The human right to plan one’s own family, including the ability to have a satisfying safe sex life and the freedom to decide if, when, and how often to have children – in short, sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) – concern every individual. Nevertheless, national legal frameworks guaranteeing SRHR lead to health outcomes which disproportionally affect young, poor, rural or otherwise vulnerable women. This translates into discrimination in access to contraception, safe and legal abortion, cervical cancer prevention, protection from gender-based violence, including intimate partner violence, and access to comprehensive sexuality education, which all limit women’s right – to live in dignity and integrity.
Legal protection for SRHR has progressed since the Parliamentary Assembly last looked at the issue in 2004 and 2008 and developments have contributed to better understanding of SRHR. In 2019, the global community reaffirmed the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Programme of Action adopted at the Nairobi Summit. At European level, the ten-year anniversary of the Istanbul Convention is being celebrated. The Commissioner for Human Rights issued a working paper on Women’s SRHR in Europe in 2017. At national level, while there has been improvement in SRHR, setbacks leading to polarised standpoints impede the rights of women and girls and represent a challenge to democracy. The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the need to address SRHR and identify good practices which successfully guaranteed access to SRHR services.
Resolution 2331 (2020) on “Empowering women: promoting access to contraception in Europe” and the ongoing report on “Stopping harassment of women and men speaking out for the right to abort” show that improving access to SRHR is essential. The Assembly calls on member States to achieve progress, in line with evolving international standards, by highlighting innovations guaranteeing access to SRHR.