World Population Day: ‘Family Planning Is Not Only a Matter of Human Rights; It Is also Central to Women’s Empowerment’


Human Wrongs Watch

Family planning was affirmed to be a human right 50 years ago, leading to what would become the annual observation of World Population Day [11 July 2018], which focuses attention on the impact the number of children born, has on the world.*

UN Photo/Albert González Farran | Every individual has the human right to determine the direction and scope of his or her future.
In her message for the Day, UNFPA Executive Director Natalia Kanem took that a step further, saying: “Family planning is not only a matter of human rights; it is also central to women’s empowerment, reducing poverty and achieving sustainable development.”

Yet, in developing regions, the UNFPA chief pointed out that some 214 million women still lack safe and effective family planning, for reasons ranging from lack of information or services, to lack of support from their partners or communities.

“This threatens their ability to build a better future for themselves, their families and their communities,” she explained.

The Day was inspired by public interest generated by one particular date of huge significance. The UN estimated that it was 11 July, 1987, which the world’s population reached five billion people.

UNFPA supports family planning in developing countries by ensuring a reliable supply of a full range of modern contraceptives, strengthening national health systems and promoting gender equality.

“UNFPA is fully committed to continuing to support countries’ efforts to uphold the right of individuals, especially women, to plan a family,” Kanem continued. “We are striving to end all unmet need for voluntary family planning in developing countries, by 2030.”

“But, we cannot do this alone,” underscored the Executive Director, outlining the need for governments, parliamentarians, the private sector and civil society to join forces to make it happen.”

As a first step, she suggested that for a mere 20 cents per person annually, developed countries could close the global family planning funding gap, which Kanem said would be “a strategic and doable investment in the world’s future.” (*SOURCE: UN).

2018 theme: “Family Planning is a Human Right”

World Population Day, which seeks to focus attention on the urgency and importance of population issues, was established by the then-Governing Council of the United Nations Development Programme in 1989, an outgrowth of the interest generated by the Day of Five Billion, which was observed on 11 July 1987.**

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the 1968 International Conference on Human Rights, where family planning was, for the first time, globally affirmed to be a human right.

The conference’s outcome document, known as the Teheran Proclamation, stated unequivocally: “Parents have a basic human right to determine freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children.”

Embedded in this legislative language was a game-changing realization: Women and girls have the right to avoid the exhaustion, depletion and danger of too many pregnancies, too close together.

Men and women have the right to choose when and how often to embrace parenthood — if at all. Every individual has the human right to determine the direction and scope of his or her future in this fundamental way.

Nine standards to uphold the human right to family planning:

  • Non-discrimination: Family planning information and services cannot be restricted on the basis of race, sex, language, religion, political affiliation, national origin, age, economic status, place of residence, disability status, marital status, sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Available: Countries must ensure that family planning commodities and services are accessible to everyone.
  • Accessible: Countries must ensure that family planning commodities and services are accessible to everyone.
  • Acceptable: Contraceptive services and information must be provided in a dignified manner, respecting both modern medical ethics and the cultures of those being accommodated.
  • Good quality: Family planning information must be clearly communicated and scientifically accurate.
  • Informed decision-making: Every person must be empowered to make reproductive choices with full autonomy, free of pressure, coercion or misrepresentation.
  • Privacy and confidentiality: All individuals must enjoy the right to privacy when seeking family planning information and services.
  • Participation: Countries have an obligation to ensure the active and informed participation of individuals in decisions that affect them, including health issues.
  • Accountability: Health systems, education systems, leaders and policymakers must be accountable to the people they serve in all efforts to realize the human right to family planning. (**SOURCE: World Population Day).

2018 Human Wrongs Watch

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