Access to quality sexual and reproductive health services (SRHR) and information is essential to protect the health and ability to plan the lives of adolescents. Yet around the world, limiting social norms, gender stereotypes, power imbalances, perceived need to control female sexuality and other inequalities make accessing information and services challenging and close to impossible for adolescents girls.
For us to achieve greater gender equality, women’s control over their own bodies is central component. Limiting women’s sexual and reproductive rights has adverse consequences for their lives, with negative effects for their families and communities.
What are sexual and reproductive health and rights?
Sexual and reproductive health and rights means the right for everyone, regardless of age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, HIV status or other aspects of identity, to make informed choices regarding their own sexuality and reproduction.
This includes – but is not limited to:
- The right to make informed choices about when or if they want to have children
- The right to access a full range of affordable family planning services
- Access to safe abortion services
- The right to accurate information and services to prevent and treat sexually transmitted infections, including HIV and AIDS
- Access to sexual health information and education.
While notable strides have been made on SRHR in the past 25 years, more traditionalist forces threaten to further restrain progress on the health and rights of girls and women.
The two topmost causes of death for adolescents in the developing world – maternal mortality and AIDS – are related to SRHR and are highly preventable with the adequate treatment and care.
More than 20 million girls and young women aged 15-19, in developing countries, need modern contraception options. On a global scale, approximately 3.9 million adolescent girls put their lives at risk every year undergoing unsafe abortions.
Comprehensive sexuality education has positive effects on knowledge and behaviours and can contribute to the delayed initiation of sexual activity, reduced risk-taking, and more gender-equitable attitudes.
SRHR is integrated within several regional and international agreements, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. However, several states maintain weak legal frameworks and inadequate enforcement. These obstacles prevent real progress in providing quality and accessible SRHR services to all.