This May 28 International Day of Action for Women’s Health, SRHR activists and allies take action, mobilize, and amplify demands for realizing sexual and reproductive health and rights, and justice. Let us stay firm in our resolve and assert stronger that #WomensHealthMatters and demand #SRHR4All!
Globally, we are seeing emboldening of the drivers of anti-rights and anti-choice agenda, growing tenaciously as more rollbacks on SRHR and justice are introduced. Each attack sends a chilling effect from one corner of the world to the next, causing harm and undermining human rights and freedoms everywhere else.
In the African region, after Uganda introduced the appalling anti-LGBTQI+ law that criminalizes same-sex sexual activity, more countries have been experiencing crackdowns on members of the community as well as the advocates and allies defending LGBTQ+ rights. In Indonesia, lawmakers sweepingly introduced a new criminal code banning sex outside of marriage with a punishment of up to one year in jail, increasing stigma around SOGIESC and violating sexual and reproductive rights.
In Poland, the court decision of Justyna Wydrzyńska sets a dangerous precedent for Polish human rights defenders and reproductive justice activists now that the state has shown the claws of its unjust abortion restrictions. In post-Roe America, states are one-by-one rallying to pass stringent policies that will make abortion access extremely difficult, impacting all aspects of SRHR and threatening the lives of those who may need an abortion, especially those who cannot afford to travel and access abortions in different areas or methods. In Hungary, the government tightened rules to make the process of terminating pregnancies more bureaucratic for pregnant people requiring those who wish to have abortions to listen to the sound made upon the fetus’ first detectable cardiac activity, which conservatives erroneously identify as a “heartbeat,” before having an abortion.
The continued criminalization of sexuality and reproduction is a significant barrier to the health and rights that endangers the lives of women in all their diversity. Those most marginalized and in vulnerable states face further obstacles to their reproductive and bodily autonomy when they have no effective access to healthcare. When accountability to SRHR is weak or absent, services are lacking due to unresponsive policies and financing. Stigma and bias also persistently lead to denial of services.
Despite the attacks on our rights, we keep advancing SRHR. We persist in the face of regressions.
The Cook Islands decriminalized homosexuality. Spain reformed its law to expand abortion and transgender rights for teenagers and improve menstrual health by offering free period products in schools and prisons and allowing paid menstrual health leaves. Honduras ended its ban on emergency contraception. India progressively interpreted its laws to allow all women access to abortion up to 24 weeks. Thailand extended access to abortion from the first 12 weeks to 20 weeks of gestation. Japan also expanded abortion access to now include medication abortion. These positive developments serve as our guiding posts as we fight back against the systemic repressions of the health and rights of women in all their diversity.
This May 28, we highlight that an attack on SRHR anywhere attacks all our rights everywhere. Therefore, addressing these critical issues is a matter of globally concerted efforts, multisectoral and intersectional collaboration, and seeking accountability on a global scale. May 28 is also a time to celebrate and take encouragement from the hard-fought gains in health and SRHR won by social movements worldwide.
We bring focus on the intersections of SRHR and social justice issues. Gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and the environment and climate, among many social and political determinants, will always influence how diverse people experience their health and lives. They shape the extent of access and, therefore, the full realization of SRHR. Human rights are indivisible and interconnected – disenfranchisement on any of these bases hinders the right to health, life, and bodily autonomy.
As governments set promises to achieve gender equality, address the climate crisis, provide equitable access to digital innovation and technology, close the education gap, and empower young people, among many others, our actions and demands this May 28 will be a strong reminder of the centrality of women’s health and SRHR to these commitments.
These attacks and regressions are not deterrents to us but instead fuel our mobilization as we stand firm. We are stronger and louder when we come together, in solidarity with women and girls and our allies across the world – be it in celebration of their gains or the continuing struggle for the full realization of #SRHR4ALL.
This May 28, join us and SRHR activists worldwide in calling on governments and global institutions to:
- Decriminalize abortion and remove all legal and policy barriers to safe abortion, abortion management, and post-abortion care.
- Protect and uphold the rights of LGBTQI+ people and human rights defenders (HRD) working on gender and sexuality issues from criminalization, violence, discrimination, and other human rights violations.
- Address the multiple, intersecting forms of discrimination and structurally embedded barriers to achieving good health and well-being of communities.
- Uphold inclusivity through genuine, meaningful participation of diverse women, girls, and people of intersecting identities in decision-making spaces and areas of leadership. Streamline and normalize inclusive language.
- Establish accessible healthcare systems that recognize and address the unique SRH needs of trans-people and gender non-conforming individuals.
- Implement comprehensive sexuality education that upholds consent, embeds prevention of GBV, and respects young people’s bodily autonomy and right to decide freely and responsibly over matters on their health, lives, and bodies.
- Ensure accessibility and availability of menstrual health management commodities and services to all girls, women with disabilities, transgender men, and non-binary people who menstruate. Address menstruation-related stigma and discrimination, and strengthen programs on menstrual health management.
- Guarantee in all circumstances that women human rights defenders can carry out their activities without fear of reprisals and free from all restrictions.
- Protect and support providers of safe abortions and post-abortion care, acompañantes, doulas, and other allied healthcare providers who work to ensure SRH services are available.
- Organize events: Organize events for May 28 internationally, regionally, or locally. Organize teach-ins, fora, and dialogues. Hold mobilizations.
- Amplify key messages: Craft calls to action and statements
- Bust the stigma: Conduct stigma reduction workshops on abortion and other SRHR issues that are still taboo.
- Occupy spaces online: Hold social media rallies such as Twitter spaces, lives, or tweet-a-thons. Use the hashtags #WomensHealthMatters #SRHR4All and #May28.
- Use the power of stories: Interview women and advocates in your communities. Create documentaries. Hold storytelling sessions.
- Artivism: Get creative with posters, placards, social media activities, and other artivism efforts
- Inspire: Move others to action. Share any recent wins for SRHR in your contexts and the lessons of your campaigns.
- Collaborate: Build and strengthen networks of organizations and advocates, and assist them in campaigning for May 28