By Nicole Cennamo
January 21st, 2017: The Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural Committee (SOCHUM) is engaged in a heated debate over the sexual health of women worldwide. Women have historically faced a multitude of political, economic, and sociocultural barriers. But perhaps none pose as much of a hindrance to gender equality as the lack of reproductive rights. Currently, more than 120 million women in developing countries alone do not have any knowledge of or the access to family planning services. Consequently, an estimated 287,000 maternal deaths occur globally.
During this committee session, countries such as Denmark stressed that the essence of this problem is rooted in the stigmas surrounding women’s health care, especially concerning female genital mutilation and the usage of contraceptives. According to this delegate, there is a cultural conception that “utilizing contraceptives and not undergoing the procedure of genital mutilation... makes a woman impure.” Iran, Bangladesh, and Myanmar also acknowledged that “religious barriers” severely hinder female empowerment and “prevent [women] from accessing their rights.”
That being said, these delegates agreed that education is a fundamental contributor to this issue and should be addressed in the committee’s final resolution. The delegate of Denmark argued that “once women have education, they will know what steps to take in order to move forward and secure their health.” Denmark continued by emphasizing the necessity of access to healthcare in general, as “there are so many rural areas” where there are “many misconceptions about pregnancy.” A plethora of women, especially in the developing world, do not possess the “medical resources needed in order to have a healthy pregnancy.” As a result, 99% of all maternal deaths occur in third world countries.
By increasing women’s access to sexual health and reproductive education, SOCHUM hopes to help UN member states “improve their economies,” provide women with opportunities to be “more healthy,” and expand multilateral “rates of female empowerment” as a whole.