56% indicate that their norms support comprehensive affective-sexual education. For Nadal, these figures are not compatible with the fact that 45% of women are not able to decide on their body.

In practice, the researcher has denounced, there are countries that determine by law the age of consent to have sexual relations at 14-16 years, but do not legislate in favor of minors having access to affective sexual education or do not allow sexual intercourse. access to contraception until the age of majority.

This situation, he explains, is “depriving” young people from the age of 14, who can maintain consensual relationships, of information to avoid unwanted pregnancies, Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) or to enjoy a full sexual life “.

On the recommendations of the report to change this situation and achieve “universal personal autonomy”, UNFPA calls for reformulating norms, promoting education and monitoring the progress of implementation of programs that promote the information of this right.

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