Freedom from violence and the ability to make decisions about your own body are cornerstones of human rights.

Another way of describing those principles is the right to bodily autonomy. But for many women, girls, and marginalized genders, that freedom is taken away or compromised.

That’s why the United Nations Global Goal 5 for gender equality calls on leaders to aim to end all violence against women and girls, eliminate forced marriages and female genital mutialition (FGM), and ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health care, as key tenets of acheiving full gender equality.

During the COVID-19 pandemic the rights of women and girls to make decisions about their bodies and their futures have been threatened, as has wider progress towards gender equality. There have been reports of increased risks of forced marriage and child marriage due to the pandemic, as well as an uptick in FGM, meanwhile strains on health systems saw access to contraception and reproductive health care become more limited.

As part of the global 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign, which runs from Nov. 25 to Dec. 10, we asked Global Citizens to share their views on bodily autonomy and what it means to them.

Responses so far have come from all over the world, from Nigeria to France, the Netherlands to the US, and a common theme is present throughout the comments. People underlined the importance of bodily autonomy to their mental health and well-being, and emphasized that making decisions about your own body is about having a say in your own life, and is a basic human right. 

Shared anonymously here, this is how Global Citizens answered the phrase “bodily autonomy is important to me because…”

“… It is my right to make decisions over my life.”
“... It gives me independence over my body.”
“... No woman should fear to choose what she wants.” 
“... I can make informed choices about myself.” 
“... It’s my body, my choice, and my life.” 
“... Everyone should be equally treated no matter what.” 
“... Body autonomy is vital to every human being.” 
“... It is essential to physical and mental health.” 
“...Our bodies belong to us.” 
“...I wish to live my life on my own terms.” 

What does bodily automony mean to you? Share your thoughts here

Global Citizen Life

Demand Equity

'My Body, My Choice, My Life': Global Citizens Share What Bodily Autonomy Means to Them

By Helen Lock