Millennium Post (Kolkata)

UN report: Many women in poor nations can't say, ‘No sex’

The report by UN Population Fund said data covers only about one-quarter of world's countries, over half in Africa


UNITED NATIONS: Less than half the women in 57 developing countries are denied the right to say no to sex with their partners, to decide whether to use contracept­ion, or to seek health care, a U.N. report said Wednesday.

The report by the U.N. Population Fund said the data covers only about one-quarter of the world's countries, over half in Africa.

But the findings paint an alarming picture of the state of bodily autonomy for millions of women and girls who don't have the power to make choices about their bodies and their futures without fear or violence, it said. The fund said only 55per cent of girls and women in the 57 countries are able to decide whether to have sex, whether to use contracept­ion and when to seek health care such as sexual and reproducti­ve health services.

The denial of bodily autonomy is a violation of women and girls' fundamenta­l human rights that reinforces inequaliti­es and perpetuate­s violence arising from gender discrimina­tion," said the fund's executive director, Dr. Natalia Kanem.

The fact that nearly half of women still cannot make their own decisions about whether or not to have sex, use contracept­ion or seek health care should outrage us all.

According to the report, My Body Is My Own, percentage­s vary across region.

While 76per cent of adolescent girls and women in east and southeast Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean can make decisions on sex, contracept­ion and health care, less than 50per cent can in sub-Saharan Africa and central and south Asia, the report said.

There are also difference­s within regions. Citing one example, the report said that in three countries in sub-Saharan Africa -- Mali, Niger and Senegal -- less than 10per cent of adolescent girls and women control all three of those decisions.

Regional difference between countries on the three decisions are less pronounced elsewhere but still vary widely, ranging from 33per cent to 77per cent in central and south Asia, from 40per cent to 81per cent in east and southeast Asia, and from 59per cent to 87per cent in Latin America and the Caribbean, the report said.

The fund, which now calls itself the U.N.'s sexual and reproducti­ve health agency, also cited inconsiste­ncies within countries. In Mali, for example, 77per cent of women take independen­t or joint decisions on contracept­ion but just 22per cent are able to do the same when it comes to health care, the report said.

In Ethiopia only 53per cent of women can say no to sex, while 94per cent can independen­tly or jointly make decisions about contracept­ion.

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