Reproductive Health – Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights

The United Nations Population Fund has defined reproductive health as ‘a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of reproductive disease or infirmity’. When referring to women’s reproductive health, more often than not, it is assumed that it is all about the reproductive system – vagina, cervix, uterus, etc. However, there is more to women’s reproductive health than the reproductive system – it deals with the reproductive processes as well as the functions and systems of all stages of life.

Therefore, reproductive health implies that:

  • People are able to have a responsible, satisfying and safe sex life;
  • Individuals have the capability to reproduce, hence:
    • Have the right to be informed of, and have access to, safe, affordable, effective and acceptable methods of fertility regulation of their choice;
    • Women have the right of access to appropriate health care services that will enable them to go safely through pregnancy and childbirth; and
    • Couples are provided with the best chance of having a healthy infant.
  • Individuals have the freedom to decide if, when, and how often they should reproduce, through being provided with information on family planning methods as well as other methods of their choice for regulation of fertility, which are not against the law.

Reproductive health is a crucial part of general health, and a central feature of every human being’s development, and should therefore be understood in the context of relationships, fulfilment and risk, the opportunity to have a desired child / how to avoid unwanted or unsafe pregnancy.

Some of the most common reproductive health interventions include:

  • Family planning;
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD) prevention and management;
  • Prevention of maternal and perinatal mortality and morbidity;
  • Harmful practices, such as female genital mutilation (FGM), pulling of the clitoris;
  • Unwanted pregnancy;
  • Unsafe abortion;
  • Reproductive tract infections, including STDs and HIV/AIDS;
  • Gender-based violence;
  • Infertility;
  • Malnutrition and anaemia; and
  • Reproductive tract cancers.

Appropriate services need to be provided and made accessible to all individuals, especially young girls and women who are of reproductive age. These services need to include information, education, counseling, prevention, detection and management of health problems, care and rehabilitation.

Some of the factors affecting reproductive health include individuals’:

  • Economic circumstances
  • Education
  • Employment
  • Living conditions
  • Family environment
  • Social and gender relationships
  • Traditional and legal structures

It is important to note that the status of girls and women in society, and how they are treated or mistreated, is crucial in determining their reproductive health. Educational opportunities for girls and women powerfully affect their status and the control they have over their own lives and their health and fertility. The empowerment of women is therefore essential for their health.

Women bear, by far, the greatest burden of reproductive health problems, which include:

  • Complications from pregnancy and childbirth;
  • Risks in preventing unwanted pregnancy;
  • Complications of unsafe abortion;
  • Bearing the most burden of contraception; and
  • Exposure to contracting, and suffering the complications of reproductive tract infections, especially STDs.

Based on the above information, it is evident that reproductive includes sexual health and sexual rights. The next blog post will be on reproductive rights – what the include and who is protected under these rights…

 

Share your thoughts…

Written by: Linda Bonareri @linda_bonareri (@ywli_info)

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THE ROLE OF WOMEN IN MAINTAINING PEACE

A few days ago, I was at a local car wash in Eastlands with a friend of mine. As we were waiting for the car to be ready, the owner of the car wash, who happens to be friends with my friend, came to chat with us. He had just come from a rally with some other supporters of one of the main parties, and was so hyped. Since I am not into politics, I just stood there looking pretty as these two men discussed about campaigns and the forthcoming elections. Oh, before I go too far into the story, he is a beneficiary of the ‘Kazi kwa Vijana’ fund, that’s how he got to open the car wash. This car wash owner is from Western Kenya while my friend and I are from Nyanza. So the story that was discussed was whether the people of Western Kenya will vote for Mudavadi, who is from Western Kenya, to be the flag-bearer or President. He was so quick to say no and insisted that this time round, a candidate who has not won in the past elections MUST be President.

This statement caught my attention and I moved closer so that I could hear every word. What this man said next shook me to the core, he pointed to some trenches as said that if this particular politician does not win the elections, those trenches will be filled with people’s brains and flowing with blood. He added that ‘they’ (supporters of this politician) would proceed to vote with a pen on one hand and a machete on the other. WHAT?! He said that he would ensure that his wife and children are safe in the village, which is near the border of Kenya and Uganda, before coming back to Nairobi to prepare for the bloodshed, in the event the politician he’s supporting lost the elections.

What stuck with me, other than the image of trenches flowing with human blood and the sight of human brains scattered all over, is what is the wife chose not to go to the village with the children? Would he still go and do all these inhumane things? Since he seemed concerned about his wife and children, what can the wife, and other wives of men with such violent mentalities, so to ensure that the coming elections, and campaigns are done peacefully?

