When we talk about sexual and reproductive health issues, there is this unspoken understanding that it is a discussion, a debate and a fight that women alone must engage in. This has it’s roots in the fact that women are more severely affected by a lack of awareness and resources on the topic.
Even in our own context, although a woman might be the one most affected by the lack of adoption of family planning or contraceptive for example, she will still have little or no say in the health matters in her family. Her concerns and fears are silenced by the greater fear of being ostracized and while sexual and reproductive issues are ones that should and do affect both partners, the woman seems to be bearing most of the brunt of the problem.
There are of course those who would argue, that these issues go against the fundamentals of our religion and culture and that men and women engaging in such “inappropriate” discussions together is nothing short of heresy. However, with the current state of things in the world, women’s sexual and reproductive health rights among others are in more danger than ever before.
We are of course pointing towards the disappointing and extremely troubling moment in recent history where Alabama lawmakers banned abortions and set up a 99 year jail sentence for any health practitioner who carries them out. Alternatively, for the rapist the minimum sentence has been set at a mere SIX MONTHS.
Now, if that isn’t a clear indication that even first world nations like America aren’t entirely clear on what this implies for the millions of women who are raped, abused and forced to give birth to their rapist’s child, we don’t know what is. The issue does not lie only with being pro-choice or anti-abortion, the problem lies with who is making the policies that systematically dehumanize women and rob them of their fundamental rights.
And you guessed it, most legislators on the Alabama bill were in fact old white dudes who couldn’t differentiate a vulva from a Fallopian tube even if their life depended on it, because guess what? It doesn’t. This is why it is imperative for men and boys to educate themselves on issues related to sexual health and reproductive rights.
Another reason why the other half of the population needs to be in tune with these issues, especially local and national legislation is because they are part of the equation and in order to lend any support to their female counterparts, they need to know what the issues actually are.
Here are a few ways to engage the men an boys in your life and get them in tune with the issues of today that make them the socially responsible citizens of the future;
Incorporate sexual health and reproductive rights issues as a vital part of the curriculum for the youth.
Conduct workshops for teens and the youth with topics specifically targeted towards men’s role in SRHR issues.
Educate the masses regarding male contraceptive choices using government initiatives.
Engage men and boys to actively take part in child rearing, maternal and newborn health.
Improve health services for men by focusing on issues that affect them the most including infertility and erectile dysfunction among others.
Establish men as active partners in the fight towards sexual and reproductive rights and find male advocates and leaders in the cause.
Develop understanding that men play a supportive role in a relationship and respect other’s sexual needs and wants.
Push men towards annual screenings for STI’s and STD’s to inculcate a norm for self awareness.
And finally create platforms, communities and spaces where men feel safe communicating their fears, doubts and issues and create an atmosphere of support and trust.