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AFRO-NETS> Women and armed conflict
- Subject: AFRO-NETS> Women and armed conflict
- From: Claudio Schuftan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Thu, 6 Nov 2003 11:15:35 -0500 (EST)
Women and armed conflict
Armed Conflict and Women's Access to Health and Reproductive Rights:
Another Battle to Fight (excerpts)
By Nadia van der Linde, WGNRR
Recent findings by Amnesty International show that the international
community and the Afghan government have been unable to protect women.
Armed conflicts around the world withhold women from their right to
health. The Women's Global Network for Reproductive Rights urges gov-
ernments around the world to take responsibility for women's health:
Health for All, Health for Women.
Health for All
Health is a basic human right, recognized in international conventions
and declarations, but access to health for women has been ignored and
even directly violated by governments and international institutions.
The last two decades have seen the simultaneous rise of privatisation,
structural adjustment programmes, unfair trade agreements and patents
on drugs on the one hand and increased religious fundamentalism, ter-
rorism and genocide of people on the other hand. International and na-
tional policies that result in greater poverty of populations or pro-
mote use of violence and militarism have a direct impact on women's
possibilities to stay healthy and enjoy their sexual and reproductive
health and rights.
Women's Access to Health
In order to emphasize the relevance still today of the Alma Ata Decla-
ration and to highlight the importance of women's reproductive and sex-
ual health and rights, the Women's Global Network for Reproductive
Rights (WGNRR) has launched the international Women's Access to Health
Campaign. This 3-year campaign, organized in collaboration with the
People's Health Movement, demands that primary health care be provided
to all people and peoples everywhere, taking into account women's re-
productive and sexual health and rights needs. The campaign goes beyond
merely demanding access to health services, but addresses the enabling
conditions that are essential for women to enjoy good health, like
equal social, economical and political opportunities and peace.
Reproductive Health and Rights
For sexual and reproductive health to be attained and maintained, the
sexual and reproductive rights of all persons must be respected, pro-
tected and fulfilled. Generally speaking, these rights include the
rights of all women and men to sexuality education and information, ac-
cess to reproductive health care services, choice of partner, choice of
whether or not and when to have children, and pursue a satisfying, safe
and pleasurable sexual life.
Armed conflict and women's access to health
Armed conflicts seriously affect the health and reproductive rights of
women. War causes greater health needs as a result of injuries from
violent conflict lack of hygiene and lack of access to proper water and
food. At the same time, wars reduce access to health services because
of lack of transportation, road blocks, curfews, closures and lower mo-
bility of women due to lack of resources, socio-cultural stigma and
care for family members. Both quantity and quality of health services
greatly decrease during violent conflict as funds are spent on the war
rather than on repairing, maintaining and developing health services.
Health centres in the region and related infrastructure may be severely
damaged, looted or even completely destroyed. War is expensive and it
is funded at the cost of health care, education and social security.
In wartime, women face extra risk of abduction, sexual violence, traf-
ficking, slavery and harassment. Especially (mass) rape is well known
as a "tool of ethnic cleansing" and a "weapon of war". Rape not only
results in trauma and possible psychiatric disorders but also in physi-
cal injuries and possibly in infections that are sexually transmitted
that will have grave consequences for the woman's health if no appro-
priate treatment is given. Violence against women limits women's access
to health and poses demands for specific kinds of medical care. Those
women who have survived sexual violence need to be protected from fur-
ther attacks and receive appropriate treatment for the physical and
psychological consequences. There is little public acknowledgement of
this and very few programs, aside from those set up by women, have been
developed to deal with traumatized women in times of conflict.
Even when a war is over, violence against women continues.
Armed conflict often impels women to leave their homes and possessions,
either because of lack of means of survival or fear of an attack. Or it
can be part of a deliberate strategy of one of the fighting parties in-
volved. Displacement can have life-threatening implications, as many
people are highly dependent on the land as a source of livelihood. Dis-
placed populations face unhygienic circumstances resulting in high num-
bers of illnesses and plagues and have a higher risk of being sexually
abused. Health services are often not accessible and not adequate.
Reproductive health damage is caused by military toxins, increases in
prostitution, violence against women and spread of HIV/AIDS as a result
of military presence, budget cuts in social sectors to pay for war,
limited mobility as a result of militarism and increased population
control. And finally: war kills people.
The Women's Access to Health Campaign joins women and men from around
the world to raise awareness and actively promote women's access to
health. This years 'Call for Action' published by WGNRR focuses on gov-
ernments' responsibility for women's health, calling on them to imple-
ment what they have committed to years ago. All across the world, or-
ganisations and individuals are organising activities to promote
women's health and reproductive rights. On all continents organisations
and individuals have signed up to support the Women's Access to Health
Campaign. Let us know if you would like to join too.
Women's Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR) is an autonomous
network of groups and individuals in every continent who aim to achieve
and support reproductive rights for women. For more information about
the campaign or the network, please contact Nadia van der Linde
mailto:email@example.com or take a look at http://www.wgnrr.org
1092 TJ Amsterdam
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