Reproductive Rights in Global Governance

Written Report

Submitted by:

Sarah C. Gabriel
Angelica Joyce U. Samson

ISI – 105 (WF 1:30PM – 3:00PM)

I. International Conferences and Documents
Women’s rights have evolved over time; we have seen it stem from women seeking social
justice through the pursuance of equality between women and men to combatting the specific
issues that women experience in society that is not limited to being equal with men but achieving
equity.
For instance, it takes both a woman and a man to make a baby, however it takes a woman
to be able to carry the child for the nine months. During these months, a woman must have
access to adequate and high quality health care services to maintain their health as well as the
baby’s health whereas the baby's father does not require any special medical attention in relation
to the baby.
Without the ardor from women’s movements, women would be far off worse than their
situation now. Say in the 1970s, women were only experiencing the grand shift from being a
homemaker to being treated as an individual that have equal rights to man.
Many documents and conferences have taken place over the span of 30 years in the hope
that women will no longer be discriminated and marginalized on in any aspect of their lives. This
research is primarily focused on identifying those conferences that discussed the reproductive
rights of women as well as the rules that keep them in place.
In 1994, the International Conference on Population and Development took place in
Cairo, Egypt. This conference is important groundwork for the reproductive health rights
movement because it was able to set a standard wherein women can be guaranteed their rights.
The conference defined reproductive health as the "a state of complete physical, mental, and
social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, in all matters relating to the
reproductive system.”
Among the other international conferences that took place, which had a major impact on
the reproductive health rights of women, were the Beijing Platform for Action, Convention on
the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Millennium Development
Goals/Sustainable Development Goals.
Mechanisms

To measure the effectiveness of implementation of an international treaty, states are
required to follow certain measures and protocol. Each of the aforementioned conferences in the
previous section have their own organizational bodies that maintain the progress and
development of the treaty.
International Conference on Population and Development
For the ICPD, its document was entitled the Program of Action (PoA). The Program
highlighted the inter-relativeness of population growth with sexual and reproductive health and
rights, sustained economic growth and sustainable development. It was considered as the
comprehensive approach to achieve the universal access to reproductive healthcare services by
the year 2014.
One of the monitoring bodies of the PoA is the United Nations Population Fund
(UNFPA) which was mandated by the General Assembly Resolution 65/234 during the follow-up
of the ICPD Beyond 2014. It works alongside other UN agencies and relevant international
organizations, institutions and experts.
Its purpose was to create “an operational review of the implementation of the Programme
of Action (PoA) on the basis of the highest-quality data and analysis of the state of population
and development, taking into account the need for a systematic, comprehensive and integrated
approach to population and development issues.”
One of its review processes is the ICPD Global Survey. It is composed of two main tools,
which are a questionnaire and the ICPD Country Implementation Profile (CIP). The
questionnaire is filled by governments to assess their commitments in construction of policies in
relation to the ICPD PoA as well as the factors that hinder and help policy implementation. The
CIP is aimed at assessing progress of the ICPD PoA using quantitative factors.
The Beijing Conference on Women
The Beijing Platform for Action is a UN document that is seen as “the most
comprehensive articulation of international commitments” in the sphere of women’s human
rights. Along with the ICPD PoA, the documents created a shift in the international community
with regards to how human rights, such as sexual and reproductive rights, are necessary to the

advancement of development and achievement of gender equality. Advocates and supporters of
the BPfA have fought hard to ensure that sexual reproductive rights are seen, articulated and
properly applied.
The international body that headlines the monitoring of the BPfA is the Commission on
the Status of Women. It was created as an extension of the Economic and Social Council
(ECOSOC). It is instrumental in the promotion of women’s rights, they are also in charge of
documenting the realities that women experience over the globe, and they are likewise involved
in the shaping of international standards of gender equality and women empowerment. Thanks to
the ECOSOC resolution 1996/6, the CSW’s authority handled not only monitoring, reviewing of
progress and problems in the implementation of the BPfA but as well as the mainstreaming of
gender perspective in the UN activities.
The Commission on the Status of Women makes use of a multi-year work program. This
program is intended to foster progress and create recommendations that will hasten the
implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action. The following are the methods that the
ECOSOC have utilized:
1. General discussion of the equality status of gender, achievements, challenges and gaps
that are in relation to the implementation of key commitments;
2. Primary theme: BfPA and the outcome of 23rd special session with the UN General
Assembly;
3. Holds high-level roundtable to exchange experiences, lessons learned and good practices
on the priority theme;
4. Evaluate progress in implementing agreed conclusions from previous sessions as a
review theme;
5. Convene interactive panel discussions on steps and initiatives to accelerate
implementation, and measures to build capacities for mainstreaming gender equality
across policies and programs;
6. Addresses emerging issues that affect gender equality;
7. Considers in closed meeting the report of its Working Group on Communications;
8. Agrees on further actions for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of
women by adopting agreed conclusions and resolutions;
9. Contributes gender perspectives to the work of other intergovernmental bodies and
processes; and
10. Celebrates International Women’s Day on 8 March, when it falls within its session.

