Access to high-quality sexual and reproductive health care is crucial for women’s overall well-being. Yet it remains challenging for many women in Asia.
Women’s reproductive health is a vital aspect of their overall well-being. It includes a range of issues, including menstrual health, contraception, sexually transmitted infections, and maternal health. Despite its importance, access to high-quality sexual and reproductive health care can be tough for women in Asia.
In particular, teenagers aged 15-19 have a higher unmet need for contraception (51%) than all women aged 15-49 (21%) in Asia. Furthermore, many women in the region do not receive the necessary care during pregnancy and childbirth. Shockingly, out of the 71 million women giving birth yearly, 28 million women make fewer than four antenatal care visits. 13 million do not even deliver in a health facility. As a result, 7.3 million women do not receive the care they need following a major obstetric complication, and 6.1 million have newborns who do not receive the needed care for complications.
Unsafe abortions, which account for 23 million women in Asia, and causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, costing the lives of 82,000 women, are among the risks of the lack of high-quality sexual health care. In addition, 68 million women do not receive the treatment they need for sexually transmitted infections.
Investing in sexual health care for women has many benefits. According to the Guttmacher Institute, investing in contraceptive services beyond the current level yields a saving of $3.26 in maternal, newborn, and abortion care for every dollar spent because contraception reduces the number of unintended pregnancies. Expanding and improving sexual health services can help many women have access to the care they need.
Moreover, investing in sexual health care is an investment in the future. The recommended care interventions have proven feasible to implement in diverse settings worldwide. Investing in them provides national and local governments, the private sector, and international development partners with good value for money. Sexual and reproductive health care for women saves lives, improves their health and well-being, reduces the risk of unintended pregnancies, and helps social and economic development. Such care also enables people to exercise their sexual and reproductive rights.
Organisations advocating for reproductive sexual health care
Many organisations in Southeast Asia are investing in advocacy for reproductive sexual health care. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) works with governments and other partners to improve sexual and reproductive health care for women and adolescents in Southeast Asia. The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) is a global organization with regional offices in Southeast Asia, working towards providing comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care for women. Locally, the Asian Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW) is an organization working towards women’s rights and health in Malaysia. There are similar organisations in each country with varying resources. These organizations are contributing to the improvement of women’s reproductive health in Southeast Asia, advocating for and implementing sexual health programs to ensure that women have access to the care they need.
Additionally, some countries in the region have made significant progress in improving sexual health care for women. China, for example, has implemented a policy that allows couples to have two children. As a result, this has significantly increased access to reproductive health services. India has implemented several programs aimed at improving maternal and child health care. One such example is the Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Abhiyan, which provides free antenatal care for women.
To achieve further progress, it is important to raise awareness about sexual and reproductive health care for women in Asia. This can be achieved through community-based campaigns and educational programs. The campaigns could focus on educating women on the importance of seeking proper care when pregnant.