Male Responsibility for Reproductive Health

Male Responsibility for Reproductive Health

An article of ICPD Programme of Action says: "It is essential to improve communication between men and women on issues of sexuality and reproductive health, and the understanding of their joint responsibilities, so that men and women are equal partners in public and private life."

In 1994, the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) was held in Cairo. This was the third global gathering of nations on population issues since 1974.

There were many complexities and diversities of the issues before the participants, 180 countries in all. Despite all these odds, the participants reached an unprecedented consensus on a comprehensive 20-years Programme of Action designed to achieve gender equality, improve reproductive health, and stabilise population as well as a range of sustainable development goals.

Today's challenge, as expressed by the 1994 Cairo Conference (ICPD), is to enhance male responsibility for family planning by expanding services in ways that protected the reproductive health of both men and women, and by encouraging greater sensitivity to gender issue.

Before the sexual revolution initiated by the pills, men were a more integral part of family planning and other reproductive health concerns than they are today. If a couple wished to use contraception, their options were limited primarily to methods requiring a man's participation withdrawal, periodic abstinence (safe period), or condoms.

Family planning programmes in the past have focused on women instead of men for several reasons. Women bear the risks and burdens of pregnancy: most modern contraceptives are for women, and many, providers have assumed that women have the greatest stake and interest in protecting their own reproductive health. Some family planning programmes have avoided men because they assume that men are indifferent or even opposed to family planning. Indeed, men as a group are frequently blamed for many of women's reproductive health problems.

Many providers and programme designers have concluded those neglecting men and their reproductive health is a losing strategy with adverse consequences for both men and women. As a result, interest in and commitment to involving men in reproductive health has intensified during the 1990s.

The Reason For More Attention to Men Include:

  1. Growing concern about the spread of HIV/ AIDS and other STDs, such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea.
  2. Evidence of ill effects of some men's unsafe and risky sexual behaviour on the health of women and children.
  3. Survey findings and study results' that many men approve family planning.
  4. Greater recognition that in many cultures men make decisions that affect women's reproductive health as well as their own.
  5. Increasing awareness that gender - men's and women's differing social roles and the power associated with these roles - affect sexual behaviour, reproductive decision making and reproductive health in many different ways.

Now let's see what ICPD -Programme of Action says about male responsibility for reproductive health. Chapter IV of the ICPD POA is based on the theme gender equality, equity and empowerment of women. Section "C" of this Chapter deals with male responsibility and participation. Basis of action on this subject is described as under.

"Changes in both men's and women's knowledge, attitudes and behaviour are necessary conditions for achieving the harmonious partnership of men and women. Men play a key role in bringing about gender equality since in most societies, men exercise preponderant power in nearly every sphere of life, ranging from personal decisions regarding the size of families to the policy and programme decisions taken at all levels of government. It is essential to improve Communication between men and women on issues of sexuality and reproductive health, and the understanding of their joint responsibilities, so that men and women are equal partners in public and private life."

The objective for such action as elaborated in the Programme of Action is "to promote gender equality in all sphere,, of life, including family and community life, and to encourage and enable men to take responsibility for their sexual and reproductive behaviour and their social and family roles."

Actions in These Regards are:

  1. The equal participation of women and men in all areas of family and household responsibilities, including family planning, child rearing and house work, should be promoted and encouraged by the governments.
  2. Special efforts should be made to emphasise men's shared responsibility and promote their active involvement in responsible parenthood, sexual and reproductive behaviour including family planning; prenatal, maternal and child health; prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV; prevention of unwanted and high-risk pregnancies; shared control and contribution to family income, children's education, health and nutrition and recognition and promotion of the equal value of children of both sexes.
  3. Government should take steps to ensure that children receive appropriate financial support from their parents by among other measures, enforcing child support laws.
  4. National and community leaders should promote the full involvement of men in family life and the full integration of women in community life. Relevant programmes to reach boys before they become sexually active are urgently needed. Parents and schools should ensure that attitudes are respectful of women and girls as equals are instilled in boys from the earliest possible age, along - with an understanding of their shared responsibilities in all aspects of a safe, secure and harmonious family life.

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