Sexual and reproductive health and rights

Mother and child in Noenoni, Indonesia.

Sexual and reproductive health and rights mean unrestricted physical and emo­tional wellbeing in relation to all aspects of sexuality and human reproduction.

The promotion of this aspect of health and the realisation of pertinent rights are im­por­tant objectives of German de­vel­op­ment policy. That is why Germany works in partner coun­tries for comprehensive health care and forward-looking family planning. The commitment of the Federal Republic of Germany to combating gender-based violence – including the still widespread practice of female genital mutilation – and sexually transmissible diseases is also part of this overarching area.

A human right: sexual and reproductive health

A broad concept of sexual and reproductive health emerged at the In­ter­national Conference on Population and De­vel­op­ment (ICPD) in Cairo in 1994. In Cairo, the in­ter­national com­mu­ni­ty decided in favour of a key change of direction: from a predominantly popu­la­tion policy-driven approach towards one based on the individual.

At the 1994 conference the more than 180 participating states recognised just how much a coun­try’s de­vel­op­ment depends on sexual and reproductive health – and with it gender equality. Since then, the needs and rights of people have been at the forefront of all de­vel­op­ment efforts.

Today, the right to the "highest possible level of sexual and reproductive health" identified in Cairo is deemed a human right. That comprises the right to decide whether to procreate and women’s right to make autonomous and responsible decisions in respect of their sexuality – free from discrimination, coercion or violence.

Millennium De­vel­op­ment Goals

Many of the goals in the Cairo Programme of Action elaborated at the con­fer­ence in 1994 were incorporated into the Millennium Declaration in 2000. Four of the eight Millennium De­vel­op­ment Goals (MDGs) are directly connected with sexual and reproductive health:

  • MDG 3: Promote gender equality and empower women
  • MDG 4: Reduce child mortality
  • MDG 5: Improve maternal health
  • MDG 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.

In addition to MDGs 4, 5 and 6 which aim primarily to improve medical care, the promotion of gender equality (MDG 3) and strengthening the role and rights of women also have a significant influence on sexual and reproductive health. The goal of German de­vel­op­ment policy is therefore to strengthen women’s and girls’ status in society with its programmes, and to enhance their decision-making powers, including their sexual self-determination.

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