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Speech by Caren Marks, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, at the General Debate of the 63rd Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations  

14.03.2019 - Speech

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Thank you Madam Chair, 

Distinguished colleagues,

1. Risks for women

Germany aligns itself with the statement of the European Union. 

All over the world, women, throughout their lives, are more often subject to certain risks than men – risks for their lives, their health, their wellbeing: 

Women are more often than men in precarious employment. 

Women earn less than men.   

Women are more often affected by poverty.   

Women do the major part of unpaid care work. 

Women bear the social and health-related risks of pregnancy and birth. 

Women are disproportionately often victims of violence. 

And women often lack the means to protect themselves against risks such as illness, accident or unemployment.

Security helps against risks: globally, women are particularly reliant on having access. Access to social security systems, to public services and infrastructure.    

And women are particularly affected when these security systems and public services are inadequate or when investments relating to them are cut back. 

2. Sexual and reproductive health and rights

Especially for women, access to public infrastructure is very important: access to doctors, hospitals, midwives, contraceptives, comprehensive sex education and expert counseling is a basic precondition of women’s self-determination of their body, their sexuality and their motherhood.

Women must be able to decide freely if and with whom they would like to have children, when and how many children they would like to have.  

We still have a long way to go: over 200 million women do not have the opportunity to use contraceptives. Often neither the partner nor the time of the wedding is chosen by young women themselves.

This way, more than 23 million girls become pregnant before they are 18 years old, oftentimes unintentionally. Still more than 30 million births take place outside medical facilities each year. These figures show: there is still a lot to do. Therefore we cannot comprehend that some countries are currently cutting back on their efforts in this field. We will jointly defend the achievements made over the past decades and fight for women to make use of their right to sexual self-determination worldwide.

3. Best practice

Also in Germany we know that women need to have access to counselling and medical care in order to take charge of their body and their health in a self-determined way. In our development cooperation, we provide 100 million euros annually for the initiative “Self-determined family planning and maternal health”.

Moreover, we are committed to improve universal social security and protection systems which meet the needs of women and girls. This means, for example, providing security for unemployment and shaping health care, pension and education systems in a gender-transformative way.

4. Multilateral commitment

We have also stepped up our multilateral commitment in this field. Not only in the Commission on the Status of Women, but also in the Human Rights Council and in the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly will we continue to fight for women’s rights to be expanded rather than restricted. And we know that other countries are taking a similar stance here:

Sweden, whose new government will further extend women’s rights to health and sexual self-determination.

Canada, whose government placed this topic at the core of its G7 Presidency.

And France, who has also announced to set the topic on this year’s G7 summit’s agenda. Only together can we promote equal rights and self-determination.

This is why we also support the SheDecides movement which ensures that women’s right are fostered worldwide. Furthermore, we closely cooperate with civil society as the work and contribution by women’s rights organisations are indispensable for a future-oriented gender equality policy.

5. Concluding remarks

If women give birth to as many children as they really wish, this will be an important building block for a sustainable demographic development. Sexual self-determination is also a building block for the improvement of health care provision for women and children. But first and foremost it is one thing: the realisation of a human right: a free and self-determined life for all women.   

 

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