We will not be gagged: speaking out for a woman’s right to decide

A year on from the expanded re-instatement of the Mexico City Policy (the ‘global gag rule’) by President Trump, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance is seeing the impact on women and family planning services, and on HIV and other integrated health services. This is not an anniversary to be celebrated.

Harm reduction Malindi KenyaMargaret Gakii, 30 a sex worker who uses drugs in Watamu, Kenya, is pictured with peer support worker Sauda Musa. © Corrie Wingate 2017 for the Alliance

The Alliance Secretariat announced our intention not to comply with the global gag rule soon after the re-enactment of the policy and we continue to have grave concerns about its impact for our partner organisations and the communities they serve.

This decision has cost us: our refusal to comply with the global gag rule has meant the loss of up to $60 million in funding over the next three years at the Alliance Secretariat.

These losses translate into a loss of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) programmes for women and girls along with human rights-based HIV prevention programmes with and for men who have sex with men; community-led harm reduction programmes by and for people who use drugs; programmes that aim to eliminate sexual violence and human rights violations among sex workers; and, treatment literacy and adherence for people living with HIV, among others.

The end of AIDS is possible, but the Mexico City Policy seriously compromises this progress and fuels AIDS-related morbidity and mortality, as well as unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortions.

“Last October at the Global HIV Prevention Coalition, a number of governments developed a roadmap to achieve the 2016 United Nations Political Declaration on Ending AIDS, to reduce new HIV infections by 75% by 2020. This will not be possible while key HIV organisations like the Alliance are forced to make difficult funding choices and where HIV and sexual and reproductive health services are separated,” states Christine Stegling, the executive director of the International HIV/AIDS Alliance. 

Recognising that globally women and girls are disproportionately affected by HIV and SRHR issues, the Alliance remains fully committed to meeting the rights of women and girls and has not wavered in the face of these threats. With support from Sweden and the Netherlands, we have continued to provide and advocate for the rights of women and girls at all the intersections of their lives, with fully comprehensive, integrated SRHR programming, but the funding gap is deep and wide.

The Alliance is a proud supporter of the SheDecides movement and we celebrate the success the movement has had to date in mobilising resources, political will, and the global community to resist attacks on women, marginalised communities, and civil society space.

In direct response, last year we launched the READY to Decide campaign to highlight the link between gender inequality and the rising rate of HIV in adolescent girls and young women in sub-Saharan Africa, and a call to action to achieve Global Goal 5 on Gender Equality.

“As the implementation of the policy continues, the Alliance will be unrelenting as we document the impact of the global gag rule on the everyday lives of women around the world, especially those from marginalised groups such as female sex workers, those using drugs, transgender women and adolescent girls and young women who experience sexual violence,” says Stegling.

A year on from the reinstatement of the Mexico City Policy, we will not be silenced on a woman’s right to decide.