Rights-based Sexual and Reproductive Health Agenda: What Data from Asia on Contraception, Abortion and Adolescent Girls Tells Us

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  • 2019•04•01     Kuala Lumpur

    On 28th March 2019, Sivananthi Thanethiran from ARROW delivered a presentation at UNU-IIGH on key findings related to reproductive health and the rights-based agenda. She began the seminar by covering the use of contraception, then moved towards pregnancy and children related mortality and morbidity, adolescent pregnancies and lastly on abortion.

    Sivananthi highlighted issues pertaining to socio-economic status, accessibility and women’s lack of autonomy and power structures as significant when discussing reproductive health through rights-based lenses from the studies conducted by ARROW. When unpacking the issue of contraception use, ARROW’s findings show that women in rural areas and from the lower wealth quintile were less informed on contraception. She also discussed how male contraception use remains very low, indicating the inequities in fertility control as it is still seen as the female’s responsibility.

    Zooming in on healthcare provision in terms of maternal mortality rates, ARROW’s findings illustrated the importance of access to emergency obstetric care, skilled attendants at birth and post-partum care. ARROW also found regional variations within a country, using the example of India and how in certain areas within the country maternal mortality rates were lower than the national rates.

    The theme of women’s lack of autonomy and the limitations this posed for their access to reproductive health services was highlighted through the findings on adolescent pregnancies. Adolescent pregnancies often linked to child marriages is a strong indicator of less autonomy within the relationship and the family, thus taking away the women’s right over her own reproductive health. Carrying forward this theme of lacking autonomy and its link to accessing reproductive health services, Sivananthi then spoke about how access to safe and legal abortion remains a challenge and that it should be recognised as a public health and a human rights issue.

    Based on the findings presented Sivananthi concluded with a list of recommendations from ARROW to governments within the Asia Pacific region. The recommendations include:

    • policy change,
    • ensuring universal access to high quality and gender-sensitive reproductive health, and
    • firming the rights to sexual and reproductive health, especially to adolescents and marginalised  women.