The 6th Asian and Pacific Population Conference (APPC) held in Bangkok in the third week of September 2013 saw the battle for inclusion of 'rights language' in the outcome document. This resulted in a polarisation among the 130 odd participants on whether rights and inclusion were important enough to be a mandate in the States' agenda. What was interesting was the face that human rights and discrimination in the 21st Century was still being fought for.
The strength of this conference was evident as all the civil society organisations unanimously sort to push forward these critical issues and advocate for a language that promotes sexual rights, sexual identity and gender orientation, elimination of discrimination based on motherhood status, limited access to important services which include safe abortion and ensuring the need to include comprehensive sexual education in school curriculums across the region. For the civil society organisations, this was an opportunity to include human rights within the framework of the outcome document as this will be presented in the UN General Assembly special session in 2014 on the global 20 year review of the ICPD.
Many of the civil society organisations strongly felt that the ICPD POA did not explicitly recognise sexual rights, including the right to diversity of sexual expression and orientation. They felt that this was a huge gap and a loophole for the government to avoid inclusion of rights in improved quality of care, especially pertaining to reproductive health services. The week saw intense and passionate debate and negotiation from the Asia Pacific region to push forth progressive language and the need to address discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and the stigma associated with woman especially with regards control over her reproduction. (http://www.scribd.com/doc/171620903/APPC-Final-Outcome)
What was interesting for me was the case study presented from one lone representative from Philippines, Janette Garin (Under Secretary, Department of Health, Manila). Though Filipinos are predominantly Roman Catholic but they have been struggling to achieve the rights language through the Reproductive Health Bill since 2011. This lone representative was the strongest proponent of human rights and the need for inclusion of human rights within sexual reproductive health services. Coincidentally the Constitution of Philippines protects the “life of the unborn”. Abortion rights are still not a fundamental right for the Filipino.
Blog post by Leena Uppal, NAMHHR member and advocacy officer Centre for Health and Social Justice