The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women
The CEDAW on the other hand, as well as the CEDAW OP, is overseen by the
Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, on the international level.
According to their website, the Committee is composed of 23 independent experts in the field of
women’s rights from all over the globe. They monitor the implementation of the Convention.
Once the CEDAW has been ratified by the States Parties, the states are obliged to report to the
Committee regularly regarding their implementation of rights based on the Convention. When
the reporting sessions take place, the Committee listens to all the reports then delivers their
recommendations regarding what to do about the concerns raised during the sessions. The
recommendations come in the form of concluding observations.
With the addition of the Optional Protocol to the CEDAW, the Committee is: (1)
authorized to receive communications from groups, individuals, or groups of individuals that
wish to submit claims of violations to their rights that are protected under the CEDAW
convention; (2) inquiries are made in times of grave or systematic violations of women’s rights;
The Committee is also in charge of creating general recommendations and suggestions,
which are directed to States and are in reference of articles and themes from the Conventions. It
is important to note that these measures are optional as the name suggests, and are only made
available when the State party has ratified them.
Millennium Development Goals/Sustainable Development Goals
Last but not the least, we have the MDGs or the current SDGs. These goals are monitored
by the United Nations, however due to the fact that they are only conventions, these goals are
non-binding and up to the member states if they should implement them or not.
According to the UN OHCHR, “The SDGs are the result of the most consultative and
inclusive process in the history of the United Nations. Grounded in international human rights
law, the agenda offers critical opportunities to further advance the realization of human rights for
all people everywhere, without discrimination.”
Robert Bissio on the other hand mentions that “The SDGs are not just about the
unfinished agenda of the MDGs but aim higher through several goals and targets that are

“universal” and create obligations for all governments, including in some of the richest countries
of the world where poverty is still widely prevalent.”
The mechanisms of this international set of goals are entrusted by the States Parties to
share their national report to any international body on domestic progress voluntarily. The
government is responsible for making sure that their national progress is up to the demand of
their society. The goals are proposed by an inter-governmental organization; however, its
implementation rests on the presence of reports made by individual States Parties.
II. Regional Efforts
Part of global governance is the involvement of non-state actors and its presence in
different levels, reproductive rights and efforts to pursue and uphold it is manifested in the
Southeast Asian region is evident through the selected organizations.
UN ESCAP
The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)
is the regional development arm of the United Nations in the said region. The Asian and the
Pacific region fosters 4.1 billion people which equates to two-thirds of the world’s population. In
their official website, it was stated:
“ESCAP works to overcome some of the region’s greatest challenges by
providing results oriented projects, technical assistance and capacity building to
member States in the following areas:









Sustainable Development
Macroeconomic Policy and Development
Trade and Investment
Transport
Social Development
Environment and Development
Information and Communications Technology
Disaster Risk Reduction
Statistics
Sub-regional activities for development”

UN ESCAP provides different avenues and mechanisms to address the following key
areas of discussion. In line with this, ESCAP is “committed to a resilient Asia and the Pacific
founded on shared prosperity, social equity and sustainability. Our vision is to be the most
comprehensive multilateral platform for promoting cooperation among member States to achieve
inclusive and sustainable economic and social development in Asia and the Pacific.”
Asian-Pacific Resource & Research Centre for Women (ARROW)
The Asian-Pacific Resource & Research Centre for Women or ARROW “envisions an
equal, just and equitable world, where every woman enjoys her full sexual and reproductive
health and rights. Our work is four-fold: Information and communications, monitoring and
research, building partnerships, and organizational development.”
ARROW’s advocacies with brief description are as follows (lifted from their official
website):

Maternal health: We monitor progress in the region as well as gaps and
restrictions, within the frameworks of various international processes such

as ICPD, MDGs and the BPfA.
Contraception: We monitor indicators such as Total Fertility Rates (TFR),
Wanted

Fertility

Rates,

Contraceptive

Prevalence

Rates,

men’s

contraception use as a percentage of total contraception use, Informed
Choice in using contraception, Unmet Need for Contraception, Non Use of

