Repoliticizing sexual and reproductive health and rights: Report of a global meeting, Langkawi, Malaysia, 3–6 August 2010

Repoliticizing sexual and reproductive health and rights: Report of a global meeting, Langkawi, Malaysia, 3–6 August 2010

This meeting was held as a result of concerns that the sexual and reproductive health agenda has been becoming more conservative. Key messages from the meeting include:

  • The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have inadvertently and unintentionally contributed to a narrowing of the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) agenda. In the past few years, the SRHR agenda has been reduced primarily to a focus on maternal health. At the same time, maternal/women’s health has been linked to newborn, infant, child and in some cases even to adolescent health, leading to a confused and confusing set of objectives and targets
  • The Programme of Action of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, which is nowhere near being achieved, has dropped from sight as a result of the MDGs, even with the inclusion of target 5b on access to reproductive health. Commitment to the principles and philosophy of the Programme of Action needs to be renewed as we approach the 20 years for which the targets were set.
  • The sexual and reproductive health and rights agenda is a multifaceted agenda, and ranges from providing health services such as antenatal and delivery care, condoms, contraception and abortion; to screening and treatment for diseases such as sexually transmitted infections, reproductive and genital cancers in both men and women; to treatment of a range of health problems, e.g. complications of unsafe abortion, pregnancy and delivery, symptoms of menopause and menstrual disorders. It requires services at community and primary care level, and referral for care at district and sometimes tertiary level, and must be integrated into and given priority by national health services if MDG and other agreed targets are to be met. 
  • The conference recognised that due to so many more groups, organisations and networks taking up different aspects of SRHR, what was once a smaller and more united movement has become fragmented. Some groups and networks take up sexual health, others sexual rights, and still others reproductive health and/or reproductive rights, and in many cases only one tiny part or aspect of one of these, e.g. microbicides. Moreover, there is less activism around broad shared agendas that deal with sexual and reproductive health as a matter of social justice. With increased demand on the part of donors for immediate and quantifiable results and rapidly increasing privatisation of health services, a focus on the balance between equity, equality and cost of health care is being lost and the social agenda of the need for sexual and reproductive health and rights, as well as the public health imperative, is fading and needs to be renewed by concerted action at global, regional and above all, national level.
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