Written by: Sinothando Ndelu
Reproductive Health Awareness month is an effort to have a concentrated touch points on reproductive health conversations and services. The spotlight is generally on pregnancy and condom use. We need to take a moment and put men at the centre of this dialog. The National Department of Health and Civil Society has a responsibility to strengthen pregnancy education and stress important issues that promote safe abortion, healthy pregnancy and safe motherhood- not just for women but for men too. Condom/ STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections) Week is to inform about condom use as a first point of action for those who wish to prevent pregnancy and STI infection. Social media is abuzz with talk of a fictitious Men’s Conference, this platform can be used to share facts about reproductive health and reproductive life.
The length and breadth of reproductive education for men is around pregnancy and the capability of their sperm to cause pregnancy. The inner workings of what reproductive life and the responsibility thereof seems like a bit of a haze. In the past 6 years, the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and the South African Race Relations Institute (SARRI) found that 60 percent of SA children have absent fathers, and more than 40 percent of South African mothers are single parents. The question here is- do men make a conscious decision to be part of a pregnancy?
Good sexual and reproductive health is important for men’s general health and wellbeing. It is central to their ability to make choices and decisions about their lives, including when and whether to have children. This includes the right to healthy and respectful relationships, health services that are inclusive, safe and appropriate, access to accurate information. Men must learn about permanent methods of contraception, should they decide to not have children. They must know their standing responsibility to use condoms to avoid unplanned pregnancy.
Safe sex practices are an integral part of the reproductive health of men all ages. They need to learn that they cannot use their partners as a measure of their own health. They need to have health seeking behaviours, not just for HIV but for other conditions as well. Screening for Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccination, cervical screening for transmen, regularly self-checking of testicles and testicular cancer screening- to name a few.
Sexual and Reproductive Health collectives can flood this #mensconference with information that is needed by men. While education about pregnancy is happening, men can learn that safe abortion is an integral part of reproductive health. While condom use is part of the conversation, men can learn that dual contraceptive means they are responsive partners who take responsibility for their reproductive life. They can learn that ‘sexual and reproductive health’ is not a synonym for ‘women need health accesses, it means they have the right to dignity when seeking out health services.
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