World must work harder to secure sexual and reproductive rights for all, says new UNFPA report
New Delhi, 10 April 2019— The global reproductive rights movement that began in the 1960s
transformed the lives of hundreds of millions of women, empowering them to govern their own bodies
and shape their own futures. But despite the gains made over the past 50 years, since the establishment
of UNFPA, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency, the world still has a long way to go
before rights and choices are claimed by all, according to the State of World Population 2019, released
by UNFPA today.
In India, UNFPA released the report in New Delhi and held a consultation which was attended by
government, civil society organizations, young people and other UN agencies. The event witnessed the
distinguished presence of people who had participated in the International Conference on Population
and Development (ICPD) in Cairo in 1994, a landmark conference that emphasized putting people first
and upholding their sexual and reproductive rights and choices.
The consultation reflected on the achievements of ICPD over the past 25 years and deliberated on the
unfinished agenda. Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Klaus Beck, Regional Programme Adviser and Officer
in-charge, UNFPA India Country Office said, “India has covered a lot of ground in advancing sexual and
reproductive health since 1994. I am confident the country will continue to provide global leadership in
making universal access to the full range of sexual and reproductive health services, and reproductive
rights and choices a reality for all.”
On the journey towards rights and choices, women and girls have faced social and economic barriers
every step of the way. A coalition of civil society, activists, and organizations such as UNFPA have been helping tear down those barriers.
The efforts of the reproductive rights movements have dramatically reduced the number of unintended
pregnancies and maternal deaths, and have cleared the way for healthier, more productive lives for
untold millions, the new UNFPA report says.
The report traces advances in reproductive health on the anniversaries of two important milestones. It
has been 50 years since UNFPA began operations in 1969 as the first United Nations agency to address
population growth and reproductive health needs. It is also the 25th anniversary of the 1994 ICPD, where
179 governments called for all people to have access to comprehensive reproductive health care,
including voluntary family planning, and safe pregnancy and childbirth services.
Much has been achieved since 1969, says the report. In India, the average number of births per woman
was 5.2 in 1971, which currently stands at 2.3. Contraceptive use has increased from merely 9% in 1969
to 54% in 2019.
Yet, several challenges remain. In India, annually, 35,000 women continue to die during childbirth due to
preventable causes. There are still an estimated 47 million women who want to prevent a pregnancy but
are not using a modern method of contraception, highlighting the need to improve access to family
planning and comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services.
“Despite the increasing availability of contraceptives over the years, hundreds of millions of women
today still have no access to them, and to the reproductive choices that come with them,” said UNFPA
Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem. “Without access, they lack the power to make decisions about
their own bodies, including whether or when to become pregnant.”
“I call on world leaders to re-commit to the promises made in Cairo 25 years ago to ensure sexual and
reproductive health and rights for all,” said Dr. Kanem. “The world will have a historic opportunity to
complete the unfinished business of the ICPD at the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25 to be held in Kenya in
November, where governments, activists and stakeholders will rally to protect the gains made so far,
and fulfill the promise of the ICPD agenda, so that no one is left behind.”
The report also features 15 champions of change who have broken barriers in their own context and
influenced the landscape of sexual and reproductive health and rights into what it is today.
“I salute these champions,” said Dr. Kanem. “We all have a role in pushing back against forces that
would see us return to a time when women had little say in reproductive decisions or, for that matter, in
any area of their lives,” she added. “The fight for rights and choices must continue until they are a reality
For more information, please contact:
UNFPA, India: firstname.lastname@example.org