Women are Entitled to Decide

Box 7

In its 1992 General Recommendations on Equality in Marriage and Family Relations, CEDAW ruled:

21. The responsibilities that women have to bear and raise children affect their right to access to education, employment and other activities related to their personal development. They also impose inequitable burdens of work on women. The number and spacing of their children have a similar impact on women's lives and also affect their physical and mental health, as well as that of their children. For these reasons, women are entitled to decide on the number and spacing of their children.

22. Some reports disclose coercive practices which have serious consequences for women, such as forced pregnancies, abortions or sterilization. Decisions to have children or not, while preferably made in consultation with a spouse or partner, must not nevertheless be limited by spouse, partner, parent or Government. In order to make an informed decision about safe and reliable contraceptive measures, women must have information about contraceptives and their use, and guaranteed access to sex education and family planning services . . . .

23. There is general agreement that where there are freely available appropriate measures for the voluntary regulation of fertility, the health, development and well-being of all members of the family improves. Moreover, such services improve the general quality of life and health of the population, and the voluntary regulation of population growth helps preserve the environment and achieve sustainable economic and social development.