Thursday, July 26, 2018
A UN Committee reviewing the status of women in New Zealand has a strong message for the government in the recommendations released this week.
Abortion law reform and comprehensive sexuality education need attention now was the clear message from the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.
Our chief executive Jackie Edmond says it is positive that the UN has highlighted the need for more work on these issues.
“We were particularly pleased to see the committee strong in its support for the inclusion of comprehensive sexuality education in the curriculum. We have been consistent in our support for the curriculum to be fully implemented and resourced for many years,” Ms Edmond says.
The Committee recommendations say that young people have the right to culturally sensitive and age-appropriate education on sexual and reproductive health and rights and responsible sexual behaviour, focusing on the prevention and the consequences of early pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
The UN Committee also welcomed the Minister of Justice's request from the Law Commission to advise on the necessary legislative changes needed to treat abortion as a health issue.
The Law Commission’s upcoming report on the decriminalisation of abortion is much needed and experts and human rights advocates everywhere acknowledge this.
As noted in their report, currently, the Crimes Act provides restrictive legal grounds for abortion in which rape or sexual violence are not included, and that the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act requires the approval of two certifying consultants prior to the administration of abortion.
The UN Committee, like Family Planning, saw this as further impeding on accessibility of abortion services in New Zealand and creating unnecessary delays
Under the new child care alert system of the Ministry of Health, unborn foetuses are included in the definition of child, which has resulted in foetal protection measures, such as court decisions granting special protection to the foetus, and that this may undermine pregnant women’s bodily autonomy and reproductive health rights.
The UN Committee recalled its statement on sexual and reproductive health and rights, adopted at its fifty-seventh session, and recommends that the New Zealand government remove abortion from the Crimes Act 1961 and amend the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act 1977 in order for abortion to be fully decriminalised and incorporated into health services legislation.
They also recommended that abortion is legalised at least in cases of rape, incest, threats to the life or health of the pregnant woman or severe foetal impairment, and to ensure women’s access to safe abortion and post-abortion care and services.
The Government has been asked to report again in two years on particular recommendations the UN Committee made that relate to gender-based violence against women, abortion, and the Family Court system.
CEDAW is the primary international instrument that defines women’s rights and sets out an agenda for countries to end such discrimination. New Zealand ratified CEDAW in 1985.
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