Full bodily autonomy is defined as the right to decide whether or not to have sex, to use contraceptives or not, or to seek health care. However, it is a sad observation that the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has just drawn up. in a report available online : only 55% of women are fully able to make these choices. This report on the state of the world’s population titled “My body belongs to me” and which is based on data collected from 57 countries is the first United Nations report “which focuses on the ability and means of individuals to make choices about their bodies without fear, violence or coercion.” ”
The document highlights in particular legal, economic and social obstacles to achievement of bodily autonomy for all. About twenty countries or territories have, for example, so-called “marry his rapist” laws, under which a man can escape prison if he marries his victim. But the most recurring obstacles to bodily autonomy come from stereotypes, assumptions, and received ideas about this notion. “People who have heard of bodily autonomy associate it with negative ideas,” explains educator Romeo Alejandro Méndez Zúñiga, interviewed for the report, “it calls into question a chauvinist and patriarchal system “.
“Hundreds of millions of women do not own their bodies”
According to its authors, the lack of bodily autonomy could have worsened during the Covid-19 pandemic, exposing a record number of women and girls to the gender-based violence and harmful practices such as Early marriage. “The fact that nearly half of women still cannot decide for themselves whether or not to have sex, to use contraception, or to seek treatment should make us all angry,” adds Natalia Kanem, director. Executive of the United Nations Population Fund. “In essence, hundreds of millions of women and girls are not owners of their body. Their life is ruled by others, ”she added.
However, the denial of bodily autonomy is a violation of women’s human rights and girls. Among its findings, the report points to several ways in which women’s bodily autonomy and girls, but also men and boys are raped. For example, girls and boys with disabilities are almost three times more likely to be victims of sexual violence, girls being the most exposed. The report also highlights how efforts to address abuses can lead to further violations. of bodily autonomy. Example: To prosecute a rape case, a criminal justice system may require a woman to undergo an invasive virginity test.
Men must become allies
Violations of bodily autonomy can therefore take different forms: rape, forced sterilization, virginity tests, or female genital mutilation, among others. “In addition to the serious harm it inflicts on the women and girls concerned, the lack of bodily autonomy has serious consequences: it can lower economic productivity, undermine the mobilization of skills and generate additional costs for them. justice and health systems”notes a UNFPA press release. Also, the report indicates that in the countries for which data are available, only 71% guarantee access to maternity care generally.
Worse, only about 56% of countries have comprehensive sexuality education laws and policies. “The deprivation of bodily autonomy constitutes a violation of fundamental rights of women and girls that reinforce inequalities and perpetuates the violence generated by gender discrimination, says Dr. Natalia Kanem. “Conversely, a woman who is in control of her body is more likely to have better control over other areas of her life. Not only does it gain autonomy, but it also benefits frombetter health, better education, higher incomes, and increased security. She is more likely to thrive, and so does her family. ”
Real solutions, according to this report, must take into account the needs and experiences of those affected. But to permanently remedy this situation, according to him, “much more than a disconnected series of projects or services” is needed, insisting on the fact that real and lasting progress depends on eradication. gender inequality. That is why men must become allies against this discrimination. “Many more are those who must move away from models of privilege and domination that undermine bodily autonomy, and to move towards fairer and more harmonious lifestyles that benefit everyone, ”concludes Dr. Kanem.