57th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women

ONE UN New York Hotel | New York City

I am always delighted to gather with trusted colleagues and new friends dedicated to securing women’s rights. But it saddens me that once again, we are here to discuss an egregious human rights violation that continues to plague our communities around the world.

For decades, the incidence of violence against women has remained high. But what is new is the impatience that so many of us here today feel at the lack of progress we’ve made.

I see this impatience day-in and day-out when I meet with civil society organizations that advocate with governments, funders, and other key actors at the local, national, and international levels. A recent study shows how advocacy plays a key role in the creation and implementation of laws and policies aimed at eliminating violence against women.

That’s why the International Planned Parenthood Federation/Western Hemisphere Region supports local organizations working to ensure that all women and girls have the right to live free of violence and discrimination. To combat violence and mitigate its impact, we also provide comprehensive information and health services, including sexual and reproductive health services.

One example is the collaboration between UNFPA, Ipas, and IPPF/WHR to improve access to the health and justice systems for survivors of violence in Central America. We strengthened the quality of care at national health centers, and worked with the justice system and police to improve protocols for legal redress. This collaboration contributed to the development of national legislation that increased access to comprehensive services, including sexual and reproductive health services, to victims of sexual violence in Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala.

In addition to national advocacy initiatives, IPPF/WHR's Member Associations train doctors and other service providers so they are better equipped to provide the comprehensive services that women need. In El Salvador, our Member Association ADS has trained medical staff at government centers, including Ciudad Mujer, the ground breaking one-stop center where over 10,000 women, including victims of violence, have received more than 100,000 health, income generation, and counseling services, while also benefiting from child care.

These are only a few of the examples of effective programs to end violence against women in Latin America. While we have seen progress, more remains to be done, particularly to ensure access to safe abortion services. In El Salvador, for example, countless women have been jailed for terminating pregnancies, and one woman recently received a 30-year murder sentence after seeking emergency medical care for complications during pregnancy. Abortion laws in Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala remain among the strictest in the world.

Despite these challenges, there is also hope. As many of you know, the Argentinean Supreme Court recently ruled that all women who have experienced sexual violence can access legal abortion services. Our Member Association in Argentina, FUSA, is one of the few legal abortion providers in the country, and has been working closely with other health providers to ensure that this right to safe abortion is realized in all health care settings.

In the last two years, our Member Association Profamilia provided 3,600 legal abortions in Colombia, many for victims of violence. They also recognized the need for significant investments in educating women about their rights. Profamilia has a long track record of innovative campaigns to raise awareness about sexual and reproductive health and rights. After reviewing national data that found more than 700,000 women, the majority of whom were young women, had experienced sexual violence, Profamilia created a campaign to raise awareness about the issue of sexual violence and its impact on the lives of women and girls, including unwanted pregnancy. Through a partnership with a popular television network, Profamilia enlisted celebrities to record public service announcements promoting its hotline for survivors of violence.

This week, we are joined by IPPF/WHR volunteers and staff from across the region who are at the United Nations to advocate for the services women want, need, and deserve. They are here to give voice to the real-life needs of women and girls in their countries. They are here to press for a strong document that recognizes that governments should be accountable for protecting women from violence, and that sexual and reproductive health and rights are essential to combating violence against women. The right to access to safe abortion services must be included among these essential rights.

I don’t need to tell you how important these asks are, and I thank you all for all your contributions to our common effort. United, we can make a difference. We owe it to women and girls worldwide. We have already waited too long.

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