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From newsdesk@igc.apc.org Fri Sep 22 14:19:46 2000
Date: Thu, 21 Sep 2000 23:18:55 -0500 (CDT)
From: IGC News Desk <newsdesk@igc.apc.org>
Subject: POPULATION: Gender Inequality Causes Unsafe Abortions and AIDS
Article: 105306
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Gender Inequality Causes Unsafe Abortions and AIDS

By Thalif Deen, IPS, 29 September 2000

UNITED NATIONS, Sep 20 (IPS)—The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) says that gender inequality is a key factor in a growing number of unsafe abortions, sexually transmitted diseases and maternal deaths worldwide.

The price of inequality is too high to pay, UNFPA Executive Director Nafis Sadik said Tuesday.

In its annual ’State of World Population 2000’ released here, UNFPA says that if women had the power to make decisions about sexual activity and its consequences, they could avoid many of the 80 million unwanted pregnancies and 20 million unsafe abortions each year.

Additionally, they could also avoid some 500,000 maternal deaths every year (including 78,000 as a result of unsafe abortions), and many times that number of infections and injuries.

The report also says that women could help prevent many of the 333 million new sexually transmitted infections contracted each year - provided they had the power to share with men the role of decision-makers.

More equal power relations between men and women, combined with increased access to good reproductive health care, would save the lives of hundreds of thousands of women, including many of those who die from pregnancy- related causes, according to the 76-page study.

Sadik said that in countries all over the world, gender inequality, discrimination and violence are holding back not only women but also men; not only families but also communities and whole nations.

This is a massive global violation of human rights, but it also has many practical and malign consequences, she adds.

One of them is continued unwanted high fertility and rapid population growth among some of the world’s poorest people, she notes. Another is the spread of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) which causes the deadly diseases, AIDS.

By mid-2000, world population stood at 6.06 billion and is growing by 75 million people a year. More than 95 percent of the growth is taking place in developing countries.

The future size and rate of growth of the global population depends on action taken to end gender discrimination, the study argues.

Experience in developing countries over the last 30 years has shown that when women are offered a full range of choices, they have smaller but healthier and better-educated families than their mothers did.

If there were universal access to family planning, and women could have only the number of children they wanted, the total fertility rate in many countries would fall by one-third, according to the study.

Werner Fornos, President of the Washington-based Population Institute, points out that nowhere does the need for a concerted approach ring more true than in the area of gender equality and equity.

We have long known what is required—starting with equal access to education, employment, reproductive health and the entire spectrum of the development process, he told IPS.

But most nations, he says, have not acted as earnestly and aggressively on these pivotal human problems as they should and they must.

These are issues, however, that cannot be willed away nor wished away. More than ever, future generations depend on the steadfast resolve of our generation to make these vital course corrections. Anything less would be a flagrant dereliction of our duty and obligation as guardians of our planet, he said.

The UNFPA study says that the facts of gender inequality—the restrictions placed on women’s choices, opportunities and participation - have a direct and often malign consequences for women’s health and education, and for their social and economic participation.

Yet, until recent years, these restrictions have been considered either unimportant or non-existent, either accepted or ignored, it adds.

The study notes that the reality of women’s lives has been invisible to men. This invisibility persists at all levels, from the family to the nation. Though they share the same space, women and men live in different worlds.

The study advocates partnerships between governments and non- governmental organisations (NGOs); among governments, civil society and international bodies; among countries North and South, rich and poor; and between individual men and women.

These partnerships point the way towards an end to gender discrimination and violence, towards a more equal place for women in the family and the world, towards a way to contain the AIDS crisis, to achieve slower and more balanced population growth, and to fight poverty.