Bodily autonomy is about the right to make decisions over one’s own life and future. It is about being empowered to make informed choices.
Contrary to the belief that a person’s bodily autonomy could undermine the autonomy of others, no one has the right to violate the rights, autonomy or bodily integrity of anyone else.
Individuals have the right to choose whether or not to have sex or get pregnant and they are not entitled to impose these choices on others because of the power dynamics.
Collective decision-making is common across cultures, societies and governments. This is not the case with marginalised communities who often face heightened barriers to realising or even expressing their bodily autonomy. This could take the form of vulnerability to violence, lack of accurate sexual and reproductive health information or poor access to healthcare services.
The Government and institutions everywhere including Nigeria have committed in a variety of international agreements/ treaties such as Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to protect autonomy. We must not overlook the incredible efforts to secure bodily autonomy being led by advocates all over the world but rather strengthen them.
The realisation of individual bodily autonomy requires collective action. Communities and advocates at all levels, especially young people, must come together to dismantle the social norms, laws and practices that deprive individuals of autonomy. This means that there shouldn’t be exceptions but everyone should be treated equally and fairly.