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UN report encourages body autonomy and self-determination

By Liu Xuan | | Updated: 2021-04-16 21:04
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People should have the power to say "yes" or "no" to achieve body autonomy, as they are encouraged to make choices about their own body, without fear of violence or having someone else decide instead, said an international report.

Especially for women, nearly half of them in 57 developing countries are denied body autonomy, including their right to decide whether to have sex with their partners, use contraception or seek health care, said the 2021 State of World Population report.

Titled "My Body is My Own: Claiming the Right to Autonomy and Self-determination", the report was launched by the United Nations Population Fund on Friday. It is UNFPA's annual flagship publication.

In China, UNFPA launched the report locally in Beijing in partnership with the Department of Population Monitoring and Family Development of the National Health Commission.

This year, for the first time, the report focused on body autonomy - the power and agency to make choices about your body, without fear of violence or having someone else decide for you.

According to the document, in countries where data are available, only 55 percent of women are fully empowered to make choices over health care and contraception, while only about 56 percent of countries have laws and policies supporting comprehensive sexuality education.

Siddharth Chatterjee, UN resident coordinator in China, expressed concerns about gender discrimination, further depriving women and girls of body autonomy that could reinforces inequalities and violence.

"Gender-unequal norms and attitudes lead to power imbalances in relationships that restrict women's decisions, particularly when it comes to sex and pregnancy, or that drive the expectation that women must defer to their husbands or partners in all aspects of their lives," he said.

The report also documented many other ways that the body autonomy of women, men, girls and boys is violated, such as restricting women's right to move around outside the home, and girls and boys with disabilities more likely to be abused.

Meanwhile, the report outlined that achieving body autonomy depends on ensuring gender equality, eliminating all forms of discrimination and expanding choices and opportunities for women, girls and excluded groups.

Enhancing comprehensive sexuality education, improving or formulating related laws and regulations, and making social norms more gender equal could be some feasible solutions to the target problem, the report said.

"Our communities and countries can flourish only when every individual has the power to make decisions about their bodies and to chart their own futures," it said.

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