Bodily Autonomy: A Framework to Guide Our Future

Bodily Autonomy: A Framework to Guide Our Future 2017-03-09T12:09:17+00:00

Download the printer-friendly PDF version.

Watch the recorded webinar here.

Bodily autonomy is the simple but radical concept that individuals have the right to control what does and does not happen to our bodies. When we have full bodily autonomy, not only are we empowered to make decisions about our health and future – without coercion or control by others – we also have the support and resources needed to meaningfully carry out these decisions.

The concept of bodily autonomy is central to Positive Women’s Network – USA’s vision of a world where all women and girls living with HIV can lead long, healthy, dignified and productive lives, free from stigma, discrimination, and violence in all forms. In this era of increasing surveillance and political repression, hate-fueled violence, and attempts to further restrict reproductive rights and freedom of movement, we assert the fundamental rights of all people, and in particular for women and folks of trans experience living with HIV, to control our bodies and futures. When women and girls living with HIV are free, all of us will be free.

In the U.S. context, the bodies, sexuality, reproduction, and movement of women of color have been controlled and policed for hundreds of years, often violently and at a great cost to our rights. Today, for women and girls living with HIV, who are primarily from communities of color, HIV stigma, misogyny, transphobia, and racism intersect to magnify attacks on our rights from all fronts. Yet we know that our human rights should never be conditioned on HIV status, race, ethnicity, sex, gender expression or identity, or any other aspect of who we are.

Bodily Autonomy Means:

Freedom from all forms of state violence.

Women and girls living with HIV deserve a world where our bodies are not threatened by state violence and brutality, and where our physical safety is protected.

This includes:

Ability to control our labor without exploitation, harassment, or policing.

All women and girls living with HIV deserve to control and be compensated fairly for our labor.

This includes:

  • Earning a living wage and receiving equal pay, without discrimination or coercion.
  • The ability to take time off from work without fear of retaliation or losing our jobs, including paid sick leave, family leave, and disability leave.
  • The right to organize in our workplaces to leverage better wages, benefits and working conditions, including forming or joining a union.
  • Those of us who engage in sex work, which is a form of labor, should be able to do so safely and without criminalization, with access to the support and resources we need to stay healthy, and without fear of violence, stigma, or harassment.
  • The ability to work without losing benefits, like health care coverage and supplemental income, that may be needed to maintain a decent quality of life.

Freedom to migrate and move within and across borders.

All women and girls living with HIV deserve to travel and live in a place that is safe and welcoming, regardless of immigration status or religion.

This includes:

  • The right to seek refuge and asylum from conditions that are physically, economically, or otherwise insecure or unsafe.
  • Staying together as a family without fear of losing a parent, child, or loved one to deportation.
  • The right to return to our country of origin if we choose.
  • The right to move around freely, without fear of profiling, detention, or harassment based on perceived immigration status.
  • The ability to enjoy the same legal rights and protections as other members of society, without regard to immigration status or previous contact with the criminal justice system.
  • The ability to access education, employment, healthcare and other opportunities in our country of residence, regardless of legal status.
  • The right to accessible, culturally and linguistically relevant public services and benefits without discrimination or government reprisal.

Freedom to express our gender and sexual orientation in a way that affirms who we are.

Women and girls living with HIV deserve to live authentically, and to express our gender and sexual orientation freely.

This includes:

  • The ability for our bodies to exist in public in a way that is comfortable for us, without being subject to homophobic or transphobic harassment, threats, or violence.
  • Recognition of our gender identity by the state and all social, political, economic, and community institutions with which we interact.
  • Health care responsive to people of all genders, and the employment opportunities, public benefits, and services necessary to thrive with dignity.
  • Support, respect and protection for the relationships and families we form.

Freedom to choose whether or not, when, and how to form families and raise children.

All women and girls living with HIV deserve to decide for ourselves whether or not, when, and how we will form families and raise children, regardless of age, income, disability, gender identity or expression, or sexual orientation.

This includes:

Resources, tools, and ability to make empowered and informed decisions about sex and relationships.

All women and girls living with HIV deserve to control our sexual lives, and should have the resources we need to support pleasurable and healthy sex and relationships.

This includes:

Access to the care and services necessary to keep our bodies, minds and spirits healthy and whole.

All women and girls living with HIV deserve to receive care and services that support holistic wellness – emotionally, physically, psychologically and spiritually.

This includes:

  • Affordable, accessible, trauma-informed and culturally-competent health care, including gender-affirming health care and hormones.
  • The right to refuse medical care that does not affirm us or make us feel whole.
  • Adequate nutrition and food security.
  • Freedom to practice our faith without fear of harassment, discrimination, or violence.
  • Safe, affordable, and stable housing.
  • Mental, emotional, and spiritual support services.
  • Access to harm reduction programs, safe injection sites and equipment, and overdose prevention resources for people who use drugs.

Download the printer-friendly PDF version of this framework here.