We must respect bodily autonomy of women and girls throughout their lives Cross-regional statement

Today at the UN General Assembly Third Committee for Human Rights, the UK, Mexico, Liberia, Albania, Nepal, and the US co-led a cross-regional joint statement on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and gender equality.

With over 70 co-signatories to the statement, this is a demonstration of Member States' commitment to protecting and promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights in our work at the UN.

Minister Ford said:

"The UK's vision is a world where women and girls have control over their own bodies, lives, and futures free from coercion and violence. To achieve this we must have strong, coordinated global ambition and action to support all women and girls to realise their rights. Today I am proud that we are leading the way with 71 of our partners from across the globe. Our historic joint statement at the UNGA Third Committee on Human Rights co-led with Mexico, Liberia, Albania, Nepal and US, has reiterated our commitment to work tirelessly together to advance gender equality and support the human rights of all women and girls everywhere."

Cross-regional joint statement by 71 countries at the UN Third Committee

Statement delivered by 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, Czechia, 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. Chair,

Over the past three years, the Covid-19 pandemic has reminded us that gains on human rights and development are fragile and can never be taken as granted. The pandemic, and the measures needed to tackle it, have also disproportionately affected women and girls coming at a time when over twenty-five years of hard-fought gains on women's rights were already seriously under threat. We continue seeing increasing attempts to unravel the international consensus on the importance of gender equality and women's and girls' rights.

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 her lifetime. We must not waver in our commitment to promote, protect, respect, and fulfil the human rights of all women and girls across the globe. Persons in situations of vulnerability, especially women, adolescents and girls, must be kept at the center of our efforts. We must ensure that we continue to strive for a world grounded in principles of equality, dignity, and non-discrimination. We are determined to accelerate global action with attention to fostering resilience against shocks with a gender lens.

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 reaching their full potential, realizing gender equality and achieving sustainable development. We must respect the bodily autonomy of women and girls throughout their lives by supporting them in exercising their sexual and reproductive rights, preventing all forms of sexual and gender-based violence and discrimination and eliminating harmful practices, including female genital mutilation and child, early and forced marriage. Therefore, policies aimed at empowering women and girls must advance comprehensive access to sexual and reproductive health and rights, supporting all women and adolescents to make their own sexual and reproductive health decisions, including whether, when, and how many children to have, and to experience safe and supported pregnancy and childbirth.

Second, women and girls lift up their communities and we cannot build stronger societies without their full, equal and meaningful participation across all levels of decision-making. Without access to sexual and reproductive health services and information on their rights, women and girls may experience barriers to full, equal 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 adolescents and youth in decision-making. The world has the largest generation of young people ever. They are making their voices heard, rightfully demanding participation, agency and leadership. We must engage them meaningfully as equal partners in creating the path forward. Investing in healthy and educated adolescents, their capabilities, empowerment and resilience, the fulfillment of their human rights and gender equality, and their own ability for positive civic action and change is essential to build a brighter and inclusive future.

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

In closing Mr. Chair, rest assured that we will work tirelessly together to promote the human rights of all women and girls everywhere, including here through the negotiations of this Committee, under your most able leadership.

I thank you.

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