Journalism and health

04. Sexual and reproductive health /

Every day, 800 women die from pregnancy and childbirth-related health complications. Every year, 80 million unintended pregnancies are reported worldwide, and 22 million abortions are performed in poor conditions.

Did you know that sexual and reproductive health has been recognised as a women’s rights since the International Conference on Population and Development in 1994? However, this right is not duly respected or exercised, and it requires additional efforts by health journalists to educate the public.

How can this issue be communicated in simple terms, without challenging people’s beliefs and values, and without patronising them at the same time? By using simple terms, without offending people’s beliefs and values, and without patronising them.

Let’s first discuss what does the term ‘sexual and reproductive health’ entail.

The World Health Organization defines sexual and reproductive health as: ‘A state of physical, emotional, mental, and social well-being in relation to sexuality.’ Accordingly, it requires consensual sexual relations; sexual relations that are safe and free from violence, and it also implies the freedom to have children or not.

Sexual and reproductive health also investigates the following issues:

  • Contraception and care for unwanted pregnancies
  • Providing care to ensure the safety of the mother in the postpartum period
  • Preventing sexually transmitted diseases and conducting screening tests
  • Prevention of cervical cancer and conducting screening tests
  • Sexual assaults and respect for bodily integrity
  • Female genital mutilation
  • Treatment of sexual and gender disorders

In general, sexual and reproductive health is also concerned with education aimed at freedom from fear, shame, remorse, false beliefs, and all other psychological factors.

You are aware that the obstacles facing the field of sexual and reproductive health are many and diversified, whether they are of a religious or cultural nature, such as the burden of male-dominated culture that reflects men authority over women’s body, or of a tangible nature, such as benefiting from birth control methods or methods of investigating some diseases.

For the sake of clarity, below are some different examples drawn from around the globe. Many governments have taken initiatives to include lessons in sex education in their curricula, but their results have not been satisfactory. And what happened in China is the best example of this.

The State Council of the People’s Republic of China, which is the Central People’s Government, decided to introduce sex education lessons in schools… But this was neither feasible nor sufficient because teachers were focused on biology and ‘sexual abstinence’. With the rise in sexual relations outside marriage, which China is witnessing due to the changes in Chinese society, sex education camps have opened to provide the best assistance to teenagers.

Now, about contraception. Only 14,7% of women use it in West and Central Africa. This percentage represents the average of young women between the ages of 15 to 25, whether married or unmarried, who are currently using a contraception.

This percentage highlights the low level of care for sexual and reproductive health in this region. And this can be interpreted by the difficulty in accessing appropriate sexual and reproductive health services, the difficulty in accessing reliable information, and the social and cultural factors linked to sexual prohibitions and early marriage.Au

In Senegal, for example, the government is currently trying to prepare programs to promote contraceptive methods, despite strong cultural resistance and despite its decentralised health system.

Let’s conclude our discussion with the Middle East. In Jordan, the sexual and reproductive health issues of Syrian refugee women are among the major ongoing concerns. They often experience domestic violence and/or sexual abuse, or many of them become pregnant without their consent.

Therefore, help must be offered in order for them to recover, physically, and psychologically. And that is the goal of the women’s medical centres there, which provide medical treatment and psychological care to these shattered women.

A simple exercise: Regardless of what your beliefs are, how can you approach the issue of contraception in the most objective and considerate manner?

A CFI project in partnership with France Médias Monde

Logos CFI et France Médias Monde