From the United Nations Population Fund: “The 2021 State of World Population report, titled My Body is My Own, marks the first time a United Nations report focuses on the power and agency of individuals to make choices about their bodies without fear, violence or coercion . . .
‘The few people who have heard of bodily autonomy associate it with negative ideas,’ said Romeo Alejandro Méndez Zúñiga, a youth educator in Guatemala who was interviewed in the report, ‘because it affects the patriarchal male chauvinist system.’
Below are seven common myths about bodily autonomy and why we must abandon these misconceptions once and for all.
Myth 1: Bodily autonomy is a Western concept.
Bodily autonomy is about the right to make decisions over one’s own life and future. It is about being empowered to make informed choices. These are universal values . . . Respect for autonomy is a core tenet of international medical ethics . . .
Myth 2: There is no right to bodily autonomy.
Not only is bodily autonomy a human right, it is the foundation upon which other human rights are built . . .
Myth 3: Bodily autonomy represents radical individualism; it undermines group decision-making.
Collective decision-making is common across cultures, societies and governments. But group decisions cannot circumscribe the rights of individuals . . . Communities and advocates must come together to dismantle the norms, laws and practices that deprive individuals of autonomy.
Myth 4: One person’s bodily autonomy could end up undermining the autonomy of others.
Having bodily autonomy does not mean any person gets to undermine the health, rights or autonomy of others. Individuals have the right to choose whether to have sex or get pregnant, for example, but they are not entitled to impose these choices on others.
No one has the right to violate the rights, autonomy or bodily integrity of anyone else.
Myth 5: Some groups of people are not entitled to bodily autonomy.
Rights are for everyone, full stop. That includes bodily autonomy.
Throughout history, we have seen many people – including women, ethnic minorities and other vulnerable populations – denied their fundamental human rights. They were told, in ways big and small, that they lacked the capacity or privilege to make choices for themselves.
These abuses continue today . . .
Myth 6: Bodily autonomy undermines traditions and religions.
Bodily autonomy is not simply about sexual choices and reproduction. It is about a person’s whole self, their dreams and potential in life. Most traditions and religions create space for individuals to explore their own conscience on such deeply personal matters as how to protect their health, whether to start a family and how to chart their future . . .
Myth 7: Bodily autonomy is just another women’s issue.
Any concern affecting the welfare of half of humanity cannot be dismissed as a ‘women’s issue’. But bodily autonomy does not simply affect women. Every individual should be empowered to claim their bodily autonomy.”
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