Sexual and reproductive health: ‘Denial of rights, lack of awareness hurting youth’
A comprehensive baseline and end-line research study on the “Status of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) of Young People in Pakistan,” to be launched in Islamabad today, confirmed fears that the younger generation suffers from a lack of awareness and limited knowledge about sexual health.
Findings of the study, conducted by Rutgers World Population Foundation (WPF), reveal that of the 1,340 youth surveyed across the country, only 47 per cent of boys and 38 per cent of girls had access to SRHR.
These results, measured on a scale of one to five where one is “not aware” and five is “fully aware”, merited a score of 2.43 in the baseline and 2.59 in the end-line survey.
Rutgers WPF Country Head Qadeer Baig while speaking to The Express Tribune, said an innovative youth development programme titled ‘Rights Driven Institutionalisation of SRHR in Pakistan’, was initiated by Rutgers WPF in collaboration with the European Union from 2009 to 2012.
The aim of the programme, better known as Hamara Kal, was to improve awareness among the youth by creating an enabling environment for them, and advocating SRHR-friendly policies in the education and health sectors.
Rutgers WPF conducted an assessment on the status of six of twelve SRHR rights and replicated the study in 2012 to gauge changes that might have occurred over the four years.
Of the six, the right to information and education scored a mean of 2.5, significantly worse than the right to right to equality, right to privacy, right to choose and the right to decide. The right to healthcare and protection also achieved a disappointing score.
“The right to information and education gives young people access to important information on SRHR which can guard them against abuse, exploitation and disease. When this right is denied, the results are a lack of knowledge, lack of access to modern contraceptives, decreasing social status, increased sexual harassment of women, and an increase in HIV infections,” said Baig.
Significant differences were reflected in statistics for a girl’s right to choose her life partner. Baseline and end-line means for boys were 3.4 and 3.39 respectively, while for girls the corresponding numbers were 2.28 and 2.52.
Rutgers WFP SRHR Programme Manager Ayesha Ali said the survey revealed that among all adolescents, girls in marginalised communities were most discriminated against. Transgenders also reported discrimination, in their own homes as well as at educational institutions.
She said an improvement in societal attitudes towards SRHR education was critical to ensuring that young people would be able to enjoy a healthy and risk-free adult life.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 18th, 2013.