In April 2014, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation and member of the standing committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development (FAAE) Lois Brown introduced a motion to study youth in the developing world.
On the recommendation of Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) was asked to appear before the Committee last February 19, 2015. During its meeting, UNFPA Director of Information and External Relations Dianne Stewart addressed human rights violations related to child, early and forced marriages, including lack of consent, the complications from adolescent pregnancy and childbirth that lead to maternal mortality and morbidity, sexual violence, and the lack of access to sexual and reproductive health services. Stewart highlighted UNFPA’s commitment to the promotion of adolescent girls’ right to health, specifically, access to sexual and reproductive health, education and work.
UNFPA focuses on “interventions that delay marriage and pregnancy and that enhance girls’ autonomy, their access to social networks, and their participation in civil life; by reducing school dropouts; by creating an enabling environment that upholds the girls’ rights; and by ensuring that they have access to sexual and reproductive health and rights and HIV knowledge and practices; and also by increasing the demand for high-quality, rights-based family planning,” said Stewart.
Shortly after Stewart’s presentation, Action Canada Executive Director Sandeep Prasad was invited to appear before the Committee on April 21, 2015. Prasad took the opportunity to discuss child, early and forced marriage from a human rights-based perspective.
Prasad received a number of questions from Committee Members. Specifically, Hélène Laverdière asked about strategies to address the root causes of patriarchy and child, early and forced marriage, women’s ability to make autonomous decisions regarding their sexual and reproductive health, the Government of Canada’s support for family planning and sexuality education, the consequences associated with limiting access to safe abortion services, and the integration of gender equality and human rights in the Post-2015 development agenda.
Committee Member Marc Garneau also inquired into the extent to which Muskoka funds have gone toward family planning and sexuality education, and the role that intergovernmental dialogue can play in policy change, in addressing human rights violations and in shifting attitudes. Finally, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Development Lois Brown asked about the creation of policies that engage men and boys in an effort to address child, early and forced marriage.
Prasad highlighted the importance of country leadership, praise for the recommendations that Canada has put forward within the UN Universal Periodic Review process and the opportunity to support countries in implementing such recommendations, the need for greater investment in family planning, comprehensive sexuality education as an important intervention in preventing child, early and forced marriage and the role of UN agencies in convening dialogue between governments and civil society at the country-level. Prasad also discussed the Post-2015 development agenda, acknowledging the robust package that is being proposed by the Open Working Group, including the stand-alone gender equality goal, and the need to keep this package intact.
Once the committee has completed its study, it will present a report with recommendations to the House of Commons. When the report is presented in the House, a standing committee may request that the Government table a comprehensive response within 120 days.