GBV puts women’s health at risk

Vuk'uzenzele - - Hiv/aids Awareness Month - Jauhara Khan

WITH GEN­DER-BASED vi­o­lence on the rise in South Africa, the need to pro­tect the re­pro­duc­tive health of women is an ur­gent one.

Gen­der-based vi­o­lence (GBV) neg­a­tively af­fects a woman’s abil­ity to make choices about her body, her sex­ual health and how to take care of it.

The Com­mis­sion for Gen­der Equal­ity’s (CGE) Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Ed­u­ca­tion and In­for­ma­tion, Joan de Klerk, ex­plained that sex­ual re­pro­duc­tive health rights (SRHR) gives women power to make de­ci­sions about their sex­u­al­ity.

“These rights in­clude the right to make de­ci­sions about re­pro­duc­tion without dis­crim­i­na­tion – peo­ple have the right to ac­cess in­for­ma­tion in mak­ing de­ci­sions on when to have chil­dren and why,” she said.

Women's re­pro­duc­tive rights in­clude the right to le­gal and safe abor­tions; the right to birth con­trol; free­dom from forced ster­il­i­sa­tion and con­tra­cep­tion; the right to ac­cess good-qual­ity re­pro­duc­tive health­care; and the right to ed­u­ca­tion. Women have been fre­quently de­nied ac­cess to these rights.

A woman’s sex­ual health rights are of­ten deeply en­grained in so­ci­etal values re­gard­ing women’s sex­u­al­ity, said de Klerk.

“Pa­tri­ar­chal con­cepts of women’s roles within the fam­ily mean that women are of­ten val­ued based on their abil­ity to re­pro­duce. Early mar­riage and preg­nancy, or re­peated preg­nan­cies be­cause of the pref­er­ence for sons, has a dev­as­tat­ing im­pact on women’s health. Women are also of­ten blamed for in­fer­til­ity.”

De Klerk ex­plained that the im­pact of GBV on health in­cluded in­juries, gy­nae­co­log­i­cal dis­or­ders, men­tal health prob­lems, STIs and HIV/ AIDS. Women who have ex­pe­ri­enced or sur­vived GBV also use health ser­vices more fre­quently.

De Klerk said the law in South Africa gives women the right to ac­cess safe ter­mi­na­tion of preg­nan­cies for un­in­tended/un­wanted preg­nan­cies; pre-na­tal/ante-na­tal health care; fam­ily plan­ning in­for­ma­tion; cer­vi­cal and breast can­cer screen­ing, and ser­vices for STIs and HIV.

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