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As women around the world lead stronger fights for equality, the global spotlight is being placed on a crucial part of equality and bodily autonomy- Sexual and reproductive rights, with many countries (states) making laws banning abortions while others make abortion legal. With few countries rendering abortion to be a human right, while others consider it to be murder, it’s only necessary and logical, that the UNW handle and resolve such issues. And with many former war-torn countries taking the path of peace and revival, it has become essential that women who actively take part in revolutions, be given the opportunity to participate in peace negotiations, actively make decisions on political restoration and be given a platform to voice their needs; Ultimately leading to the UNW being entrusted to advocate for rights of women all around the world.
On November 15 2012, thousands of women across Ireland took to the streets to mourn the death of Savita Halappanavar, an Indian resident who died due to blood poisoning after being denied an abortion even after she suffered a miscarriage; and also to condemn the country’s restrictive laws banning abortion (Abortion is now legal in Ireland).
It was then that the world took notice of how a ban on abortions would only lead to more deaths and more like Savita who was just one out of 46 000 women who died due to denial of an abortion.
Being a country that strives for gender equality in all forms, it’s only justified that Norway legalize abortions, provide easy access to contraceptives and fund programs that increase awareness regarding sexual and reproductive health.
Norway has only strengthened its stance on the subject by signing and ratifying Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) which requested legislations to either decriminalize abortion in extreme cases or make abortion legal in all cases. Norway has also not forgotten the goals of International Conference of Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo, which aimed to allow women to have reproductive rights and help bring about greater awareness on the topic.
By funding the UNFPA, Norway hopes to address and champion reproductive rights and access to safer abortions on a global level and recently pledged 530 million NOK to the UNFPA, (From where international NGO’s will be able to get funds and use them to support sexual and reproductive health- SRHR) where Norway remains one of the largest donor. It also continues to support a few African countries who have higher rates of unsafe abortions and no access to maternal health and family planning services.
At the national level, Nordic women are given completely safe, free and easy access to an abortion upon request, by 12 weeks of gestation; after which, a valid health (mental and physical) reason, child deformity or socio-economic reason is required. Youth and vulnerable groups of people are given access to free contraceptives (Emergency “pills”). Women from the age of 16-21 are given NOK 118 for 3 months of birth control (meaning pills equal to or less than that amount are free). It’s distributed at various site like family planning centres and schools, also. Norway continues to invest in its people, with the government increasing funding for family planning regularly. The government’s strong support for reproductive rights can be seen when Special Adviser Maria Espinoza clearly stated, “SRHR is a basic need. It is essential and can be lifesaving. It is a priority for Norway to promote and fulfil these rights. It is important to promote international acceptance of sexual rights and access to safe and legal abortion.”
The stigma and taboo surrounding sexual and reproductive health, religious reasons to deny abortions and government’s lack of support continue to be the roots of unsafe abortions, and lack of reproductive rights and bodily autonomy for women around the world. Inclusion of sexual education in curricula, extensive and easy access to contraceptives for youth and adults and allowance of abortion keeping in mind a woman’s health and right to equality rather than for political and religious purposes would be a major step allowing women to gain their fundamental rights. Keeping in mind Norway’s liberal stance, we would like to end with a quote the government strongly believes in, “Reproductive rights are human rights.”
In 1994, one of the worst genocidal war rocked Rwanda and horrified millions of people all over the globe, with thousands in the country being killed over their race and ancestry. It was women who although suffered then took up responsibility and decided to help the nation recover from the catastrophe. They repatriated displaced people, built homes and took up politics in the country. Their participation in peace negotiations not only improved their quality but also made sure that they were executed and lasted over the years. In fact, women in jungles peacefully argued and sent out DRC refugees. The government formed supported women and their rights and currently the country’s parliament has more than 50% of women, allowing women to claim their rights and continue to revive the country. This encouraged women all over the world and gave them courage to help their nations grow back. It also showed countries how women’s inclusion in post-war treaties and negotiations had positive impacts on nations.
Norway has always emphasized equality in all situation and fields, including the crucial time during conflicts and also the restoration of countries after it. To globally declare its stance, Norway has also adopted the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000), which aims to increase the involvement of women in peace processes, and also aim to eliminate the barriers preventing them for entering the political scene. Norway is a part of ‘Women, Peace and Security’ which targets and helps more women gain control of their lives, participate in various restoration developments. It has constantly presented its stance by frequently preparing action plans for ‘Women, Peace and Security’. The government’s role in helping women has not gone unnoticed and can be seen in: The Government of Norway collaborated with the UN to provide UN annual ceasefire training course for women in war-torn areas. The program hopes to equip women with better resources and mediation training to effectively take part in peace processes. A major example, was when the Norwegian government helped women in Columbia achieve a successful negotiations between the government and FARC.
The Norwegian government prioritised women’s role in mediation by sending women special representatives to Philippines and Columbia where Norway is the formal facilitator. Norway has also taken time to help local NGO’s supporting women in conflicts, to make sure that they’re heard and are able to give some input during the peace negotiations. Seeing how Norway sends it military personnel to join the UN Peace-Keeping forces in various places, it decided to be more gender-sensitive and send equal number of men along with women so that they were able to spearhead efforts for equality in peacebuilding and also encourage the local women to do so.
Norway has realized that one of the greatest threats preventing women from taking part in peace- building processes is sexual and gender-based violence, which is used to force women to not speak out. To make sure that no other women ever face the risk of facing any such form of violence, Special Police Teams have been deployed in various countries facing war, all of whom are experts in dealing with such sensitive topics. In 2015, the Nordic Network of Women Mediators was launched in Oslo to increase number of women mediators holding peace-talks in various war-ravaged areas. Norway also funds the UNW, which in turn helps women in Syria and other nations where war looms and threatens the rights of women.
The issue mainly stems from neglecting women’s role during and before war, lack of government support, gender stereotypes barring women from abandoning traditional duties to make ripples in the political arena and abuse (Mental, sexual and physical) of women which make them even more fearful to get involved in peace-negotiations. Increasing investment in women by members of the UN, prevention of threats and sexual violence against women, paying women equally when they take up roles is peace-talks, educating women so they know their rights and their impact- all of these measures will help increase the quantity of women in peace-negotiations and also increase the quality of them. It will also ensure that these peace-treaties benefit wide range of people. If knowing that inclusion of women in peace negotiations can bring about greater changes, benefits and opportunities for all sections of society, it is but our responsibility to provide them with necessary resources and support them at every step of the way.
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