Bodily Autonomy

Interim Findings from the Global Count

Bodily Autonomy and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights

Infographic: Respondents who identified "Bodily Autonomy" as a top issue.

Respondents who identified “Bodily Autonomy” as a top issue

The right to sexual and reproductive health and bodily autonomy is critical for women’s empowerment and the project of gender equality globally. At present, nearly half of women in 57 developing countries are denied the right to decide whether to have sex with their partners, use contraception or seek health care, according to UNFPA’s 2021 State of World Population report.

To note: From its inception the GC had a thorough peer review by sector leaders including Kimberlé Crenshaw, University of Maryland and SurveyMonkey. With their leadership, the issues of ‘Bodily Autonomy and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR)’ as defined by the AC3 were split into two categories: ‘Sexual, Reproductive and Parental Health,’ and ‘Reproductive Freedom and Bodily Autonomy.’ This was done in order to separate the distinct but overlapping issues of access to sexual, reproductive, and parental health services (including but not limited to: family planning support, products, and procedures; education, contraceptives, and medication to combat sexually transmitted infections). However due to the fact that the cultural element is often a significant barrier to the accessibility of services, and that all of these issues are a part of one GEF AC (3), the two categories were combined for analysis in application to AC3.

Interim Findings from the GC can provide direction on the issues of bodily autonomy and SRHR. Among the respondents who answered the question, 19.9% chose ‘Sexual, Reproductive and Parental Health’ and ‘Reproductive Freedom and Bodily Autonomy’ as one of the top three most important issues to them.

When broken down by region, the GC offers us the ability to compare:

  • In Africa, 19.7% chose ‘Sexual, Reproductive and Parental Health,’ and ‘Reproductive Freedom and Bodily Autonomy’ as the most important issues to them.
  • In Europe, 22% chose ‘Sexual, Reproductive and Parental Health,’ and ‘Reproductive Freedom and Bodily Autonomy’ as the most important issues to them.
  • In the Americas, 23% chose ‘Sexual, Reproductive and Parental Health’ and ‘Reproductive Freedom and Bodily Autonomy’ as the most important issues to them.
  • In Asia, 13% chose ‘Sexual, Reproductive and Parental Health,’ and ‘Reproductive Freedom and Bodily Autonomy’ as the most important issues to them.
  • In Oceania, 19% chose ‘Sexual, Reproductive and Parental Health,’ and ‘Reproductive Freedom and Bodily Autonomy’ as the most important issues to them.

The findings give direction as to where we may focus attention on increasing bodily autonomy and progressing on SRHR, and with more support, the GC will be able to further analyse the barriers to progress.*

Open-ended comments allow us to see a more in-depth picture of women’s perspectives, in all their diversity: in one example from open-ended comments, a trans woman from outside of Berlin identified ‘Ending Violence, Harassment, and Abuse’, ‘Reproductive Freedom and Bodily Autonomy’ and ‘LGBTQI+ Rights’ as issues most critical to her. She identified that ‘Ending Violence, Harassment, and Abuse’ was most hampered by ‘social/cultural issues’, with the other two issues being held up by ‘political barriers’. She named TransInterQueer as a key organisation working on these issues.

When asked, ‘What does progress for women’s human rights look like for you in 10 years?,’ she commented: ‘I think one of the most important issues is access to reproductive technology, which includes supporting those who want to get pregnant through non-traditional means and support for access to abortion.”

The response presents an opportunity to fully integrate LGBTQIA+ perspectives into SRHR actions to ensure groups are not left behind. Research from the Guttmacher Institute found queer women do not access routine preventive screenings for breast cancer and cervical cancer at the same rate as their straight peers, meaning LGBTQ individuals have fewer treatments and diagnoses than their straight counterpart. This data also demonstrates the need to not holistically combine issues as they impact different people differently. If we are to achieve bodily autonomy and empower all people to feel in control of their sexual and reproductive health, we must take an intersectional approach to any actions committed in this area and that begins with listening to the experiences of LGBTQIA+ people

The data presented by the GC is a clear indication of the need to separate issues as they all affect women and gender-diverse people differently. We also need to prioritise bodily autonomy to LGBTQIA+ communities as they continue to be left behind.

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