Sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR)

The Government’s objective: Better sexual and reproductive health and associated rights for people in developing countries.

The right to exercise control over one’s own sexuality and reproduction is fundamental for all people. Sexual and reproductive health and the associated rights (SRHR issues) extend to the equal opportunities, rights and conditions of all people to have a safe and satisfying sexual life, and to be able to decide over their own bodies without coercion, violence or discrimination. Today it is unfortunately common to withhold knowledge, and discrimination and oppression occur in terms of sexual and reproductive health and rights. There is also a marked increase in abuse which is often systematised in conflict, post-conflict and crisis situations.

A common health problem
Sexual and reproductive ill health is one of the most common health problems for women aged 15 to 44 in developing countries, where pregnancy, unsafe abortions, childbirth or harmful customs, such as female genital mutilation, can endanger the lives of women. Despite considerable efforts over the past 20 years, maternal mortality in the world is still very high, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Unequal power relation between men and women makes it difficult for women and girls to decide over their own bodies and negotiate safer sex.

SRHR is a difficult and controversial issue in international contexts, where Sweden represents a clear standpoint that is unfortunately highlighted far too seldom by other actors The Government gives priority to SRHR and the close correlation between SRHR and HIV/AIDS. This work demands initiatives and measures within various policy areas, including social, gender equality and development policies.

To contribute to the objective, the Government intends to:
- advocate progress in the area of SRHR in policy negotiations in the EU, the UN, and other international and multilateral contexts;

- advocate SRHR as a particular area of focus within the framework of efforts to promote coherence in combating oppression and promoting democracy, human rights and development (Sweden’s Policy for Global Development);

- advocate the promotion of SRHR in efforts to support developing countries’ ambitions to fulfil the UN Millennium Development Goals. Many of the Goals have important connections to SRHR, including Goal 3 to promote gender equality, Goal 4 to reduce child mortality, Goal 5 to improve maternal health and Goal 6 to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis;

- carry out special campaigns in conflict and post-conflict countries to combat sexual violence and support health care, including psychosocial care, and strengthen legal certainty and access to a judicial system for those women, girls and boys affected;

- elevate the level of ambition with regard to effectiveness and resources for initiatives to improve awareness and service about sexuality for women and girls’ physical integrity and sexual rights, and support the role and responsibility of men and boys for gender equality and for sexual and reproductive health for everyone;

- provide support to SRHR in the form of education, information and counselling for young people, access to contraceptives, sexual and reproductive health care (including counselling and medical care), and through efforts within the framework of broad approaches that particularly emphasise information and preventive measures. This includes access to safe, legal abortions, and enhancing support to research and methods development on sexual and reproductive health and rights. One key issue is to prevent teenage pregnancies and improve opportunities for young mothers to have access to education; and

- elevate awareness and expertise in the Swedish Foreign Service and the Government Offices in terms of addressing and discussing SRHR in various contexts. Among other measures, reference material has been compiled in 2010 that contains facts and references that support SRHR in dialogues and international negotiations, Dialogue for Change. The material is available in Swedish, English, French and Spanish.