We must respect the bodily autonomy of women and girls throughout their lives: Cross-regional joint statement at the UN Third Committee

Today the United Kingdom, Mexico, Liberia, Albania, Nepal and the United States jointly adopted a pan-regional joint statement on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and gender equality before the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee on Human Rights.

With over 70 co-signatories to the Declaration, this is a testament to Member States’ commitment to protecting and promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights through our work at the United Nations.

Secretary Ford said:

“Britain’s vision is a world where women and girls are in control of their own bodies, their lives and their future free from coercion and violence. To achieve this, we must have strong, coordinated global ambition and action to support all women and girls in realizing their rights. Today I am proud that we are leaders with 71 of our partners from all over the world. Our historic joint statement before the Third Human Rights Committee of the UN General Assembly, co-chaired by Mexico, Liberia, Albania, Nepal and the US, reaffirmed our commitment to work tirelessly together to advance gender equality and the human rights of all women and girls everywhere support. ”

Supra-regional joint declaration of 71 countries in the UN Third Committee

Declaration of Liberia on behalf of Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Cabo Verde, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Honduras, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Israel, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, Palau, Peru, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Timor-Leste, Türkiye, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States and Uruguay.

Mr Chairman,

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For the past three years, the Covid-19 pandemic has reminded us that progress in human rights and development is fragile and can never be taken for granted. The pandemic and the response needed to combat it have also disproportionately affected women and girls, at a time when the hard-fought women’s rights gains of more than 25 years were already under serious threat. We continue to see increasing attempts to dismantle the international consensus on the importance of gender equality and the rights of women and girls.

Too many women and girls are still denied the right to make decisions about their own lives and are subject to sexual and gender-based violence, including harmful practices, with the tragic reality that one in three women worldwide has experienced violence in their lifetime . We must not back down from our commitment to promote, protect, respect and fulfill the human rights of all women and girls around the world. People in need, especially women, young people and girls, must be the focus of our efforts. We must ensure that we remain committed to a world based on the principles of equality, dignity and non-discrimination. We are determined to accelerate global action, focusing on building resilience to shocks with a gender perspective.

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First, we know that societies that protect and promote the human rights of all women and girls, and empower them economically and politically, are more stable, peaceful, equal and prosperous. Women must be empowered to make their own choices and decide their own future, which is central to realizing their full potential, achieving gender equality and achieving sustainable development. We must respect the physical autonomy of women and girls throughout their lives, supporting them in exercising their sexual and reproductive rights, preventing all forms of sexual and gender-based violence and discrimination, and banning harmful practices, including female genital mutilation and child, and youth work, eliminate forced marriage. Therefore, policies to empower women and girls must promote universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights, and support all women and youth to make their own sexual and reproductive health choices, including whether and when and how many children they would like to have with safe and supported pregnancy and childbirth.

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Second, women and girls strengthen their communities and we cannot build stronger societies without their full, equal and meaningful participation at all levels of decision-making. Without access to sexual and reproductive health services and information about their rights, women and girls may experience barriers to full, equitable and meaningful participation in the achievement of sustainable development. As efforts turn to rebuilding and recovering from the pandemic, we must continue to advance gender equality and inclusive governance, particularly the meaningful inclusion and participation of youth and young people in decision-making. The world has the largest generation of young people ever. They are making their voices heard and rightly demanding participation, agency and leadership. We must meaningfully involve them as equal partners in shaping the way forward. Investing in healthy and educated youth, their skills, empowerment and resilience, fulfilling their human rights and gender equality, and their own capacity for positive citizenship and change are essential to building a better and inclusive future.

Third, the world must remain committed to accelerating the achievement of the SDGs and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

In conclusion, Mr. Chair, rest assured that we will work tirelessly together to advance the human rights of all women and girls everywhere, including here through the proceedings of this committee, under your ablest leadership.

I thank you.

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