World Population Day
Rights and choices are the answer: Whether baby boom or bust, the solution to shifting fertility rates lies in prioritizing the reproductive health and rights of all people
In this second year of COVID-19, we are suspended in an in-between state, where parts of the world are emerging from the deep recesses of the pandemic while others are locked in battle with the coronavirus as access to vaccines remains a distant, deadly reality.
The pandemic has compromised health care systems particularly in the area of sexual and reproductive health. It also exposed and exacerbated gender-based inequities: gender-based violence increased under lockdown, as did the risk of child marriage and female genital mutilation as programmes to abolish the harmful practices were disrupted. Significant numbers of women left the labour force – their often low-paying jobs were eliminated or caregiving responsibilities for children learning remotely or for homebound older people increased – destabilizing their finances, not just for now but in the long run.
Against this backdrop, many countries are expressing growing concern over changing fertility rates. Historically, alarmism over fertility rates has led to abrogations of human rights.
UNFPA advises against reactionary policy responses, which can be extremely harmful if they violate rights, health and choices. The agency emphasizes that women must be empowered educationally, economically and politically to exercise choice over their bodies and fertility.