Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women » »
International Conference on Population and Development and its review conferences » »
Transforming our World: 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development » »
Other agreements » »
International agreements that are relevant to female condom advocacy are those that include commitments in the areas of gender equality and women’s rights, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment. These agreements stipulate the duties of governments to ensure access to necessary services to avoid unintended pregnancy and infection with STIs/HIV, and to promote the empowerment of women. As an advocate, you can use the international frameworks that your state has committed to as an argument in favor of the implementation of a female condom program in your country. It is important to know whether your state has ratified the document you are referring to. You may check this via the United Nations website.
Hereby a highlight of three specific international agreements: the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and its review conferences, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly, is often described as the international bill of rights for women. The Convention defines discrimination against women as ‘… any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.’
By ratifying the Convention, states have committed to a number of measures they need to undertake to end discrimination against women. This includes the reproductive rights of women, which includes their ability to decide freely about the number, spacing and timing of their children. In order to do so, women require access to and free choice of contraceptives. While many different types of contraceptives exist, female condoms are part of that. In a way, it can be argued that women have a right to access female condoms, and that states who ratified the Convention have an obligation to fulfil that right.
International Conference on Population and Development and its review conferences
The 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) articulated a bold new vision about the relationship between population, development and individual well-being. At the ICPD in Cairo, 179 countries adopted a forward-looking, 20-year Programme of Action (PoA) that continues to serve as a comprehensive guide to people-centered development progress. The ICPD PoA was remarkable in its recognition that sexual and reproductive health, and reproductive rights, as well as women’s empowerment and gender equality are essential to sustainable development.
The ICPD PoA, the annual CPD outcomes, and in particular also the outcomes at ICPD +5 and ICPD +10 include detailed commitments of governments to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health services, including for family planning, and to prevent and control HIV/AIDS. One of the primary goals was to make family planning methods, which includes female condoms, universally available by 2015. Since this goal has not been met in 2015, as also shown in the extensive review of the ICPD that was conducted in 2014 (see the ICPD Global Review Report), the agenda has been extended indefinitely. This implies that governments have to continue to make concrete and measurable strides to improve access to contraceptives such as female condoms.
UNFPA has been tasked with implementing the ICPD PoA and the commitments from the review conferences as well. They are therefore also an important organization in female condom investments. Due to UNFPA’s mandate, they are an important target for female condom advocacy at national, regional and international level.
Transforming our World: 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
The Millennium Development Goals expired in 2015, and in the past years, governments, civil society and UN organizations have engaged in an intense process to determine a new set of goals and targets to guide efforts towards sustainable development in the coming 15 years. On 22 September 2015 UN Member States adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which includes 17 sustainable development goals (SDG) and 169 targets. Relevant goals and targets for female condom advocacy are listed below. Indicators to measure progress on these targets will be determined in 2016.
- SDG 3.1: By 2030, reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births.
- SDG 3.3: By 2030, end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases and combat hepatitis, water-borne diseases and other communicable diseases.
- SDG 3.7: By 2030, ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, including for family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programmes.
- SDG 5: Achieve Gender Equality and Empower all Women and Girls.
- SDG 5.6: Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences.
UN Member States will develop plans or integrate the commitments to the SDGs in existing policies and budgets. Also UN institutions such as UNFPA, WHO, UNWOMEN, will be directing their focus to what is included in the 2030 Agenda. Investments and integrating female condoms in family planning and HIV/STI-prevention programs are part and parcel of these commitments – as part of the above mentioned targets. Advocacy efforts can therefore focus on:
- ensuring female condoms are part of the (newly developed) plans and policies initiated under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development;
- monitoring to what extent governments and UN institutions actually improve availability, accessibility and affordability of female condoms.
Besides these three important international agreements related to female condoms, many other agreements can be used as well as a basis for your female condom advocacy. These include the Fourth World Conference on Women’s Declaration and Platform for Action (1995), the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS, and Family Planning 2020.