My Body My Rights
What are sexual and reproductive rights?
A Global Scandal
Of women of childbearing age live in countries where abortion is banned, restricted or not accessible
Women are not using contraception, even though they want to stop or delay having children
Breaking the Silence
When it comes to our bodies and relationships, our freest conversations tend to happen in our heads. Often, we keep these thoughts secret. Why?
Perhaps it’s because what we feel we can say openly is defined by the society we live in.
These social norms are controlled by our governments, our communities, even our families. When we challenge those norms, we feel guilty – embarrassed. We fear being stigmatized, even jailed. And because of this, we keep silent.
Through My Body My Rights, we want to help break this silence because right now, there are a lot of us who don’t know we have rights, and are therefore unable to claim them.
© Amnesty International (Artist: Hikaru Cho / Photo: Jim Marks)
Decisions that are our right – like whether or when to have children – have become a matter for governments to control. Some governments also allow other people in our lives to make choices for us – like doctors, faith leaders or our parents. And some fail to meet their obligations to provide the information and services that people have a right to.
Imagine being married to your rapist, to be forced to see that person all the time – it would be devastating.
In Burkina Faso, women can be refused contraceptives at health clinics unless they are accompanied by their husbands. In Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, laws fail to protect survivors of sexual violence. In some cases rapists can avoid prosecution by marrying their victims, often teenage girls. In Ireland, where abortion is illegal unless the woman’s life is at serious risk, about 12 women a day travelled to the UK for a termination between 1980 and 2012. And in many countries, having sex outside of marriage, loving someone of the same gender – or simply dressing outside the social norm – is enough to land you in jail.
“Narges Mohammadi cares for the suffering of others. Whenever she heard that a prisoner was due for execution, she did everything to save them. If she did not succeed, she joined their family in front of the prison in solidarity.”
That these restrictions still exist tells us that there is much to do. A backlash against sexual and reproductive rights is brewing – driven by well-funded and organized interest groups. At the highest levels, some governments are trying to roll back these rights, questioning the ideas of “reproductive rights” and “gender equality”, or branding the principle of “human rights for all” as Western. What’s clear is that our rights to express our sexuality and make decisions over our own bodies are being challenged.
From 2014-15, Amnesty’s My Body, My Rights campaign will try to halt this trend, particularly in Algeria, Burkina Faso, El Salvador, Ireland, Nepal, Morocco-Western Sahara and Tunisia. Through it we will reach out to people around the world, encouraging them to break the silence that surrounds these issues as a first step to claiming their rights.
If we break the silence, then governments will have to step up and start protecting people’s right to make decisions about their bodies and their lives. Until then, we will expose states that violate these rights, and we will demand change. Because sexual and reproductive rights are human rights. They belong to us all.
They have to remember that we're human beings.