Women, for millennia, have been known to be peacemakers, peace builders and change makers. They play a major role in preventing a resolving conflict within homes, within their respective communities, nationally and internationally. As we prepare for the coming elections in August, it is important for women to discuss peace building and conflict resolution strategies. These discussions can be held in ‘chamas’ and other gatherings. Women need to play supportive and dynamic roles as midwives to peace in their respective communities.

Share your thoughts on how women can promote peace in the coming elections…

 

Words by: Linda Bonareri @linda_bonareri (@ywli_info)

 

Dark and Lovely or Light and Right?

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then we need to fundamentally change the eyes with which society looks at its people…

Empowering our Sisters

“Is this your ugly dark skinned friend?”

Black women come in all shapes, sizes and shades. Yet for centuries the lie that ‘light is right’ has shaped how, as black people, we relate to our complexion and how non-black people judge and treat us based on our complexion. While society is far from being post-racial, as ‘woke’ millennials we know that our melanin content in no-way reflects our value, worth, potential or beauty. We’ve done the #BlackGirlMagic revolution, our melanin is very much on fleek, yes #darkgirls do rock and skin bleaching? That’s been banished to our mother’s generation – today we’re proud to be #UnfairandLovely. Right? ….right?

Shadism

Walking through up-town Nairobi last week I came across this poster. At first glance everything is on point. The model, her head thrown back in careless joy, teeth bared is absolutely #slaying. Her #glowedup skin is definitely giving Lupita, Viola and Alec Wec…

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Sexual Rights – Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights

And the class continues… Here is where it becomes more interesting…

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), sexual rights “protect all people’s rights to fulfill and express their sexuality and enjoy sexual health, with due regards for the rights of others, and within a framework of protection against discrimination”. Simply framed, sexual rights include the application of existing human rights to sexuality and sexual health (these two terms were defined in the Sexual Health post). Sexual Rights rest on the recognition that all individuals have the right – free of coercion, violence, and discrimination of any kind – to the highest attainable standard of sexual health to:

  • Pursue a satisfying, safe and pleasurable sexual life;
  • Have control over and decide freely, and with due regard for the rights of others, on matters related to their sexuality, reproduction, sexual orientation, bodily integrity, choice of partner and gender identity; and
  • The services, education, and information, including comprehensive sexuality education, that inform their decisions on the above.

Some of the critical rights recognized in national and international laws that ensure sexual health include:

  • The rights to equality and non-discrimination
  • The right to be free from torture or to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment
  • The right to privacy
  • The rights to the highest attainable standard of health (including sexual health) and social security
  • The right to marry and to found a family and enter into marriage with the free and full consent of the intending spouses, and to equality in and at the dissolution of marriage
  • The right to decide the number and spacing of one’s children
  • The rights to information, as well as education
  • The rights to freedom of opinion and expression, and
  • The right to an effective remedy for violations of fundamental rights.

Despite all these instruments and policies, sexual rights, especially the sexual rights of women and girls, are often violated. Moreover, there are numerous human rights related to sexuality, which address a wide range of issues and often intersect with several other rights. Examples of sexual rights issues, as listed by the Sexual Rights Initiative, include (but are not limited to):

  • Comprehensive sexuality education
  • Criminalization and other restrictions on safe abortion
  • Early and Forced Marriage
  • Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
  • Gender-based violence
  • Gender equity
  • Gender identities and expressions
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Maternal morbidity & mortality
  • Reproductive rights
  • Rights of intersex people
  • Rights of sex workers
  • Sexual orientation
  • Sexual rights of young people

Is is very disturbing that despite all these laws and policies, both at the national and international levels, girls and women are still denied their sexual rights. Similarly, lesbians, gay men, bisexual people, transgender people, sex workers, and others who transgress sexual and gender norms often face greater risk of violence, stigma, and discrimination as a result. How often have you read of an adolescent girl or young woman losing her life because of procuring an unsafe abortion? How frequently do you read or watch news regarding women and girls being physically abused, and sometimes murdered, by their intimate partners? How many members of the LGBTQIA+ do you know who feel safe in their respective communities? Have you never heard of adolescent girls being mutilated in very unsanitary places by cutters? I can go on and on…

For women, girls and members of the LGBTQIA+ community , our right to control our own bodies and our sexuality WITHOUT any form of discrimination, coercion, or violence, is important for our empowerment. Without sexual rights, we cannot realize our rights to self-determination and autonomy, nor can we control other aspects of our lives. It is therefore clear that: sexual rights underpin the enjoyment of all other human rights and are a prerequisite for equality and justice…

Therefore, governments of every country in the world are required to RESPECT, PROTECT and FULFILL these basic human rights.

 

Let us know your thoughts on sexual rights and sexual rights issues…

How can we as women, advocate for this fundamental right?

