Advancing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights: A Crucial Global Imperative

Social IssuesSexuality

  • Author Md. Jahedul Islam
  • Published November 27, 2023
  • Word count 971

The fundamental human rights of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) are essential to both gender equality and individual well-being. They cover a wide range of topics, including assuring access to safe and legal abortion services as well as comprehensive sex education. The importance of SRHR, its difficulties, and international initiatives to advance these rights are all examined in this article. People can only make decisions about their bodies, relationships, and families if they have access to SRHR services. Improvements in both physical and mental health follow from this. SRHR and gender equality go hand in hand. Women and girls are better equipped to pursue education, employment, and civic engagement when they have control over their reproductive health. Maternal mortality rates are dramatically decreased by having access to prenatal care, experienced birth attendants, and safe, legal abortion.

SRHR difficulties are frequently stigmatized, which results in prejudice against persons who seek help, especially LGBTQ+ people, young people, and unmarried people. Due to legal limitations or a lack of resources, access to comprehensive sex education, contraceptives, and safe abortion services is constrained in many regions of the world. The recognition of SRHR may be hampered by cultural and religious views, making it challenging to promote these rights in some groups. SRHR has been acknowledged and supported as an essential element of human rights by the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) put in endless hours to promote SRHR and offer services in remote areas. Some nations have improved their legal frameworks to permit increased access to SRHR services and the defense of reproductive rights.

Although there have been great advancements in Bangladesh's sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in recent years, problems still exist. Family planning initiatives have a long history in Bangladesh and have helped to slow down population growth and fertility rates. The nation has improved maternal health through initiatives that support prenatal care and trained delivery attendants. To encourage family planning, Bangladesh has increased access to contraceptives, offering a variety of choices. To address young people's ignorance about sexual and reproductive health, initiatives to give thorough sex education in schools have been started. With the help of competent delivery attendants and the promotion of safe motherhood practices, Bangladesh has achieved tremendous progress in lowering maternal mortality.

In Bangladesh, child marriage is still a major problem since so many girls are married off at a young age, which limits their capacity to make responsible decisions regarding their reproductive health. Rural communities still struggle to receive SRHR services because of the lack of healthcare facilities and resources, even while urban areas have made progress. Having limited access to safe and legal abortion services frequently results in unsafe abortion procedures and related health concerns. Regarding SRHR-related difficulties, stigma, and discrimination are still pervasive, especially for single or young persons. The coverage and quality of sex education need to be improved, notwithstanding efforts to introduce it. Despite effective family planning initiatives, Bangladesh continues to have one of the world's densest populations, making sustainable development difficult.

Sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and gender-based violence (GBV) are interrelated problems that have a significant influence on people's autonomy and well-being, particularly women and girls. GBV, which encompasses sexual, physical, and mental abuse, can have negative and long-lasting effects on a person's SRHR. Those who have recovered from GBV may face unintended pregnancies, STIs, or issues with their reproductive systems. GBV may make it difficult to use SRHR services. Because of their abuser's reputation or the fear of societal stigma, survivors may be reluctant to seek family planning or reproductive healthcare. GBV can take the form of forced or child marriages, which restrict a person's sexual and reproductive autonomy. Young brides may experience health hazards due to early and unwanted pregnancies.

GBV may involve reproductive coercion, in which one spouse attempts to influence the other's reproductive decisions, such as whether or not to use contraception or become pregnant. GBV can result in mental health problems, such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, which might impair a person's capacity to decide about their SRHR with knowledge. GBV, which includes non-consensual sexual activity, raises the possibility of contracting HIV and other STDs. For these health difficulties, GBV survivors may require access to healthcare services and assistance. Intersecting variables, such as poverty, discrimination, and illiteracy, which further restrict people's access to SRHR services and decision-making, frequently increase the impact of GBV on SRHR.

It is important to combine efforts to enhance SRHR and address GBV. This entails giving GBV survivors total support and resources that address both their physical and mental health requirements and offer them access to family planning and reproductive healthcare. Especially for individuals who are most susceptible, awareness and education initiatives are crucial to ending the cycle of GBV and fostering informed SRHR decision-making. The promotion of SRHR has received active support from the government of Bangladesh and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs). These programs concentrate on enhancing maternal healthcare, increasing access to family planning services, and tackling problems including early marriage and gender-based violence.

In conclusion, SRHR promotion in Bangladesh has advanced significantly, but obstacles still exist. Efforts are still being made to increase services, awareness, and access in this crucial sector. To enhance sexual and reproductive health and rights in the nation, the government, civil society organizations, and foreign partners continue to collaborate. Promoting gender equality, lowering maternal mortality, and enhancing general well-being all depend on sexual and reproductive health and rights. Globally advancing these rights requires a multifaceted strategy that includes campaigning, education, and legal reform. In addition to being a fundamental human right, guaranteeing people's freedom to make decisions regarding their bodies and reproductive health also paves the way for a future that is healthier and more just.

The author is a public health researcher at BRAC University's James P Grant School of Public Health.

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