Karen Belz
April 11, 2014 6:00 am

Let’s hear it for women! An action plan that was created in Cairo back in 1994, which addresses women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, is set to be addressed at a UN meeting in New York this week. During the meeting, the Commission on Population and Development will measure how far countries have come with implementing the action plan that emerged from the International Conference on Population and Development well over a decade ago, and discuss ways to plug the gaps.

Back in 1994, 179 countries signed up to the Cairo plan of action, and it was a monumental occasion, since as far as women were concerned, it focused less on family planning and more on empowerment and life improvement. Not only did they spotlight education, but they covered reproductive health service and sexual health, the ban on forced marriages, and the elimination of female genital mutilation.

While so many countries took a step in the right direction, here are five additional points that I wish will change for women today.

1. More Rights for the LGBT Community

“Certain governments fear sexual diversity, and coming on the heels of the Uganda legislation [on prosecuting homosexuality], they don’t want sexual orientation included,” said Edward Marienga, from Family Health Options Kenya. The truth is, our world is sexually diverse. As the years go on, more and more people are opening up about their true sexual identity – and that is absolutely amazing. I hope that one day, women won’t be looked down upon for liking other women. At the very least, I hope they’re treated with the same respect as other women today.

2. Equal Pay for Women

This week, President Obama signed an executive order that addresses the issue of unequal pay. “Restoring opportunity for all has to be our priority, making sure the economy rewards hard work for every single American. Because when women succeed, America succeeds,” Obama said in a speech regarding the order. It’s a shame to see a woman who kicks ass in the office, yet doesn’t earn the same amount as a male counterpart. When all countries actively appreciate women in the workplace, our world will be a much better place.

3. Less Discrimination In General

When a woman chooses to dress a certain way, everyone seems to judge. Yet it seems like this same wardrobe judgement rarely happens to men. For example, think about how many women make the “Worst Dressed List” in comparison to men whenever an awards show occurs. There’s also the issue of sexual harrassment in the workplace. Women should never choose between feeling uncomfortable or in danger in a work environment, and their job. For some, it’s still acceptable to make inappropriate comments that they know their lady-target will feel awkward telling the boss about. It has to stop.

4. More Focus On Anti-Violence

Here’s an upsetting fact about domestic violence:

Around the world, at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime. Most often, the abuser is a member of her own family. Domestic violence is actually the leading cause of injury to women, more than car accidents, rapes, and muggings combined.

Even worse, many women don’t even report it. Simply put, they’re scared. Since this is such an important problem that needs to be fixed, it should be addressed in a big way – and women shouldn’t have to live in fear.

5. More Awareness and Accessibility To Abortion

I know it’s a touchy subject, and some of our readers might have differing views than I do. I respect your opinion, as long as you don’t tune out while listening to mine.

First, I don’t think women see abortions as a form of birth control. Not only are they pretty expensive – even on a sliding fee scale – but they leave a woman with lasting doubt. However, they’re important to keep legal. Not only is it unfair to tell a woman to carry an unwanted child to term (especially if they’re not in the pregnancy-state-of-mind, and might unknowingly harm the fetus), but it’s unfair to judge each woman on a case-by-case basis. A woman shouldn’t have to discuss her rape or her contraception failure to a judge. To some, pregnancy can be absolutely devastating. And trust me – no woman is exciting to undergo the procedure.

“When we include comprehensive sexual health, we are leaving room for abortion. But we hope these might not be too contentious this time,” Mariegna said, regarding the matter.

The truth is, if a woman doesn’t want a pregnancy to occur, they’ll figure out a way – and this way can be extremely damaging to them. Not only should women not be judged for making the choice on their own, but the process shouldn’t carry such negativity. It’ll change someone for life, and hopefully more countries will realize that it’s not an easy decision to make as-is.

What else do you wish will change for women today?

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