Women and Sexual and Reproductive Health 2019 (second edition)
Women’s sexual and reproductive health is recognised worldwide as a priority health issue, and Australia is a signatory to a number of treaties to protect women’s sexual and reproductive rights. Australian federal, state and territory governments have a range of policies on individual aspects of sexual and reproductive health, but a coordinated response is lacking. This piecemeal approach to women’s health is ineffective and a new, holistic approach is urgently needed.
Gender is one of the most significant determinants of sexual and reproductive health. Women are significantly more likely to experience sexual violence, take the major role in contraceptive decision-making and have sole responsibility for pregnancy and parenting. The challenges for some women are far greater than for others and health inequalities between Australian women continue to increase.
This paper from the Australian Women’s Health Network – first published in 2012, but revised in 2019 - advocates for a rights-based approach to ensuring all women can access comprehensive sexual
and reproductive health care appropriate to their needs, regardless of their location, age, sexuality, financial status and religious and cultural background. It explores seven key areas through which good sexual and reproductive health for Australian women can be achieved. These are:
1. Promoting positive and respectful attitudes to sex and sexuality
2. Developing women’s health literacy
3. Increasing reproductive choice
4. Facilitating women’s health throughout pregnancy and birth
5. Expanding prevention and treatment of reproductive cancers and menstrual issues
6. Improving prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
7. Equipping the health workforce to better respond to women’s health needs.
The Australian Women’s Health Network advocates for comprehensive action across these areas, and particularly recommends:
- A national sexual and reproductive health strategy
- A national sexuality education curriculum, including respectful relationships education
- The decriminalisation of abortion across all Australian states and territories
- A transformation in the knowledge and capacity of the health workforce to address the full range of women’s sexual and reproductive health needs.
Sexual and reproductive health remains a critical issue for women. It requires sustained commitment and effort, as well as increased investment to protect and improve it, and to make the service delivery system the best it can be in access and outcome for women and girls across Australia.
Read the Paper here