Words by: Linda Bonareri @linda_bonareri (@ywli_info)

Sexual Health – Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Sexual Health is ‘A state of complete physical, mental and social well being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, in all matters relating to the reproductive system and to its functions and processes.’ It thus includes a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, and the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences that are free of coercion, discrimination, and violence. This simply means safety from sexual illness and violence, as well as being free to decide if, when and how to reproduce.

Correspondingly, sexuality is a central aspect of humanity that is affected by the interaction of biological, psychological, social, economic, political, cultural, ethical, legal, historical, religious, and spiritual factors. It includes, sex, gender identities and roles, sexual orientation, eroticism, pleasure, intimacy, and reproduction. Sexuality is mostly experienced and expressed in thoughts, fantasies, desires, beliefs, attitudes, values, behaviours, practices, roles, and relationships.

One can therefore conclude that sexuality is multidimensional and dynamic, that is, other than including socioeconomic, spiritual, psychological and biological components, it changes with time, place and partners. Additionally, sexuality is constructed both individually and culturally.

Sexual health is fundamental to the physical and emotional health and well-being of individuals, couples and families, and to the social and economic development of communities and countries. The American Sexual Health Association (ASHA) explains being  sexually healthy as:
  • Understanding that sexuality is a natural part of life and involves more than sexual behavior;
  • Recognizing and respecting the sexual rights we all share;
  • Having access to sexual health information, education, and care;
  • Making an effort to prevent unintended pregnancies and STDs, and seeking care and treatment when needed;
  • Being able to experience sexual pleasure, satisfaction, and intimacy when desired; and
  • Being able to communicate about sexual health with others, including sexual partners and healthcare providers.
However, the ability of men and women to achieve sexual health and well-being depends on their access to:
  • Comprehensive good-quality information about sex and sexuality;
  • Knowledge about the risks they face and their vulnerability to the adverse consequences of sexual activity;
  • Their access to sexual health care; and
  • An environment that affirms and promotes sexual health.
Sexual health concerns are wide-ranging and also include negative consequences or conditions such as:
  • Infections with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), and Reproductive Tract Infections (RTIs), and their adverse outcomes (such as cancer and infertility);
  • Unintended pregnancy and abortion;
  • Sexual dysfunction;
  • Sexual violence; and
  • Harmful practices (such as female genital mutilation, FGM).
Sexual health is closely linked to reproductive health. The next blog post will look into reproductive health.
Until next time, take care of your sexual health!
Words by: Linda Bonareri @linda_bonareri (@ywli_info)

Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights

Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) include the right of all individuals to make decisions about their sexual activity and reproduction without any outside influence. These rights give individuals the power to decide when to have sex, with whom, when to have children, whether to use birth control or not, whether to get married or not, and much more

More often then not, adolescent girls and women are denied this right. How often have you heard of girls and women being forced to get married, undergo female genital mutilation, seek abortions in the worst places or ingest nasty concoctions in order to abort? How many friends do you know who have procured abortions, been abused by their family members or close family friends, run away from home because they did not want to get married or were scared to come out and speak of being abused?

Unfortunately, these cruel acts are very common. Young people are not aware, or are ignorant of their sexual and reproductive health rights. So here is where we come in… We are shall spell these rights out to you. And by the way, these SRHR are universal human rights!

Sexual and reproductive health rights include the right to:

  • Receive education on sexuality (This is what we are doing now 🙂);
  • Choose their partner (Only YOU should choose your partner! You’re the one who’s going to be with them anyway...);
  • Have consensual sexual relations (Any one who has sexual relations with you without your go-ahead is committing a crime, even if you are married… Story for another day);
  • Decide whether or not, or when to have children (YOU are the one who is going to be responsible for this life, so you definitely have to be ready to have a child, decide how many you want, and with whom! If you are not ready to have a child/children no one should force you to);
  • Have respect for bodily integrity (It is YOUR body… no one has the right to force you to do anything to YOUR body that YOU are not comfortable with…); and
  • Pursue a satisfying, safe and pleasurable sexual life (Now, this applies to individuals who are mature enough to make sound decisions, ADULTS!).

Many of us, Kenyans, have heard on the First Lady’s Beyond Zero Half Marathon. The goal of this initiative is to raise awareness, and funds, for ending HIV/AIDS and reducing maternal morbidity and mortality in Kenya. Guess what, research has shown that most maternal deaths are caused by…UNSAFE ABORTION. This is such an unfortunate fact, which we shall discuss in the days to come…

Anyway, hope you are more informed on sexual and reproductive health rights. In the coming weeks, we shall have in-depth discussions on the same.

 

Words by: Linda Bonareri @linda_bonareri (@ywli_info)