Contraception and Emergency Contraception.
Safe abortion: We have recognized that advocacy is almost the only means
whereby laws, policy and practice in countries can be changed and have
been facilitating the sharing of experiences among concerned and

committed people and organizations through our various partnerships.
Reproductive cancers: As interventions on reproductive cancers are
considered more costly than those for contraception or maternal health,
there is a greater struggle in establishing women’s rights to access

preventive and curative services.
HIV/ AIDS: HIV intervention focuses on high-risk behavior groups such
as sex workers, men who have sex with men and injectable drug users. As
a result, the larger population, who are at risk of STI but do not fall under

the high-risk categories, are not prioritized for prevention and treatment

programs.
Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE): ARROW, particularly through
the Women’s Health and Rights Advocacy Partnership South East Asia
(WHRAP-SEA) and the Global South Youth partnership advocates for
rights-based, non-discriminatory, evidence-based and youth-friendly
comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) that recognizes and caters to the

evolving capacities of young people
Young people: We recognize the close inter-linkages between young
people’s SRHR and other issues that affect them such as unemployment,
education, etc. and have mobilized young people around various

international events.
Sexual rights: Including – SOGIE, sexual rights of adolescents, traditional
and harmful practices, gender-based violence, early, child and forced

marriages, and affirmative sexuality
International Processes: Including – ICPD, Beijing Platform for Action,
Conference of the parties, MDGs, Post-2015 development agenda, and

international conference on nutrition.
Intersectionalities: Including – rural women, food security, food
sovereignty, nutrition, religious fundamentalism, disasters, climate change,

migration, and conflict.
Means of implementation: Including – health sector reform, financing for

development or funding for SRHR, laws and policies, and accountability.
Other: Focusing on NCDS or and mental health

III. National Level: Philippine Setting
To localize the efforts and make the norm be felt in context, the following are
manifestations of different efforts in pursuing reproductive rights.
A. Civil Societies and Non-Governmental Organizations
Philippine Commission on Women (PCW)
Philippine Commission on Women or PCW is the ‘national machinery for gender equality
and women’s empowerment’. Through its various efforts such as policy advocacy, provision of

technical assistance and monitoring and evaluation of the gender responsiveness of government
policies, plans, programs and services, PCW aims to contribute to the following focus areas:

Women’s Priority Legislative Agenda: An examination of Philippine laws
on the status of women reveals that substantive gains have been achieved

to recognize, protect, fulfill and promote the rights of Filipino women.
Gender-Responsive Governance: In order to say that governance is good,
UNDP further states that the it should be “participatory, transparent,
accountable, effective, equitable, promotes the rule of law, addresses
priorities and makes decisions based on broad consensus, including
especially the concerns of the poorest and the most vulnerable in society;
and formulates a strategic vision to achieve sustainable human

development.”
Leadership and Political Participation: Section 11 of the Magna Carta of
Women (MCW) provides for the acceleration of women’s participation
and equitable representation in decision-making and policy-making
processes in government and private entities to fully realize their role as

agents and beneficiaries of development.
Women’s Economic Empowerment: The fight against poverty can be won
when women are capacitated to generate income for themselves and their

families are provided with equal access to resources in doing so.
Women and the Environment: The Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA) for
one has included gender inequalities in the management of natural
resources and in the safeguarding of the environment under one of its

critical areas of concern.
Violence against women: According to the 2008 National Demographic
and Health Survey conducted by the National Statistics Office, one in five

Filipino women age 15-49 has experienced physical violence since age 15.
Millennium Development Goals: The Philippine government is committed
to ensure that the country’s development planning efforts focus on an
MDG-responsive policy framework and legislation to eradicate poverty
and achieve sustainable human development.

Likhaan

Likhaan is an alliance of different non-profit groups, organizations and sectoral groups in
the Philippines and other countries which is ‘dedicated to the promotion of activities that
cultivate human creativity and improve social productivity for sustainable-equitable development
and community transformation.’
As stated in their official website, Likhaan’s mission is to ‘promote activities that
cultivate human creativity, create technical and social inventions, and improve social
productivity for sustainable-equitable development and community transformation’. To guide its
mission, Likhaan’s objectives are to ‘to promote creative education and specialized training,
undertake innovative research and development planning, and conduct policy research and
strategic studies. TLG seeks to promote agricultural innovations and countryside development;
environmental protection, conservation and resource management; human settlement studies,
planning and design; energy research/development, arts and literature, and social innovations and
purposeful community development.
Likhaan aims to carry out scientific investigation and technological studies focused on
energy and power, human settlement technologies, environmental technologies, community
design, and housing designs & technologies. TLG also offers project management services and
undertake enterprise development projects in agri-business, small-medium industries and rural
enterprises.’
B. Government
True enough, our government still lacks legislations and programs promoting people’s
reproductive rights. Instead of decreasing numbers of HIV/AIDS cases, our country’s situation
was labeled before as “low and slow” and “hidden and growing” is now “fast and furious”.
Nevertheless, this one momentous law in Philippine history shall still be credited after 13
rigorous years in the making and discussion:
Republic Act 10354
RA 10354 is also known as the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of
2012 or the RH Law. Considered to be one of the most controversial, it was then signed by
President Benigno Aquino III last December 21 of 2012.

