Call to Action! Sexual and Reproductive Rights Are Human Rights!

Representatives of civil society gathered at the ICPD Beyond 2014 Human Rights Conference in the Netherlands, among whom were RESURJ members, drafted a call to action to governments and UN agencies. The full text and signature form is available here. The petition is open for signatures from individuals and organizations until the end of August.

The Hague Civil Society Call to Action on Human Rights and ICPD Beyond 2014:
All Different, All Human, All Equal

We, the members of civil society and individuals present at the International Conference on Human Rights and ICPD Beyond 2014 (The Hague, 7-10 July, 2013), representing diverse constituencies from around the globe, welcome the constructive spirit and promising tone of the International Conference. In that same spirit we repeat our call upon governments and agencies to commit to the full realization of the sexual and reproductive rights of all people.

Recognizing the ongoing review of the ICPD PoA, we support and reaffirm the Bali Declaration of the Global Youth Forum, held in December 2012 in Bali, Indonesia, which is grounded in the human rights principles of non-discrimination, equality and participation. We also reaffirm the civil society declarations that have been made throughout the ICPD Operational Review, which identify further action required as well as new and emerging issues that must be acknowledged and addressed from a human rights perspective in new and ongoing development efforts and within the post-2015 development agenda.

We call on Governments to ensure the implementation of all human rights obligations related to the ICPD PoA, including obligations relating to sexual and reproductive rights. We call on governments and agencies to recommit themselves to the comprehensive ICPD agenda which is anchored in the core Human Rights principles of universality, indivisibility and interdependence. Respecting, protecting, promoting and fulfilling sexual and reproductive health and rights as Human Rights means meeting the needs and fulfilling the rights of all people in our diversity – especially women, adolescents and other young people, persons having diverse sexual and gender identities, indigenous peoples, people with disabilities, people living with HIV, sex-workers, Roma people, afro-descendants, dalits, rural, poor- all different, all human, and all equal.

We urge governments and agencies to promote equality by tackling the structural inequalities in societies that limit the enjoyment by all of their sexual and reproductive rights; to remove the barriers to availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality of comprehensive and integrated sexual and reproductive health information and services for all; and to ensure that all duty bearers are held accountable for the respect, protection, promotion and fulfilment of the sexual and reproductive health and rights of all. Efforts must be particularly directed towards empowering individuals to exercise and claim their sexual and reproductive rights as human rights.


We call on governments to address the root causes of structural inequalities related to sexuality and reproduction, which contribute to the marginalization of diverse groups of people. These inequalities are deeply rooted in inequitable gender hierarchies and patriarchal notions of the need to control women’s and girls’ bodies and sexualities. Governments must work to eliminate discriminatory and harmful practices such as early and forced marriage, female genital mutilation, forced sterilisation, and forced contraception that are harmful to women and girls and perpetuate inequalities. Governments must vigorously tackle such inequalities with a particular focus on young people, and among them, especially adolescents whose needs and rights are often not recognized.

We call on governments to take all needed steps to eliminate inequality, stigma, discrimination and violence perpetuated against individuals on the basis of perceived sexuality, sexual orientation, health status, gender, ability, gender identity and gender expression, and to realise the full range of human rights through: repealing or revising discriminatory laws; ensuring their access to legal documentation reflecting their gender identity and to the SRH services they need; and implementing public education programmes that challenge inequitable sexuality and gender norms and promote gender equality, respect for diversity and human rights. We call on governments to take immediate steps to end the criminalization and other punitive regulation of consensual sexual activities, reproduction, and gender expression which violate individuals’ human rights and lead to negative health and development outcomes.

We call for strengthened efforts to fight sexual exploitation and slavery, while explicitly recognizing sex work as gainful employment, for the full realization of the rights of sex workers to protection against harmful working conditions and exploitation and the elimination of stigma, discrimination and violence.

