A woman’s power to control her own body is linked to how much body the locus of all sexual and reproductive eng.pdf, accessed 18 November 2020. Coyne
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OUR AUTONOMY OUR LIVES ˜˚˛˝˙ˆˇ˘˛ ˚ We have the inherent right to choose what we do with our body, to ensure its protection and care, to pursue its expression. The quality of our lives depends on it. In fact, our lives themselves depend on it. The right to the autonomy of our bodies means that we have the power and agency to make choices, without fear of violence or having someone else decide for us. It means being able to decide whether, when or with whom to have sex. It means making your own decisions about when or whether you want to become pregnant. It means the freedom to go to a doctor whenever you need one. Saying no, saying yes, saying this is my choice for my bodyŠthis is the foundation of an empowered and digni˜ed life. We can realize who we are, fully. We do not have to shrink to ˜t choices that are not ours, to be in any way filess thanfl. Further, since claiming bodily autonomy is fundamental to the enjoyment of all other human rights, such as the right to health or the right to live free from violence, institutions in our societies are obligated to extend all the support and resources required for us to carry out our choices in a meaningful way (PWN, n.d.). Intertwined with bodily autonomy is the right to bodily integrity, where people can live free from physical acts to which they do not consent. While many women and girls in the world today have the power to make autonomous decisions about their own bodies, many more still face constraints, some with devastating consequences to their health, well-being and potential in life. œ

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My body, but not my choice For many people, but especially women and girls, life is fraught with losses to bodily integrity and autonomy linked to a lack of agency in making their own decisions. These losses manifest when a lack of contraceptive choices leads to unplanned pregnancy. They result from terrible bargains where unwanted sex is exchanged for a home and food. They run through violations such as female genital mutilation and child marriage. They arise when people with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities cannot walk down a street without fearing assault or humiliation. They leave people with disabilities stripped of their rights to self-determination, to be free from violence and to enjoy a safe and satisfying sexual life. There are many dimensions to the forces that prevent women and adolescent girls from enjoying bodily autonomy and integrity. But a root cause is gender discrimination, which re˚ects and sustains patriarchal systems of power and spawns gender inequality and disempowerment. Where there are gender-discriminatory social norms, women™s and girls™ bodies can be subject to choices made not by them, but by others, from intimate partners to legislatures. When control rests elsewhere, autonomy remains perpetually out of reach. While gender- discriminatory norms are by themselves harmful, they become even more so when they are compounded by other forms of discrimination, based on race, sexual orientation, age or disability, among other issues. Discriminatory norms are perpetuated by the community and can be reinforced by political, economic, legal and social institutions, such as schools and the media, and even by health services, including those that provide sexual and reproductive health care. These services may, for example, undermine autonomy by being poor in quality and constrained in meeting all of the needs of women and adolescent girls.Despite constitutional guarantees of gender equality in many countries, worldwide, on average, women enjoy just 75 per cent of the legal rights of men (United Nations Secretary-General, 2020). Women and girls in many instances lack the power to contest these disparities because of still low levels of participation in political and other forms of decision-making. Economic marginalization can detract from a woman™s ˜nancial WOMEN ENJOY JUST 75% of the legal rights OF MENfl

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independence, which in turn can weaken her authority to make autonomous decisions about sex, health care and contraception. The hardships brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic have only made matters worse. For some women and girls, the impact of gender inequality is ampli˜ed by multiple sources of discrimination based on age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability or even geography. When diverse types of discrimination intersect, they leave women and girls even more at risk of not realizing bodily autonomy, not enjoying their rights, and even further away from gender equality. No country in the world today can claim to have achieved gender equality in its totality. If it had, there would be no violence against women and girls, no pay gaps, no leadership gaps, no unfair burden of unpaid care work, no lack of quality and comprehensive reproductive health services, and no lack of bodily autonomy. Voice, choice and agency Sexual and reproductive health and rights have direct bearing on bodily autonomy and integrity for women and girls, with the body the locus of all sexual and reproductive functions and choices. These choices are subject to powerful, discriminatory subjugations of the rights of women and girls. It is here where their bodies are all too often bartered, bought and sold. From a perspective of patriarchy, control of sexual and reproductive choices effectively becomes control in many other areas of life. A woman who cannot de˜ne whether, when or how many children to have, or choose to stay in school instead of marrying at a young age, or who accepts domestic violence as her fate, stands little chance of gaining empowerment in the workforce or community decision-making or anywhere else. She essentially loses rights not just in one part of her life, but in many or even every part. Interests in sustaining patterns like these can be deeply entrenched in how societies and economies function. In some parts of the world,

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