Few of its key points are the following:

Age and development-appropriate reproductive health education: for

public school students aged between 10 and 19.
Provision of natural and artificial birth control methods in health centers

and state-run hospitals.
Information and access to different family planning methods which are
proven to be ‘medically safe, legal, non-abortifacient, and effective in
accordance with scientific and evidence-based medical research standards
such as those registered and approved by the FDA (Food and Drug
Administration)’

IV. Conclusion
There is still debate about how inclusive the term reproductive health is, because there is
contention regarding the terms reproductive health and reproductive rights. Reproductive rights
refer to the woman’s free and inalienable right to choose what to do with her body, whereas
reproductive health refers to access to medical care and services. Despite a difference of one
word, the implication of these two terms, is the basis of whether women are provided with
unfettered and inclusive rights and control over their body.
Aside from the discourse that is present when dealing with reproductive health & rights,
women are experiencing challenges in the areas of sexually transmitted disease, access to health
care and abortion to name a few.
We have been able to address these issues through implementation of national policies
framed under the major international treaties and conventions, still we fall short because States
Parties themselves have served as a barrier to the progress of their women constituents.
Say for the Philippines, the reproductive health law had been stuck in congress for more
than a decade because the legislation of the bill went against the religious views of the congress

members. Even after the passage of the law, its effective implementation of programs that aims
to benefit the basic unit of the society, still falls short of its expected outcome.
Sexual health and rights as well as reproductive health and rights are two agendas that
will continue to encounter challenges if we do not address the fault in the chain of command in
the implementation of several international law and treaties that are supposedly there to promote
and protect these rights.
Global governance entails that there is a check and balance in all three features of the
global system: international, regional and national levels of governance. When there is just one
level that refuses to do its job, reproductive rights or any other agendas upheld in our
international laws will fail to develop and create any inclusive sustainable development that it
was made to create in the first place.

SOURCES

Asian-Pacific Resource & Research Centre for Women. (n.d). Retrieved from

https://www.arrow.org.my
Beijing + 15: No Equality Without Full Enjoyment Of Women’s Sexual And Reproductive
Rights. (n.d.) Retrieved from
http://www.reproductiverights.org/sites/crr.civicactions.net/files/documents/beijing+15%
20factsheet.pdf

Bissio, R. (n.d.) The "A" Word: Monitoring the SDGs. Retrieved from
http://futureun.org/en/Publications-Surveys/Article?newsid=61

Boncocan, K. (2012, December 28). RH Bill finally signed into law. The Philippine Daily
Inquirer.

Retrieved from http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/331395/gonzales-aquino-signed-rh-bill-into-law
CEDAW Reporting and Monitoring (n.d.) Retrieved from
http://www.unwomen-eseasia.org/projects/Cedaw/mechanism.html

Commission on the Status of Women. (n.d.).
Retrieved from http://www.unwomen.org/en/csw

Committee on the Elimination Of Discrimination Against Women . (n.d.) Retrieved from
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CEDAW/Pages/Introduction.aspx

Country Profile: “On Universal Access to Sexual and Reproductive Rights: Philippines” (2014).
Retrieved from http://arrow.org.my/publication/country-profile-on-universal-access-tosexual-and-reproductive-rights-philippines/

Human Rights and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. (n.d.) Retrieved from
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/MDG/Pages/The2030Agenda.aspx

International Meeting on Monitoring and Implementation of the International Conference on
Population and Development (ICPD) Beyond 2014 - Meeting Report. (n.d.) Retrieved from
https://www.unfpa.org/sites/default/files/event-pdf/International-Meeting-on-Monitoringand-Implementation-of-the-International-Conference-on-Population-and-Development-ICPDBeyond-2.docx+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk



The Likhaan Group. (n.d). Retrieved from http://www.likhaan.com/about-us/
The Philippine Commission on Women. (n.d). Retrieved from http://www.pcw.gov.ph/
United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. (n.d). Retrieved
from http://www.unescap.org/