By the Unit for Gender Equality Policy
The International Day of Action for Women's Health was established as a reminder to address the multiple causes of disease and death that affect women.
A group of women activists launched the commemoration in order to denounce the problems that affect the sexual and reproductive health of women and girls around the world.
At that time, women were demanding that birth control programs put in place without their participation be discontinued; universal access to health; a reevaluation of the increasing medicalization of women's bodies; and ensured access to safe contraceptive methods.
Over the years, some of these issues have evolved, others have remained largely unchanged and new ones have emerged. However, one problem that has persisted is the lack of knowledge about women’s health and women’s current, diverse needs.
The Millennium Development Goals have contributed to this limited understanding by omitting any mention of sexual and reproductive health and rights, and focusing narrowly only on maternal health.
We all know that women are not only mothers: they are women, children and older women; they may or may not have children, live alone or with a partner, either man or woman; be HIV positive, or have some type of difference or disability.
Regardless of who they are and of their circumstances, all women make decisions about their sexuality, their reproductive health and their overall well-being. However, many women do not have access to the services that enable them to carry out their decisions, and in other cases, those decisions are made for them.
Imagine you are a differently-abled young woman asking about ways to practice safe sex and you are told that a person with your "condition" should not be sexually active, or that you are pregnant and your doctor plans the delivery around his/her own agenda, convincing you to get a cesarean section instead of waiting to have a natural delivery as you had wished. Or imagine you are HIV positive and you are sterilized against your will, or you have to go to another country to get a safe and legal abortion, or you are a poor woman whose only contraceptive choice is a long-term method that makes you feel sad and wrong. Imagine, imagine, imagine.
When it comes to the health of women and girls, why is it always someone else who decides what matters and what doesn’t, rather than the woman herself?
In the Foreign Ministry, we support action for the health of all of the women in the Foreign Ministry, of the Mexican women abroad and of society as a whole, encouraging initiatives that promote knowledge and the fundamental rights of individuals to access the methods needed to sustain a dignified and fulfilling life.
All of society must continue its progress in ensuring access to women’s reproductive and sexual health, strengthening a universal law that is still in the shadows in many parts of the world.