Let’s renew our mindset on sexual health – Vicky Okine

Reproductive Health activist and Executive Director of the Alliance for Reproductive Health Rights, Vicky T. Okine, has called for renewed national consciousness on sexual and reproductive health matters in Ghana. 

Ms Okine believes public discourse on sexual health must be encouraged among the youth to reduce the risks associated with it.

Ms. Okine made these remarks as part of efforts to mark the 2014 World Sexual Health Day. September 4 is commemorated around the world to strengthen advocacy for sexual rights of all, especially vulnerable groups and the marginalized.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Sexual Health is “a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity.” The definition adds that: “Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence.”

The Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) of women and youth in African have not seen significant improvement over the last two decades. The adoption of the Regional Strategy for Sexual and Reproductive Health in 1998 formed the foundation for addressing concerns about unintended pregnancies, control of sexually transmitted infection and HIV/AIDS, prevention of cervical cancer, and reduction of rates of female genital mutilation and domestic and sexual violence. This was followed in 2006 by the adoption of the Maputo Declaration on Universal Access to Sexual and Reproductive Health Services in Africa. Policies that have emanated from these strategies have not yielded the much-needed results at the national level.

Pursuant to this, Ms Okine emphasized that a more efficient avenue must be created to ensure that people can seek services that promote their sexual health. “We all need to further deepen public knowledge about how sexual health can have an impact on the physical, emotional, mental and social wellbeing of the individual. There is no middle ground,” she said.

She said efforts to promote greater social awareness on sexual health in Ghana is consistently stifled by inefficient health structures and traditional believe systems that consider sexuality as taboo. This, according to her, is the reason why many women suffer extreme cruelty from uninformed people with little regard for their sexual rights.

She stated that sexual and reproductive health activists must intensify efforts to conscientise the public about rights that promote sexual health. These rights include the right to privacy, right to be free from torture or to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment and the right to decide the number and spacing of one’s children.

Ms Okine called on the Ghana Health Service to work with the Ministry of Health to  scale up integrated quality SRH service packages in the continuum of care, including family planning, prevention of sexual violence and management of survivors of violence, post-abortion care, cancer screening, prevention and management of STI/HIV, prevention of FGM and management of FGM complication, adolescent reproductive health and nutrition.

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