World Population Day promotes the health and rights of women globally

As the global population increases, so does the need for safeguarding the health of rights and women across the world. (Image source: The Conversation)

By Meika Bottrill | @meikabottrill

July 11 marks World Population Day, a day that raises awareness about the environmental and societal impact of overpopulation.

The latest record of the living population on Earth was estimated to be 7.8 billion people in March 2020. This number is considered close to the maximum of Earth’s human capacity of 9 billion.

As we increase population several issues arise such as a limit in resource supply of food and water, deterioration in living conditions and a surge in global poverty.

This year, the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF) is focusing on raising awareness of the sexual and reproductive needs and vulnerabilities of women during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sexual and reproductive needs refer to a wide range of topics such as family planning, sexually transmitted diseases, sexual education, and abortion.

While it is important to understand that sexual health is fundamentally an individual’s right, it is also central to reducing global poverty and achieving sustainable development. 

The UNFPA highlighted that if COVID-19 continues for a minimum of six more months, there will be a major disruption to health services. More than 46 million women in low or middle-income countries will not have access to modern contraceptives consequently.

The UNFPA predicts that reduced access to contraceptives will result in around 7 million unintended pregnancies in those six months.

In addition, as women’s sexual health educators and organisations are forced to pause on groundwork due to COVID-19, there will be an increase in domestic violence, child marriages, and female genital mutilation.

Professor Mushtaque Chowdhury’s research field lies in clinical population and family health. He expresses concerns about the rise of child marriage in Bangladesh.

“Helplessness of parents in the midst of the pandemic, social pressures, economic reasons and school closures are responsible for this sad state of affairs,” he said in The Daily Star.

Evidently, while health services focus on those suffering from the virus, other health conditions concerning women’s health get pushed aside.

Priyanca Radhaskrishnan is the chair of the New Zealand Parliamentarians’ group on Population and Development (NZPPD), an organisation that wishes to highlight the link between human rights, and sexual and reproductive health.

“Today, as the world is getting back up on its feet after COVID-19, we need to uphold the right to sexual and reproductive health more than ever,” Ms Radhaskrishnan said.

“If we fail to look after the needs of women and girls at this crucial point, we run the risk of undoing a great deal of progress that has been made on the health and rights of women and youth over the last few decades.”

Women Deliver is a leading global advocate that champions gender equality and the health and rights of girls and women. They believe that comprehensive sexual education (CSE) is essential to improving sexual and reproductive health.

“We know that when girls and women have the ability to choose if, when, and how many children they have, they take control of their lives and pursue a brighter future for themselves, their families, and their communities,” they said.

“Together, these outcomes illustrate the ripple effect of social and economic benefits that result from investments in CSE and help to power progress toward sustainable development and gender equality goals.”

Education is a crucial element in reinforcing and promoting women’s sexual health and reproductive rights.

Comprehensive sexual education can help shift gender norms, promote gender equality and other developmental goals.

While this education may need to be adapted in this global climate, it is integral that is not forgotten.

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