Thank you Mr/Madam Chair,
I am speaking on behalf of the Nordic and Baltic countries, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia Lithuania and Iceland.
Sexual and reproductive health and rights have been central to Nordic and Baltic development policies for many years. We remain fully committed to the Beijing Platform for Action and emphasize its implementation – nationally and internationally. It remains, however, a major challenge to fully provide these rights to women and girls worldwide.
Investing in women and girls should be a cornerstone to inclusive and sustainable development going beyond 2015. For women to enjoy sexual and reproductive health and rights, including access to contraceptives and safe abortion rights and services, we must become better at addressing the challenges facing us. Women are still deprived equitable access to good quality health services. Gender-related barriers prevent access to prevention, treatment and care. These barriers are even more troublesome for adolescent girls, who are economically dependent and face difficulties accessing health services and contraceptives delivered in the context of family planning to married women.
Violence against women in general, and female genital mutilation in particular, is highlighted as one of the key concerns in the report. We add to this sexual abuse as well as early and forced marriage, which constitute serious human rights violations. Despite the highlighted concerns, efforts to promote sexual and reproductive health and rights continue to meet strong resistance.
Women and girls can only fully participate in society if they have the knowledge and rights to make decisions about the society, as well as their own bodies, sexuality and reproductive health. With these rights, women can contribute to sustainable social and economic development.
Issues concerning women should not only be considered in the context of reproduction and childbearing; women’s health is equally important through all life-stages. Changing the attitudes and behaviours of men and boys that negatively impact women and girls must be emphasised. Such attitudes are in fact fundamental determinants to women’s health. To this end, comprehensive sexual education (to both genders) serves a crucial role that helps promote healthy sexual behaviours and gender equality.
The Nordic and Baltic countries will remain active in promoting gender equality. We will continue to address these issues by i.e. channelling funds aimed at improving the situation for women and girls in places where their sexual and reproductive rights are not met. We will continue our strong collaboration with the WHO, other UN organisations and partners to promote further progress in this work.