Over the past decade, there has been notable progress in improving Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) across Southern Africa, including in regional normative standards such as the SADC Regional Strategy on SRHR (2019-2030). However, there have also been challenges and failures in improving SRHR, which have limited progress towards achieving the SDGs and other global commitments. In particular, systematic sexual and reproductive rights violations, especially against women and Key Populations (KPs), persist across Southern Africa and are often deeply embedded in laws, policies, the economy, social norms and values. In some countries, these violations are escalating. These include laws that restrict women's and adolescents' access to health services by requiring third-party authorisation, laws that require service providers to report personal information, laws that criminalise same-sex relationships and sex work, and criminal laws that prohibit provision of and access to abortion services. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex and other non-conforming individuals (LGBTI+) persons, sex workers, people who use drugs, people living with disabilities, women, adolescent girls, and young women face some of the harshest impacts of these punitive laws, policies and practices, entrenched in societal behaviour and attitudes. In particular, new waves of conservatism and fundamentalism that amplify state-sponsored violence and criminalisation and undermine individual agency have severe implications for the right to health and for responses to health.
2.0 BODILY AUTONOMY AND INTEGRITY (BAI)
ARASA identifies the protection and promotion of the rights to Bodily Autonomy and Integrity (BAI) as key to reducing inequality, especially pertaining to gender, and to promote health, dignity, and wellbeing for all in southern Africa. Using BAI as an entry point creates new and exciting opportunities in advancing SRHR. There are a diverse range of BAI issues that are of importance across southern and east Africa and span from access to safe abortions, sexual orientation and gender identity and issues related to adolescent SRHR. However, the framing of BAI also raises a number of challenges and has sometimes been employed to further a conservative and socially repressive agenda such as advocating against vaccinations and resisting the use of masks in the current COVID-19 pandemic.
The Forum through the Standing Committees and the Regional Women's Parliamentary Caucus is key in the advancement and domestication of the rights to bodily autonomy and integrity in the context of SRHR as provided for in international and regional human rights norms. Further to that the rights to bodily autonomy and integrity are core principles that can contribute to the formulation of human rights-based approaches to regional integration.
3.0 OBJECTIVES OF THE SESSION
i. Explore opportunities for, and challenges to, protection of the rights to bodily autonomy and integrity, as part of a complex and intersectional challenge to SRHR in southern and east Africa;
ii. Identify key regional policy priorities for protection of the rights to bodily autonomy and integrity, with a focus on sexual and reproductive health and rights, and how the international mechanisms can be leveraged to advance these rights.
iii. Facilitate the sharing of experiences and lessons learnt in advocating for the rights to bodily autonomy and integrity with a focus on elimination of stigma and discrimination on the basis of SOGI, HIV prevention, access to safe abortions and the integration of comprehensive SRHR services and programming into UHC in southern Africa; and
iv. Explore capacity strengthening needs regarding the rights to bodily autonomy and integrity and what types of resource materials may address these needs.
4.0 AGENDA OF THE COMMITTEE SESSION
The agenda of the Committee session will be as follows:
i. Welcoming Remarks by the Chairperson of the HSDSP
ii. Credentials of Delegates and Apologies;
iii. Adoption of the draft Agenda;
iv. Presentation and discussions on how parliamentarians in the SADC region can use the principle of BAI to advance SRHR
v. Sharing of experiences on working with religious and cultural institutions and their constituencies to uproot norms that deny the rights to BAI particularly the rights to safe abortions and key populations;
vi. Any other Business;
vii. Closing remarks and vote of thanks by Chairperson
5.0 VENUE AND PARTICIPATION
The Meeting will be open to all Members of the SADC PF Standing Committees and the RWPC. It will also be open to SRHR Researchers and partners and will take place virtually on Zoom in the three official languages of SADC PF, namely English, French and Portuguese.
Session of the SADC PF Standing Committees and the RWPC
Online hosting by the SADC-PF
8th July 2021
Registration of participants by the online platform
Credentials of Delegates and apologies
Facilitator: Mr Dennis Gondwe, Committee Secretary, SADC-PF
09:45 - 10:00
Welcoming Remarks by the Chairperson of the HSDSP Committee:
10:00 - 10:10
Item 3: Adoption of the draft Agenda
10:10 - 11:00
Item 6: Presentation and discussion on how parliamentarians can use the principle of BAI to advance adolescent SRHR
11:00 - 11:20
Item 7: Sharing of experiences working with religious and cultural institutions and their constituents to uproot norms that deny the rights to BAI particularly the rights to safe abortion and key populations
11:20 - 11:30
Item 8: Any Other Business
11:30 - 11:45
Closing remarks and vote of thanks by the Chairperson of the RWPC