By: Tunde Ajidagba, Campus Health & Rights Initiative (Nigeria)
I’m demanding young people’s access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in the post-2015 agenda because is their fundamental human right. It encompasses the right of all individuals to make decisions concerning their sexual activity and reproduction, free from all discrimination, coercion, and violence. Access to SRHR ensures individuals are able to choose whether, when, and with whom to engage in sexual activity; to choose whether and when to have children; and to access the information and services to do so.
As we celebrate International Youth Day, even though the global community has made major strides in improving sexual and reproductive health outcomes since the International Conference and Population and Development (ICPD) in 1994, it is important to remember that millions of people, mostly adolescents, still lack access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health information and services.
Today’s youth face numerous challenges in regards to our sexual and reproductive health and rights. In sub-Saharan Africa, where I come from, it is almost a curse to be a young person. Young people cannot access contraceptive services, which has led to many unplanned and unwanted pregnancies. I blame this on governments not giving much needed attention to SRHR. Most of the issues facing young people around the world, such as unwanted pregnancy, unsafe abortion, maternal mortality, early and forced marriage, sexually transmitted infections, and HIV/AIDS, would be drastically curtailed, and even stopped, if their sexual and reproductive rights were honored. I believe the majority of the post-2015 agenda will be about solutions to some of the problems I mentioned above. But, without recognizing and granting young people access to their sexual and reproductive health and rights, little progress will be made.
Young people deserve a full range of SRHR rights. Sexual and reproductive rights are the rights of all persons to seek, receive, and impart information related to sexuality. They include the right to bodily integrity, the freedom to choose a partner, the choice to have consensual sex or not, the liberty to have a consensual marriage, the ability to decide whether or not and when to have children, and the power pursue a satisfying safe, and pleasurable sexual life. To fulfill these rights, young people need access to SRHR information and services, including contraception, maternity care, safe abortion access, and STI and HIV prevention and treatment.
I personally believe that if sexual and reproductive health and rights are prioritized in the post 2015-agenda, the world will be a better place. If every young person can realize their SRHR, HIV rates, unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and maternal mortality will decline dramatically. Child marriage will become a thing of the past and girls will be stay healthy and stay in school.
The full achievement of sexual and reproductive health and rights for every young person, especially adolescent girls, in the post-2015 agenda is integral to the achievement of all shared global development goals. It is central to attaining sustainable development and creating a world that is just, equitable, and inclusive. Protecting the SRHR of individuals will not only save the lives of young people, but will empower them, leading to significant economic gains for individuals, families, and nations. It will reduce healthcare costs, improve productivity, and increase rates of education so the world can achieve greater economic growth. But, sustainable, meaningful, and rights-driven development will not be possible without ensuring access to sexual and reproductive health and rights for all young people in the post-2015 agenda.