Opposition to SRHR is not new, but in recent years we have seen increased attempts to reverse progress on women’s and girl’s rights and gender equality. This broad movement is spearheaded by a coalition of state and non-state actors known as the ‘anti-rights’ or ‘anti-gender’ movement, reflecting the fact that it is transnational, well-financed and increasingly coordinated. Safe abortion, comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) and adolescent SRHR are often touchpoints used by the anti-rights movement to galvanise support. Faith actors continue to play an important role mobilising opposition to SRHR at national level as well as during negotiations.
Rollback is characterised by division, disinformation and disruption: While many of the tactics of the anti-gender movement are familiar and borrow from the success of feminist movements over the years, other tactics are new and include the use of fake news, disinformation and sowing and exploiting division. Opposition to SRHR is connected to wider geopolitics, and can be used as a distraction technique by actors to mobilise their base and undermine civic space, and the multilateral system.
“Taking a bird’s eye view, the pushback is really centred on weakening governance, democracy, individual rights and equality”
The impact of rollback has far reaching consequences: at the centre of this are the health and lives of women and girls and other marginalised groups. New data from the World Health Organisation shows how the reduction in maternal mortality rates has stagnated in nearly every region in the world, highlighting the need for accelerated action to progress and protect comprehensive, universal sexual and reproductive health and rights. The impact of restricting access to sexual and reproductive health and rights is often greatest on those with intersecting and marginalised identities including sexual orientation, race, disability and age.
“As the pushback plays out, we’re experiencing the undoing of much of the last century’s progressive human rights gains.”