MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay — The First Session of the Regional Conference on Population and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean concluded today, with the adoption of the Montevideo Consensus, a wide-ranging agreement on priority actions on several issues. These include access to sexual and reproductive health, gender equality, young persons’ rights and the integration of population into development.
According to their agreement on sexual and reproductive health, governments would take priority actions to:
“Eliminate preventable cases of maternal morbidity and mortality, including, within the set of integral benefits of sexual health and reproductive health services, measures for preventing and avoiding unsafe abortion, including sexual health and reproductive health education, access to modern and effective contraceptive methods, counselling and comprehensive care in cases of unwanted and unaccepted pregnancy, as well as comprehensive post-abortion care, where necessary;”
“Ensure, in those cases where abortion is legal or decriminalized under the relevant national legislation, the availability of safe, good-quality abortion services for women with unwanted and unaccepted pregnancies, and urge States to consider amending their laws, regulations, strategies and public policies relating to the voluntary termination of pregnancy in order to protect the lives and health of women and adolescent girls;”
“Ensure that all women have effective access to comprehensive health care during the reproductive process and specifically to skilled, institutional, compassionate obstetric care and to the best possible maternal health services during pregnancy, childbirth and the puerperium, as well as to services that include the termination of pregnancy in those cases where the law provides for such services, and guarantee universal access to assisted fertility treatments;”
“Promote policies that enable persons to exercise their sexual rights, which embrace the right to a safe and full sex life, as well as the right to take free, informed, voluntary and responsible decisions on their sexuality, sexual orientation and gender identity, without coercion, discrimination or violence,”
“Review legislation, standards and practices that restrict access to sexual and reproductive health services, including the provision of comprehensive user-friendly services for adolescents and youth, and guarantee access to full information on all of the service options available to all persons, without any form of discrimination;”
“Design policies and programmes to eradicate discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the exercise of sexual rights and the manifestations thereof.”
On gender equality, the governments agreed to priority actions to:
“Fulfil their commitment to strengthen institutional machineries in order to build development policies with equality that will guarantee the autonomy of women and persons of sexual diversity and gender equality and give these machineries the autonomy and the necessary human and financial resources;”
"Fulfil the commitment to increase and enhance opportunities for the equal participation of women in adopting and implementing policies in all spheres of public authority and in high-level decision making;”
“Promote legislation and design and strengthen public policies on equality in the labour market in order to eliminate gender discrimination and asymmetries in relation to access to decent employment, job security, wages and decision-making on labour issues;”
“Strengthen the participation of women in high-level and decision-making positions in companies and support their training during hours that are compatible with their family life, and encourage businesswomen to adopt leadership roles.”
Furthermore, the governments reiterated that protecting the rights and autonomy of women, “promoting the full exercise of their sexual rights and reproductive rights, gender equality and the elimination of the multiple forms of discrimination and violence” are fundamental to development with equality.
According to the agreement, the governments considered discrimination and violence on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity as placing persons of diverse sexuality in a vulnerable position, impairing their access to equality and to the full exercise of citizenship.
They bear in mind that violence against girls, women and LGBT persons (lesbian, gay, bisexualand transsexual), in particular sexual violence, is a critical indicator of marginalization, inequality, exclusion and gender discrimination against women and affects their autonomy, self-determination, individual and collective health and the exercise of human rights.
Governments reaffirmed that promoting and protecting sexual rights and reproductive rights are essential for social justice and the commitments to the three pillars of sustainable development: social, economic and environmental.
On adolescents and youth, the governments agreed on priority actions to:
“Invest in youth, through specific public policies and differentiated access, especially through the provision without discrimination of universal, free, public, secular, high-quality, intercultural education at all levels”;
“Ensure the effective implementation from early childhood of comprehensive sexuality education programmes, recognizing the emotional dimension of human relationships, with respect for the evolving capacity of the child and the informed decisions of adolescents and young people regarding their sexuality, from a participatory, inter-cultural, gender-sensitive and human rights perspective;”
“Introduce or strengthen policies and programmes to prevent pregnant adolescents and young mothers from dropping out of school;”
“Implement comprehensive, timely, good-quality sexual health and reproductive health programmes for adolescents and young people, including youth-friendly sexual health and reproductive health services with a gender, human rights, intergenerational and intercultural perspective, which guarantee access to safe and effective modern contraceptive methods, respecting the principles of confidentiality and privacy, to enable adolescents and young people to exercise their sexual rights and reproductive rights, to have a responsible, pleasurable and healthy sex life, avoid early and unwanted pregnancies, the transmission of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections, and to take free, informed and responsible decisions regarding their sexual and reproductive life and the exercise of their sexual orientation;”
“Prioritize the prevention of pregnancy among adolescents and eliminate unsafe abortion through comprehensive education on emotional development and sexuality, and timely and confidential access to good-quality information, counselling, technologies and services, including access to emergency oral contraception without a prescription.”
The 26-page consensus of about 130 operational paragraphs also includes agreements on on the integration of population dynamics into development; ageing; migration; territorial inequality; indigenous peoples; and Afro-descendants.
The conference, which witnessed four days of passionate speeches,was attended by 38 member and associate countries, 24 regional and international organizations and 260 non-governmental organizations. It was organized by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and Uruguay’s Government, with the support of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund.