20 October 2015
For immediate release
Women’s rights, including their sexual health and rights, took centre stage during this election. We saw federal leaders talk specifically about women’s rights for the first time in 30 years with the Up for Debate campaign. The niqab became a wedge issue, the Munk Debate and the second French debate brought light to abortion in Canada and globally, and each leader addressed strategies for childcare and ending violence against women. Now that the election is over, it is time for this newly-elected government to make good on its promises.
“Repealing Bill C-36 is the kind of step the government needs to take to address violence against women and women’s rights,” says Sandeep Prasad, executive director of Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights. The new government has made a promise to replace the law resulting from the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (Bill C-36) with legislation that protects the safety, health and human rights of sex workers in Canada. “Bill C-36 creates the conditions that threaten human rights, from bodily autonomy to freedom from violence. Working in consultation with experts and civil society, and sex workers themselves as promised, will be a first step this government needs to commit to,” adds Prasad.
The new government has also promised to negotiate a new health accord with provinces and territories. “This is an opportunity for a national drug plan that would support the many Canadians who are paying out of pocket to access contraceptives, fertility drugs, medication for transitioning, HIV treatment. The government could also use this time to discuss real access to abortion in Canada that includes rural and remote areas and covering the cost of mifegysimo,” says Prasad.
Only one in six hospitals provide abortion services in Canada, the majority of which, like free-standing sexual health clinics, are disproportionately dispersed across the country and primarily located in urban centres. P.E.I. offers zero abortion services, and only four facilities cover Nunavut, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories.
Canada also has a role to play in supporting access to safe abortion services globally. This begins with ending ministerial restrictions that prohibit funding for safe abortion in Canadian foreign aid, including in countries where legal. “Every year, some 5 million women experience serious injury from pregnancy and childbirth related complications. Family planning strategies need to be comprehensive if we are serious about addressing maternal mortality and morbidity. That includes supporting safe and legal abortion,” says Prasad.
“At the global level, it is also time that Canada re-engages in key intergovernmental decision-making spaces, like the UN. Canada was once a strong leader on gender equality and women’s rights, sexual and reproductive rights and human rights more broadly but has recently taken a backseat,” says Prasad.
At home, supporting a national childcare strategy and ending violence against women, including missing and murdered Indigenous women, are two other important pieces that the new government has committed to. “Childcare measures that can reduce poverty rates in the community lead to better health outcomes. Ending violence against women is a matter of human rights.” says Prasad. Adding that “A gender violence strategy and action plan is certainly welcome. It will need to be comprehensive in its approach and include consultation with individual experts and organizations working on the issue.”
Notes to editors:
For media inquiries and interviews contact:
Sandeep Prasad, executive director of Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights is available for interview.
Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights has produced a set of briefs with recommendations related to sexual and reproductive health and rights available at www.sexualhealthandrights.ca/canada-election-2015
Action Canada for Sexual Health & Rights is a progressive, pro-choice charitable organization committed to advancing and upholding sexual and reproductive health and rights in Canada and globally. For more information visit www.sexualhealthandrights.ca