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10 March 2014 - Event on "Sexual and reproductive health and rights as essential priorities in the post-2015 Framework" - Statement by Mrs Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, Minister for Women’s rights and Government’s Spokesperson

(Unofficial translation)

"The right to free choice in matters of sexuality and reproduction is essential to gender equality” - Ms. Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, Minister for Women’s Rights, Government Spokesperson – Event on “Sexual and reproductive health and rights beyond 2015”
New York – 10 March 2014

The Executive Director of UNFPA,

The Executive Director of UN Women,

The President of the Regional Office for the Western Hemisphere of the International Family Planning Federation,

The Director for Gender at the World Bank,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to be here with you today, in particular at the International Family Planning Federation, to promote the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women.

I would like to begin my comments by paying tribute to the devotion of the members of the 151 national family planning associations who work every day to empower people, women in particular, to make free and informed choices about their sexual, emotional and reproductive lives and to have access to appropriate quality services.

I would also like to commend the work of UN Women and UNFPA as well as the leadership of their respective divisions.

On behalf of France, I would like to convey to you a few simple messages:

Sexual and reproductive rights are universal rights. They cannot be called into question under any circumstances. They must be promoted, guaranteed and implemented whenever possible. And we must make every effort to ensure that this is the case.

The right to free choice in matters of sexuality and reproduction is essential to the empowerment of women. During this CSW session we will have many discussions about the empowerment of women; the priority is to ensure that are able to take charge of their own destiny and therefore their lives.

The right to free choice in matters of sexuality and reproduction is also essential to gender equality. There can be no equality between women and men without autonomy with respect to reproductive and sexual choices. Sexual and reproductive health and rights should therefore constitute major priorities in the future agenda that we are going to discuss. We should ensure that these priorities are incorporated into the issues relating to health, equality, gender and governance.

France would like sexual and reproductive health and rights to be specifically targeted, and hopes that we will be able to stipulate that these rights cover the right to safe abortions, the right to contraception as well as sexual education. This priority is completely in line with the vision that we all share of the post-2015 agenda which must be universal, sustainable and, at the same time, transformative, i.e. it must have a genuine impact on the most harmful practices.

This assessment should prompt us to modify our international assistance and to pursue goals that are even more specific than they have been in the past few years:

- our international assistance must include the goal of reducing unwanted pregnancies, notably among adolescents, through universal access to a wide range of contraceptive methods, including emergency contraception;

- we must scale up our prevention efforts, notably with respect to sexual health. HIV is largely sexually transmitted. Long-term changes in behavior are needed to put an end to new HIV infections. This requires sexuality education and efforts to increase awareness of equality in order to encourage responsible behavior;

— lastly, we must continue to strive to put an end to early and forced marriages and eradicate harmful practices, such as female genital mutilation.

These actions can only be effective if they are part of a universal agenda. The international community should no longer be in any doubt that we can achieve an ambitious consensus. We shouldn’t start to question ourselves, otherwise our position will be weakened. It’s true that there has been a change in global geopolitics. It’s true that we need more dialogue to find common solutions to the problems that we face. But I see more of a positive sign, because these efforts to promote dialogue will considerably increase the weight and value of our commitments and their effective transposition into national legislation. We therefore have a duty to reaffirm our unfailing political determination to move together toward equitable and sustainable progress, the key objective of which is gender equality.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In April we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Cairo International Conference on Population and Development and its action program, the progress report for which has just been published.

This program is far from being completed and to achieve the objectives set 20 years ago, we need to generate fresh impetus, define new courses of action to go further. The regional conferences within the framework of the Cairo +20 provided an opportunity to showcase the progress achieved in all regions of the world.

This progress must be recognized and celebrated by all member states at the forthcoming meetings. That’s why France will call on all states to approve this global report and its content, without any objections.

Ladies and gentlemen, as I said, sexual and reproductive health and rights must be a pillar of our action. It is a pillar of France’s action at the international as well as national level.

Rest assured that we will not spare any effort to convince states in all regions of the world to make sexual and reproductive health and rights a priority issue, within the context of the CSW, as well as within the context of the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

Thank you.

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