Australia is a laggard in international support for women’s rights

22 March 2021

On International Women’s Day, the recent rape scandals in Australia’s Federal Parliament highlight how far Australia has to go to achieve gender equality, says Sustainable Population Australia (SPA).

“While Australia is receiving a timely wake-up call to recommit to women’s rights, many countries around the world have a very long way to go to give women an equal voice in the home, in the workplace and in political life,” said SPA National President, Sandra Kanck.

Ms Kanck emphasised that gender equity is not just about individual women being able to reach their full potential. Our escalating social and environmental crises are worsened by the subjugation of women.

“In many places, women are treated as little more than baby-making machines,” said Ms Kanck.  “The resulting population growth drives their communities into poverty, with insufficient land, water and work for the next generation to flourish.”

“Today, more than 40 per cent of pregnancies worldwide are unintended, and 270 million women have an unmet need for contraception,” said Ms Kanck.

“Control over her own body must be a fundamental right for a woman, irrespective of cultural practices. She must be free to refuse sex, and she must have the right to determine when not to have a child.

“Reproductive health services affect all aspects of a woman’s life,” said Ms Kanck. “A girl with many siblings is less likely to stay in school and more likely to be married very young. Without access to contraception, she can’t sustain employment, can’t space births to better nourish her children, and can’t avoid having more when the family can’t afford to feed those they have.”

“In many countries, adolescent girls can’t access contraception and sex education because authorities fear it will promote promiscuity, despite evidence showing the opposite. They condone promiscuity among boys, but would rather see children born into poverty to teenage mothers, and girls die from unsafe abortions, than allow them to control their own bodies.

SPA draws attention to the final report of the “Family Planning 2020” project (FP2020), a product of the 2012 London Family Planning Summit, which attempted to escalate reproductive health service provision in poor countries by 2020. Despite many achievements, the project reached only half of its goal of 120 million additional contraceptive users.

Australia reneged on its promised funding for FP2020, providing only around half the pledged US$50 million per year. A new phase of the project, Family Planning 2030, seeks to eliminate the unmet need for contraception by 2030, in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

“This is an opportunity for Australia to substantially improve its commitment to women’s rights,” said Ms Kanck.


FP2020 final progress report:

Donor government support for family planning:

Scroll to Top