The Dutch SRHR election debate

The Dutch SRHR election debate

With 22 days left until the 2023 parliamentary elections, the SRHR election debate took place. Led by moderator Jim Monkel, three candidate MPs discussed sexual and reproductive health and rights. Jim, normally the youth ambassador for SRHR, gender equality and bodily choice at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality, rightly mentioned that SRHR is under growing pressure worldwide. Consider, for example, the recently passed law in Uganda. One of the most rigid LGBTI laws in the world. The Netherlands has an important role internationally in standing up for SRHR for all, but especially for marginalised groups. This is an article about the debate.

The candidate MPs

Marieke Koekkoek has been active in the House of Representatives for two years now. Among other things, she represents de party Volt in the Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Committee and is a member of the multiparty initiative on SRHR and HIV/AIDS.

Alexander Hammelburg of the party D66 is the chair of the multiparty initiative on SRHR and HIV/AIDS. Within the Committee on Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, he works on sexual and reproductive rights and health and LGBTIQ+ rights.


Nothing about us, without us

Three questions are introduced by three youth activists. The first question "How can the Netherlands meaningfully involve young people in policy around sexual and reproductive rights and health?" is introduced by Tinashe Rufurwadzo, an activist advocating for young people living with HIV. Tinashe believes young people need to be heard. He says: "We need to continue involving young people in key decision-making spaces."

The lack of progress, according to Alexander Hammelburg (D66), is because young people are not included in decisions. He says: "If you consider what the population composition is now in large parts of Africa, Latin America, Asia, Eastern Europe, they are mainly young people and therein lies the opportunity for progressive movement for more equal rights."

Danielle Hirsch (GroenLinks-PvdA) finds it interesting that youth activism is still seen as an end in itself. According to Hirsch: "We need to think differently about who decides how the money for young people, by young people is spent, so that new leadership can emerge and that it is not just about representation, but really substantive interventions that people themselves think are important and not the ones we have thought up that should be important."


The anti-rights movement

The second question is introduced by activist Olabukunola (Buky) Williams: “How can the Netherlands counter the growing international anti-rights movement and protect the rights of women and LGBTIQ+ people?”

Danielle Hirsch (GroenLinks-PvdA) fully agrees that as a Dutch progressive movement we need to think carefully about our own power position. In doing so, we need to think about who decides where the money goes and what it is spent on.

Alexander Hammelburg (D66) starts by saying that he is incredibly worried. He is convinced that if we do not fight the anti-rights movement hard now, by investing more money, we are going to lose this battle.

Marieke Koekkoek (Volt) begins by saying that when she just started in the Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Committee, she assumed that the Netherlands, in terms of development cooperation and trade, had human rights at the forefront and was therefore a progressive country. She later found out that this is not a given. Koekkoek also thinks that as the Netherlands, we should push the rest of Europe to have human rights at the forefront again.

Safe abortion worldwide

The last activist, Nelia Daka, asks the prospective MPs about abortion with the third and final question: “How can the Netherlands ensure that safe and legal abortions are available worldwide?”.

Marieke Koekkoek (Volt) again raises that the right to abortion and accurate information about it should be seen as a health right. Access to safe abortion also promotes gender equality. According to her, we should extend this beyond development cooperation. When we engage in international trade, we should put human rights first.

Alexander Hammelburg (D66) responded that the Netherlands is one of the few countries that is doing very well when it comes to safe and inclusive abortion. This is because civil society in the Netherlands, in concert with civil society in other countries, has fought to get this done. "And now we see the countermovement, also in the Dutch parliament."

Daniëlle Hirsch (GroenLinks-PvdA) starts by saying that the answer to this question can be extended to the change this world needs. She thinks we need to better fund the women's movement more broadly, because the women's movement is positive for a very broad agenda. She sees that in Argentina and in Ireland, women of all political colours are able to come together. And they don’t only enhance and provide abortion rights, but they also keep the Trumps of this world out of power. Hirsch thinks that, "we also desperately need women for Dutch welfare more broadly".

The three candidate MPs closed the debate in unison and will continue to work for sexual reproductive health and rights from their different capacities.

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