THE BLOG

President Trump Is Restricting The Rights Of The Poorest Women In The World

23/05/2017 15:05

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Shubarna (centre), 13, collects corn with her friends. She wants to become a doctor to help the people in her village along the North Channel in Faridpur, Bangladesh.

Last week, the U.S. Government announced a massive expansion of the so-called 'global gag rule' - a move which will have a chilling effect on women's access to all types of sexual and reproductive health care, including contraception and abortion, in the world's poorest countries.

Drastic funding cuts threaten access to sexual and reproductive health information, contraception and safe abortions, raising the prospect of unsafe births and life-threatening backstreet abortions.

The global gag rule - also known as the Mexico City policy - denies US government funding to organisations which provide any abortion services, including referrals and counselling, as well as those that advocate to decriminalise or expand abortion services in countries around the world.

The global gag covered about $600 million in family planning aid. A huge sum in its own right, but the Trump administration's version now extends it to include global health assistance, placing more than $8.8 billion of health funding under threat.

This new measure will affect HIV/AIDS work, maternal and child health, malaria, global health security, and family planning and reproductive health programs supported by US government overseas aid.

Aid agencies will be forced to choose between offering services to women in need and losing their funding.

The potential impact on women cannot be overstated. Trump's decision means some of the poorest, most marginalised women in the world will have their access to healthcare restricted or taken away entirely, with grave consequences for their health.

This news comes on top of already announced US government cuts to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). The UNFPA is the lead agency and provider of last resort when it comes to helping women affected by violence in humanitarian emergencies. When earthquakes, famines and natural disasters strike, it is the UNFPA which leads efforts to safeguard women and girls.

Huge cuts to its budget can only mean this vital work will be undermined.

These cutbacks are part of an alarming global trend which is seeing women's rights rolled back around the world. Our very right to choose what to do with our own bodies is under threat.

Why do sexual and reproductive rights matter?

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Nulu Nabunya, 46, (top left) lives and works in the slums of Kampala, Uganda. She was concerned by the high rates of unplanned pregnancies amongst young people, so she founded MAWDA in 1991 to provide access to family planning. Today MAWDA reaches over 30,000 people, mostly women and vulnerable children.

Restricting information and access to contraception and abortions, particularly for adolescent girls and already marginalised women, denies them control over their bodies. This undermines women's health and impacts women's ability to access education, work, and ability to participate in all areas of economic, political and social life. If they don't know their rights or can't claim them, they won't be able to get a decent education or set up businesses that provide jobs and income for people far beyond their own families.

Sexual health and reproductive rights are central to global efforts to tackling the dangers of backstreet abortions and preventing life-threatening complications during pregnancy and childbirth.

ActionAid works with women around the world to support them to claim their rights. Sexual and reproductive health rights are integrated into much of our support and community work.

Our Young Urban Women's Program runs in India, South Africa and Ghana. In South Africa we're working with LGBTI activists as they work to combat discrimination that prevents them from getting access to healthcare and information on their sexual and reproductive rights.

In India, we work to challenge domestic violence and child marriage - providing young women and girls with information on their sexual and reproductive rights and supporting them as they challenge power dynamics in their homes.

ActionAid firmly believes that women should have access to their full range of sexual and reproductive rights, and this includes access to information and safe abortions.

Women's rights around the world are under sustained attack. Trump is restricting access to sexual and reproductive rights, in Malaysia an MP suggested rape victims should marry their rapists and in Bangladesh new legal loopholes have legalised child marriage.

Around the world funding is being cut and hard won victories are being rolled back.

Now more than ever we must work together to defend the rights of women and girls.

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