Press Conference by UNFPA

Preview Language:   English
28-May-1997 00:15:15
Stan Bernstein, Senior researcher at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), tells correspondents that reproductive rights were established in United Nations agreements dating back to the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and treaties and conferences, such as the International Conference on Population and Development held in Cairo in 1994 and the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing.

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The press conference, introduced by UNFPA Information Officer Jessica Jiji, was held to herald the launching of the Fund's report "The State of World Population 1997". Focusing on the theme "The Right to Choose: Reproductive Rights and Reproductive Health", the report documents global progress and shortcomings in ensuring reproductive rights guaranteed by human rights agreements.

Explaining what reproductive rights meant, Mr. Bernstein said the term was a summary for some rights such as the right to choose and the right to health, including reproductive health and family-planning services. A key choice issue was the right to reproductive self-determination, which includes free choices regarding pregnancy, childbearing and voluntary choices on the number and spacing of children and on marriage. Also discussed was reproductive security rights, which was the right to sexuality, to reproduction free of violence and coercion and the right of women to opportunities and gender equality.

The report documents the global effects of the failure to fulfil the reproductive rights recognized by the international community, he said. For example, 585,000 women -- one every minute -- die each year from pregnancy- related causes, nearly all in developing countries. Of those, about 200,000 could be avoided with effective services. Further, there were 333 million new cases of curable sexually-transmitted diseases every year, which could be addressed through information and protection campaigns to meet the reproductive health needs of the people around the world.

Similarly, about 120 million women and girls had undergone some form of female genital mutilation, with another 2 million at risk each year, he continued. Still, 1 million women and infants died yearly from reproductive tract infections, and there were about 120 million to 150 million women who wanted to limit or space their pregnancies but lacked the means to do so effectively. Altogether, 350 million couples lacked information on and access to contraceptive services.

The report also relays some of the measures that would be necessary to address those problems, he said. They include the mobilization of resources in national programmes, the involvement of non-governmental organizations and local communities, the adoption of local legislation and their enforcement, and the translation of the principles adopted in Cairo into guidelines for national action. The costs estimated at Cairo for ensuring reproductive health and population programmes for the world was about $17 billion a year by the year 2000. Of that, various sectors had mobilized about $9.5 billion as of 1995.

"The efforts have to be redoubled and increased so that we can meet the needs of the world", he concluded.

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