UN report: Women in poor nations can't say, 'No sex'
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 United Nations report said on Wednesday. The report by the UN Population Fund said that the data covers only about one-quarter of the world's countries and over half in Africa.
Findings paint an alarming picture
"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 of violence," the report said.
Only 55% of females have bodily autonomy in 57 countries
Only 55% of girls and women in the 57 countries are able to decide whether to have sex, to use contraception and when to seek sexual and reproductive healthcare 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.
Percentages of bodily autonomy vary across regions
According to the report, My Body Is My Own, percentages vary across regions. "While 76% of adolescent girls and women in East and South-East Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean can make decisions on sex, contraception and health care, less than 50% can in Sub-Saharan Africa and Central and South Asia," the report said.
Differences exist within regions as well
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 10% of adolescent girls and women control all three of those decisions.
Regional differences less pronounced in Asia, Latin America
The report further stated that regional differences between countries on the three decisions are less pronounced elsewhere but still vary widely. They range from 33 percent to 77 percent in central and south Asia, from 40 percent to 81 percent in east and southeast Asia, and from 59 percent to 87 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean, the report said.
The fund also cited inconsistencies within countries
The fund, which calls itself the UN's sexual and reproductive health agency, also cited inconsistencies within countries. In Mali, 77% of women take independent or joint decisions on contraception but just 22% can do the same when it comes to health care. In Ethiopia, only 53% of women can say no to sex, while 94% can independently or jointly make decisions about contraception.
'Real sustained progress depends on uprooting gender inequality'
Kanem said that many women are also denied the right to choose the person they marry or the right time to have a child because of race, sex, sexual orientation, age, or ability. "Real, sustained progress largely depends on uprooting gender inequality and all forms of discrimination and transforming the social and economic structures that maintain them. In this, men must become allies," she added.