Although it is important to protect the reproductive health of both women and men, it is evident that women are compromising their bodies as a result of pregnancy, childbirth and postnatal infant care, and that situation is exacerbated particularly if they have an unplanned pregnancy.

According to the World Health Organisation:

  • In developing countries, pregnancy and childbirth complications are one of the leading causes of death among women.
  • It is estimated that access to family planning would save the lives of 114,000 women.
  • It is also estimated that 250,000 women and 1.7 million children would be saved if family planning went hand in hand with access to healthcare for newborn infants.

It is for this reason that sexual and reproductive health is crucial to improving women’s living conditions and allowing them to play a full role in society.

What is sexual and reproductive health?

It is the capacity of all women to enjoy a responsible, satisfying and safe sex life.
It is the freedom to decide whether, when and with whom to engage in sexual activity and how often, in a manner that is free from coercion and violence.
It is the freedom to decide whether, when and with whom to have children.

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Sex, gender and gender identity

When speaking about human sexuality, it is important to distinguish between sex, gender and sexual identity.
The term sex is a purely biological concept. A human being is born as a boy or a girl. A boy will have masculine genitalia (a penis and testicles), and a girl will have female genitalia (a vagina, uterus and ovaries). There are also a few individuals who are born with the genitalia of both sexes. These people are referred to as intersex, but they represent a very small group.

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Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)

More than one million sexually transmitted infections are acquired every day worldwide (STIs).
Every year there are an estimated 500 million persons who contract one of the following four STIs: chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis and trichomoniasis.
More than 530 million people are estimated to have genital infection with herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV2).

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Family planning and the benefits of contraception

The right to have a family goes well beyond just submitting to biological necessity. It involves the right to decide freely and responsibly how many children to have and the spacing between two pregnancies, as well as the right to have access to information, education and the means through which these rights can be exercised.

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Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the uncontrolled growth of breast cells and occurs as a result of abnormal changes or mutations in the genes responsible for regulating the growth of cells and keeping them healthy.

Normally, the cells in our bodies replace themselves through an orderly process of cell growth: healthy new cells take over as old ones die out. But over time, mutations can “turn on” certain genes and “turn off” others in a cell. That changed cell gains the ability to keep dividing without control or order, producing more cells just like it and forming a tumour.

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Pregnancy and breastfeeding

Workplace maternity protection rights are covered in the International Labour Organisation’s Conventions as well as in a number of international treaties.
In spite of this, the economic security and health of many women working in the informal and formal sectors remains at risk because they are not entitled to maternity leave before and after the birth of their infant. As a result, they are often fired or suffer discrimination just because they are pregnant or likely to become pregnant. They are also exposed to working conditions that constitute a risk to procreation and the health of the foetus.

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