Celebrating sexual and reproductive health rights in SA
South Africa is one of the few societies that legally protect its citizen’s sexual and reproductive health rights. What this means is that all South Africans are free to express and exercise their sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR), and that the choices they make are protected by the constitution.
What are sexual health rights?
In South Africa, sexual health is a human right, which means that all people have the right to be respected, protected and fulfilled in any sexual health choices they make.
Being sexually healthy means that you experience a positive and respectful approach to your sexuality and sexual relationships, be they gay or straight. To be sexually healthy, you need to be able to have pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, where no one is forcing you to do anything you don’t want to do, being violent towards you or discriminating against your sexual choices. It also means having access to sexual health information and services.
What are reproductive health rights?
When you have reproductive health rights, it means that you’re free to have children if, when and as often as you decide to do so. It also means that you have the right to be informed about reproduction and how it works, and the right to have access to safe, effective and affordable contraception of your choosing. Included in SA’s reproductive health rights is the right to choose to have a safe termination of pregnancy. Find out more about safe, legal abortions here.
Furthermore, everyone has the right to healthcare services that will enable women to enjoy a safe pregnancy and delivery, and which will give people the best chance of having a healthy baby.
What about abortion – what does the constitution say?
As mentioned above, South African women have the right to choose to have a legal, safe and early termination of pregnancy based on their individual beliefs. This is part of the constitution’s mission to promote reproductive health rights, and it’s another way in which it affords freedom of choice.
How does Marie Stopes help to promote SRHR?
At Marie Stopes, our mission is to improve quality of life in South Africa by providing as many safe and affordable sexual health services as possible. These include decreasing maternal and infant mortality rates; safe, legal abortions; decreasing unwanted pregnancy by providing effective contraception and contraceptive advice; helping people to detect and manage HIV, STIs and cervical cancer, and expanding our services when and wherever possible to reach as many South Africans as we can.
Every South African has these rights, but does every South African truly have access to them?
Sadly no – not yet, anyway. SA still faces some challenges in bringing complete sexual and reproductive health access to its citizens, such as family planning and contraception, as well as psychosocial support and counselling. Often, this is due to the failure to properly implement the constitution, but we remain positive that this is slowly but steadily changing, and that all South Africans will eventually enjoy complete SRHR.
Exercise your right to be sexually healthy and free
Marie Stopes is the best place to start if you wish to exercise your sexual health rights. Visit any of our centres across SA for family planning advice or HIV and STI testing and counselling (did you know that it’s Aids Awareness month? Getting tested is not as scary as you might think – just read this article for proof). Our centres also offer safe terminations of pregnancy.