Contraceptives summit: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

// 11 July 2012

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Globally the world is celebrating the contraceptives summit. Donors, health ministers, charities and non governmental organisations will be coming together today in London and New York to discuss about the availability of contraceptives for men and women.

Further, Andrew Mitchell, the Secretary of International Development will be announcing a further increase in investment in contraceptives today making DFID (Department of Funding for International Development) one of the largest supporters of women’s reproductive health.

This morning I was listening to the Radio 1 interview of Melinda Gates about the contraceptive summit. She was advocating for women’s right to choice about contraceptive access to ensure women have children later and with larger spaces between children. She mentioned fistula and other maternal health diseases and advocated strongly for global support.

While I commend Melinda Gates for her work in advocating for women’s access to contraceptives, I happen to be writing a report for women’s access to contraceptives for my work and know more about the political background of the organisation. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation while is a strong advocate for contraceptives, but makes a strong stance against funding for abortions. The foundation has had a heavy sway with the global discussion on contraceptives and abortions and their position have influenced the services agencies can afford women.

While I commend the international discussion and attention the foundation has placed on women’s right of choice, we must remember a women’s right of choice must extend all the way to abortions as well. Until the foundation realises this and makes a political stand, they are only doing half the work of empowering women with choice.

The photo is of the Ortho tricyclen which is a form of the daily pill. The photo was taken from wikipedia under the creative commons license.

Comments From You

Shadow // Posted 12 July 2012 at 2:27 pm

Naturally male dominated world leaders are busily engaged in discussing how to maintain control over women’s reproduction by methods such as birth control pills and foreign objects being inserted into female bodies because this issue is all about women’s health is it not? No need to look at root of the problem which is male sexual domination over women and girls and men’s belief in their innate right of sexual access to females as and when the male demands. In fact it is males not females who are the ones who overwhelmingly decide what and when reproductive sexual acts will take place and if the male impregnates the female, she not the male is accountable. Ah yes the mysteries of how women and girls become pregnant all by themselves!

In fact there is no discussion of men’s birth control because that is unthinkable – men’s bodies are inviolate and must not be subjected to dangerous drugs being applied to their bodies, no let’s focus on female bodies. No instead let’s keep on telling women and girls you are the ones who are ’empowered’ whenever we give you information concerning your sexual rights and of course men and boys will immediately accept females own their bodies and will never, ever subject women and girls to rape and/or demand male sexual access to their bodies. Female sexual autonomy is still a dream but that doesn’t prevent western governments and western NGO’s from promoting myth ’empowering women is the answer to unwanted pregnancies and improving women’s health’ whilst continuing to ignore primary cause of women’s unwanted pregnancies and women’s ill health.

Bill and Melinda Gates should not interfere in women’s health but instead focus on what they know best and that is IT. Below is link to an article which sets out precisely what is wrong with the Gates’ propaganda.

MaryE // Posted 12 July 2012 at 10:04 pm

@shadow – personally I would rather take control of my own fertility (and we all put plenty of “foreign objects” inside ourselves, I would have barely any smile if I didn’t – more than half my teeth aren’t original) than rely on someone else to do it.

Honestly your continued obsession with “men demanding sexual access” as if penises are yucky things imposed on us that we couldn’t possibly actually want, is very dismissive of straight women’s agency in making sexual choices. Because yes, even in our sexist society, we do have some agency. And sometimes, we like cock. Deal with it.

lil1 // Posted 14 July 2012 at 1:36 pm

I don’t feel Shadow is trampling on straight women’s agency AT ALL and I don’t think it’s fair to dismiss the problem that shadow tries to address as an “obssession” of any kind.

As far as I can see, all she is saying is this: Why does so much birth control focus on women and moderating the female body (not the male)? Why even as it does that, do we still only have access to it when mostly men decide we are allowed? Why when we have choice is it mostly men (or people with male-centric attitudes) who are deciding which options? All of which I have to say I agree with.

If men only had choice about when they had sex and not also about when women did (coercion/exploitation/rape/hegemony) – and what reproductive health means and services they used on their bodies, and didn’t also have the monopoly on focusing and prescribing solely for women, what they used on theirs, and then withold it – there would be far fewer unwanted pregnancies. Unfortunately there’s no escaping that at the root of this IS the issue of domination and control. It’s not saying ‘men are icky/evil’ it is just saying all men do have too much control, and too many of those men don’t like relinquishing it when they know they have it.

Look at the bills passed and the legal wrangling, the medical practices used that just assume women but not men are expected to just put up with pain, the fact that women who enter hospitals with birth plans leave with less of their wishes respected than those with no plan because mostly male doctors ‘didn’t want to be told how to do their job’ and knew best.

Most of the choices we should have are still not ours yet. That doesn’t mean we haven’t hard earnt and gained any.

It just needs to extend from conception to abortion, to male responsibility, to male contraception, to women’s rights after birth.

Holly Combe // Posted 15 July 2012 at 5:44 pm

@lil1. I think what you say above is spot on but I’d also suggest those important messages are sometimes hard to tease out or indeed listen to when the same alienating and dogmatic phrases are repeated in so many of Shadow’s comments. Such framing leaves no room for variation and comes across as pure depersonalised theory (“males” etc) and doesn’t adequately reflect the complicated mess that human beings have to deal with. IMO, such rigid radical structuralism can sometimes end up being almost as stifling as the oppressive bio-determinism it challenges.

It’s easy to leave such comments with a sense that there’s no hope for achieving any agency at all in such a sexist setting and that can be very unhelpful in terms of trying to navigate the sexist setting itself.

lil1 // Posted 16 July 2012 at 11:28 am

Understood but I take the expression style with a pinch of salt – I don’t phrase in modes as seamlessly diplomatic as I’d want to either at the best of times?

I think sticking your head above the parapit and being prepared to repeatedly name the group which benefits (of course men also suffer) from the current system takes bravery- even if it, or perhaps because, it means, accusations of tarring good people of that group with one brush etc.

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