The Global Interfaith and Secular Alliance: Working for Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights (GISA) is a coalition of faith-based and secular organizations from around the world working to counter religious extremist forces that seek to curtail global progress on reproductive and sexual rights. GISA was formed in October 2011 as a result of the Global Advocacy Planning Meeting on Religious Fundamentalisms in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, which was convened by the Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW) and Catholics for Choice (CFC).
GISA’s three-point strategic agenda is centered on:
- Creating knowledge and generating evidence regarding the negative impact of religious extremism on sexual and reproductive health and rights globally.
- Building the capacity of allies to effectively counter religious extremist opposition to sexual and reproductive health and rights.
- Utilizing evidence-based advocacy before international arenas to promote woman-centered, rights-based policies and programs.
Can Faith and Freedom Co-exist?
“Can Faith and Freedom Co-exist?” a new film produced by Catholics for Choice on behalf of the Global Interfaith and Secular Alliance, answers the pressing questions about religious freedom, secularism and extremism.
Almost two decades ago, the landmark international consensus documents of the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo (1994) and the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing (1995) succeeded in securing a place for women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) on the global development agenda. Since that time, some have attempted to use conservative interpretations of religious and cultural beliefs to restrict the global political landscape for these rights. This was evident recently at the 45th session of the UN Commission on Population and Development in 2011, the sessions of the UN Commission on the Status of Women in 2013 and 2012, and the 2011 and Rio+20 Summit in June 2012, where vigorous efforts were made to block references to gender equality, access to services and comprehensive sexuality education by religious extremist groups and their allies using vague and inaccurate interpretations of religious teachings. As the world looks forward to the review and renewal processes for key documents and development frameworks in 2014-2015, GISA will leverage high-profile opportunities to counter the influence of religious extremists on policy makers and on policies related to sexual and reproductive health and rights. The alliance creates and presents sound alternatives to religious extremism from a progressive, women-centred, values-based position that advances the international sexual and reproductive rights agenda while pushing for positive change at multiple levels.
The Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW) is the leading regional women’s partnership NGO working on women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights in the Global South for the past 18 years. ARROW has systematically utilized strategic information dissemination, evidence generation, capacity building, advocacy and partnership building as strategies to achieve our objectives. We currently work with 26 national partners in 13 countries across the Asia-Pacific region and have regional partnerships across the Global South. ARROW partners have worked together at the national and regional levels to produce research and information on the impact of extremisms on women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights and have worked together to highlight these issues at the national, regional and global levels.
Catholics for Choice shapes and advances sexual and reproductive moral decisions about their lives. CFC works in the United States and internationally to ensure that all people have access to safe and affordable reproductive healthcare services and to infuse our core values into public policy, community life and Catholic social thinking and teaching. Catholics for Choice is at the forefront of national and international debates on the intersection of faith, women’s health and reproductive justice. CFC is committed not only to policy change, but also to a change in the culture in which policy decisions are made, a change in people’s hearts and minds about the ways they think about sexuality and reproduction.
Our Position Statement
Time and again, religious extremists have attempted to influence public policy to curtail access to reproductive and sexual health services and resources. They use conservative interpretations of religious teachings to justify denying access to basic health services. As a result, many people – mostly women, mostly poor – suffer needlessly.
Adherence to these narrow interpretations of religious doctrine should not be given greater priority than ensuring life, health and well-being. Most people of faith – regardless of their religion – live their lives concerned with what is best for themselves, their families and communities rather than uncompromising adherence to religious ideology. They make choices according to these priorities and according to the dictates of their individual conscience.
People of faith are sometimes portrayed as unquestioning, and religious leaders are thought to represent all believers.When it comes to reproductive and sexual health and rights, nothing could be further from the truth: there is strong support for these rights among adherents of every religion.
There are many disagreements among the clerics of every faith, and every religion bears internal inconsistencies and variations from one culture and context to another. Support for reproductive and sexual health and rights exists within the tenets of every faith.
When religious extremists set the public health agenda, they force their narrow interpretations upon everyone – believers and non-believers alike. These extremists seek to restrict access to modern methods of family planning and life-saving and therapeutic medicines and procedures; deny young people critical information about their health; deny those who are most vulnerable to HIV infection the means to protect themselves; and more.
The Global Interfaith and Secular Alliance is a groundbreaking global effort uniting people of different religions – and of no religion – in support of reproductive and sexual rights.