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Introduction: Why Should Men Care About Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights?
What would people’s sexual and reproductive lives look like if people in all their gender and other diversities equally enjoyed knowledge, skills, self-esteem, and access to services; conducted their relationships with respect for their partners and their rights; avoided or embraced parenthood with intention and planning; and made decisions that took into account the impact of their choices throughout their lives and the lives of their partners and children? What would it look like if national laws everywhere prohibited discrimination, proactively advanced human rights, and ensured that everyone enjoyed their full right to health, as enshrined in international laws and global and regional declarations?
This is the positive vision that motivates Promundo’s Getting to Equal initiative.
The world is far from achieving this vision. In many parts of the world, discriminatory laws and policies restrict access to vital services and reinforce stigma toward marginalized and socially excluded communities, including migrants and people on the move, LGBTQIA+ communities, communities of color in the Global North, sex workers, intravenous drug users, inmates, and people held in detention facilities. In still other parts of the world, health policies take a narrow view of gender, fail to recognize the relational nature of many women’s and men’s lives, and pay insufficient attention to men’s health or to the impact men’s poor health has on those who care for them at home and in the public sector.
In most of the world, gender inequality intersects with widespread reticence about sexuality in ways that reverberate throughout people’s lives. The harms to women’s health and well-being are well documented. However, comparatively little is known about how this works for men, and even less has been done to engage men positively as full and equal partners. The strong emphasis on women’s sexual and reproductive roles is mirrored by an emphasis on men’s productive roles and a lack of attention by the health sector to men’s sexual and reproductive lives. The large gaps in collective knowledge reflect a worldview that does not treat men’s sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) as central to their lives or to the lives and well-being of others.
This report attempts to shift global discourse on men and SRHR among practitioners, funders, academics, and policymakers toward a more holistic, gendered, and relational understanding of SRHR and how to achieve global goals of health and gender equality. Building on men’s important roles in SRHR could contribute to the broader achievement of these rights and the health and development outcomes related to them. Men’s SRHR is important for men, certainly, and the benefits to their partners and children are enormous.