Understanding Sexual Reproductive and Health Rights in the Post 2015 Era
First of all is to wish Rural Reporters and its loyal readership a Happy New 2015. I intend to write the entire year with the aim of ensuring more people, especially young people from Africa, are not only aware of advocacy efforts, but are also well informed about global development efforts.
One of the things I will write about and have severally written about is sexual reproductive health and rights, abbreviated as SRHR. It is only fair that we break down this gigantic word in order to better understand not just its scope, but its purpose.
Sexual and Reproductive health and Rights are deemed controversial and continue to cause an upheaval, especially on the African continent. The controversy and upheaval, however, does not lessen the heavy impact that the violation of these fundamental human rights continues to have on human life. The world in September 2015 will be adopting the post 2015 development agenda that will guide global development for the next 15years.
The agenda seeks to pursue sustainable development, in a world with finite resources, to bridge inequalities and leave no one behind. SRHR comprise a crucial component of the Post 2015 development agenda. These rights have continually and what has ensued is that millions of girls, women and young people have been left behind.
SRHR are human rights that guarantee the following;
- The right to seek, receive and impart information related to sexuality through comprehensive sexuality education. This should be based on evidence that is driven by scientific facts on human sexuality. It should also promote respect for human rights and impart knowledge that promotes gender equality.
- Have respect for bodily integrity and guarantee one’s freedom to choose their partner, in the sense of who to associate with and who to have sex with, regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
- SRHR also includes the right to decide to be sexually active or not. In this respect, individuals who are asexual should be treated with respect. SRHR promotes consensual sexual relations and criminalizes all forms of sexual violence. It also promotes consensual marriage, decision on whether or not, and when, to have children; and pursue a satisfying, safe, and pleasurable sexual life; one that does not promote the notion of human beings as just procreative beings.
Packaging and guaranteeing SRHR
SRHR are also inclusive of the rights to access services and information that facilitate the realization of all the above stated rights. Individuals have the right to access contraceptive information and services, including emergency contraception and a range of modern contraceptive methods.
Women and girls who are pregnant or seek to be pregnant have the right to access maternity care, including antenatal and postnatal care, as well as delivery care, particularly skilled attendance and emergency care. The other service that should be made accessible includes the right to obstetric care and prevention as well as appropriate treatment of infertility.
SRHR also guarantees the right to safe abortion and post-abortion care, prevention, care, and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, HIV/ AIDS, reproductive tract infections, and reproductive cancers. It also protects the right to access Information, education, and counseling; prevention and surveillance of violence against women (VAW), care for survivors of violence; and finally actions to eliminate harmful traditional practices such as FGM and early and forced marriage
Finally SRHR also encompasses the provision of youth friendly services, these services should be non-judgmental and provided with the highest respect of doctor patient confidentiality. There are WHO and national country guidelines for provision of youth friendly services. The national Kenyan guidelines can be found here (https://www.k4health.org/sites/default/files/National%20guidelines%20for%20provision%20of%20youth%20friendly%20services.pdf)
Governments and SRHR
The above pronouncements might sound too basic, liberal and controversial at the same time. Too controversial for governments to delve in, but it is crucial to note the governments have attempted to get their feet wet in this regard. In 1994, governments met in Cairo and made their first attempts to define SRHR. The result was a landmark document dubbed the International Conference on Population and Development affirmed by 179 UN member states. The document is routinely reviewed after every five years and governments continue to affirm their support for the document and by default, support SRHR. In Africa, for example, the Maputo Plan of Action is a document that speaks comprehensively of SRHR, mentioning all the above rights and even has a clause on abortion. African governments have ratified the Maputo Plan of Action but some, like the Kenyan government, have put a reservation on the abortion clause.
We have UN resolutions on both FGM and the most recently one was adopted on child marriage but we still continue to have 91.5 million girls and women (and even more) from recent practices living with consequences of FGM. We still continue to have 39,000 girls married off daily before their 18th birthday. We still continue to have 800 women dying daily from pregnancy related causes and during child birth. We still continue to get young people not accessing services because of lack of youth friendly services even though new HIV infections have gone down in all age groups except 10-19 year olds, especially adolescent girls. These 10-19 year old girls according to UNAIDS are 6 more times likely than those from other age groups to get new infections. Despite all these information and statistics in our hands, governments continue to negotiate on what is comprehensive sexuality education.
I was honored to be at the 47th UN Commission on Population and Development but was equally appalled by the behavior of our governments. The mood was one that sought to deny the above horrifying statistics and deny progressive clauses on comprehensive sexuality education as well as access to safe abortion. This is despite their support for SRHR in the ICPD and the regional conferences that ensued, such as the 2013 African Conference on Population and Development that bore the Addis Ababa Declaration
As we continue to advocate for the post 2015 development agenda, we should focus on advancing the above SRHR for all. Ensure the targets we have on goal 3 and goal 5 on SRHR are; retained and the language made stronger to reflect the lived realities of women, girls and young people all over the world.
I will continue to write on SRHR but I am glad now that we are on the same page with a basic understanding of what SRHR means.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!