Bangkok/New Delhi - Forty parliamentarians from the nine South Asian countries came together to support the need to highlight sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in a two day consultation organised by International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), a global service provider and leading advocate of SRHR.
The parliamentarians discussed avenues of providing impetus to sensitise the policy makers, religious leaders and the society on SRHR.
Speaking on the occasion Tewodros Melesse, Director General of IPPF said, “The hypocrisy of humanity is to deny sexuality, the most basic aspect of human nature. It has existed from the dawn of time, yet we find it difficult to come to terms and address it. When we view it through political, religious and cultural lenses we begin to withhold dignity, respect and rights of one half of the population- women and girls.
The concerns about upholding the rights for women and the rising religious and cultural extremism in the region were expressed in the consultation. The Parliamentarians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Iran, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka supported the need for governments to take greater ownership of the SRHR agenda and to promote progressive policies for women and disadvantaged sections of the society. They supported women’s and young peoples’ participation in decision making at all levels - individual, community and policy level.
“The issue of SRHR has two levels - one is ensuring legislation for penalising and second level is to change mindset of people to reclaim dignity of women, girls and young people. I believe that discussion on violence against women and girls rights and empowerment should start from the intimacy of the bedroom where instances of marital rape are common. Giving dignity in such intimate spaces should be our starting point,” said Ibrahim Zuhuree, from the Secretary-General's Office in the SAARC Secretariat.
The forum during the two day consultation discussed at length the role parliamentarians can play for achieving SRHR for all. The parliamentarians accepted their responsibility in pushing the boundaries for promoting issues of SRHR and addressing challenges posed by culture, religion, social and economic scenario in their respective countries.
During the consultation, IPPF launched two new partnerships with Partners in Population and Development (PPD) and Asian Forum of Parliamentarians for Population and Development (AFPPD). The partnerships are aimed, at aligning member countries towards SRHR, building alliances and advocating for policy change and greater cooperation within the region.
The parliamentarians developed individual action plans relevant to their country context and committed to promoting the agenda with their other colleagues in the parliament and take specific actions to achieve the goal. The consultation concluded with a commitment made by the parliamentarians to ‘uphold the importance of promoting Human Rights, and development of human capital, notably through health, education and positive behaviour change, throughout the life cycle’.
 “We recognize SRHR as a priority for achieving equality, security, development and peace across all communities and countries in the world. As parliamentarians you play an important role in promoting and prioritizing SRHR in this very crucial time in your respective countries Policy hindrances and resource gaps impede the vision of SRHR for all.” said Anjali Sen, Regional Director, IPPF, South Asia Region (SAR)
Ms. Sujatha Natarajan, Chairperson, Regional Council, IPPF, SAR emphasised that it is time to ensure a society that is inclusive, protective and ensures well-being and universal safety especially of women and girls.”