Availability, Accessibility, Acceptability and Quality of Services (AAAQ)

Governments must address the socio-economic and cultural barriers that undermine or restrict sexual and reproductive rights. This involves reviewing and reforming macroeconomic policies that perpetuate inequality, inequity and human rights violations and restrict availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality of SRH services, and removing economic barriers that prevent people, particularly marginalized groups, from accessing sexual and reproductive health services. Governments must address the central challenge of girls’ and women’s poverty and lack of access to quality services and other resources such as education, along with unequal and discriminatory power dynamics that perpetuate gender stereotypes and norms, and sexual and gender-based violence.

Governments must eliminate laws and policies that impose barriers to access to sexual and reproductive health services and information including among others parental, spousal and guardian consent or notification laws, and laws criminalizing or in any way restricting girls’ and women’s access to safe abortion services and post-abortion care.

We call on governments and agencies to ensure access to a comprehensive, accessible, and integrated package of sexual and reproductive health services, information and education free from stigma, discrimination and violence and with full respect for privacy, consent and confidentiality. These services must meet the sexual and reproductive health needs of all. They must provide the widest possible range of contraceptives including emergency contraception, male and female condoms and other contraceptives, safe and legal abortion services, quality services for the management of complications arising from unsafe abortion, skilled birth attendance, emergency obstetric care, screening and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV prevention, care and treatment, and prevention and treatment of infertility. Services must be affordable, accessible and free from coercion. They must meet the highest possible standards for quality in line with international norms and guidelines, and they must be acceptable to the populations for whom they are intended.

We call on governments to: ensure sexual and reproductive health services are youth-friendly with particular attention to adolescents; recognize, promote and protect young peoples’ sexual rights as human rights; recognize that young people have autonomy over their own bodies, pleasures and desires; facilitate and guarantee the meaningful involvement of young people in policy-making; and remove legal, political and regulatory barriers that hinder the empowerment of young people in exercising and claiming their rights. Governments must ensure young people’s access to youth-friendly, evidence-based comprehensive sexuality education through the provision of scientifically accurate and non-judgemental programmes in formal and informal settings, with supportive policy and legal frameworks in place, accompanied by teacher training, supervision and performance review mechanisms with young people, and adolescents in particular, actively involved in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of sexuality education programmes.


We urge all stakeholders to ensure that States, and other institutions, are accountable for their obligations relating to sexual and reproductive rights. Accountability is central to the promotion and protection of human rights, and to ensure the delivery of quality services. It requires not just transparency but meaningful participation by affected populations and civil society and effective and independent institutions, complaint mechanisms and remedies when rights have been violated. National, regional and international human rights mechanisms need to be strengthened to ensure accountability. Effective accountability also requires individuals to be aware of their entitlements with regard to sexual and reproductive health and rights and to be enabled and empowered to make claims grounded in them.

We call on governments, donors and agencies to assess accountability gaps and to address them through effective planning, adequate resources, and regular monitoring, evaluation, review and oversight with full and effective participation by women’s and young people’s organizations as well as the organizations of all those whose sexual and reproductive health and rights are most at risk.

Nearly twenty years ago, the governments of the world came together and made a promise to themselves and their citizens that sexuality and reproduction would finally be removed from the shadows of bias, bigotry and shame. Many advances have been made, but much more needs to be done before we see the fulfilment of that promise. Slow progress has been a result of insufficient attention to human rights as the anchor for laws, policies and programmes. It is high time to change this once and for all, to bring human rights to the centre of the implementation of the ICPD agenda so that we can realize our sexual and reproductive health and rights no matter who we are or where we live, and all truly celebrate the differences among us, while embracing our equality and our common humanity.

(1) Declarations from regional civil society consultations: Africa: From Accra to ICPD Beyond 2014: Recommendations from African CSOs and Young People, Asia and the Pacific: Kuala Lumpur Call to Action, Caribbean: Ocho Rios Declaration, Central and Eastern Europe: Warsaw Call to Action and Latin America: Compromiso de Montevideo