Sexual Rights and Human Rights
The UK faces some challenges in delivering health care; still, it's a country where people can largely get the health care they need. Particularly when it comes to sex and reproduction.
Safe sex advice is featured on prime time TV shows, contraception is freely available (if not always free), and professional care during pregnancy is available to everyone. People have choices; like how many children to have, if any? Or when to get married and to whom.
In the UK, discrimination on most grounds including gender, sexual orientation, and health status are actively being combated from the grass roots; to the highest ranks of the law and government. People have rights: the right to live healthy lives, to choose their partners, to access care when needed and to live freely without discrimination.
Every country in the world is now party to at least one human rights treaty that addresses health-related rights. However for many of people we support in developing countries, these human rights are far from being realised because they are marginalised and poor or belong to a stigmatised group, they can be refused services, or are discriminated against when they do attend.
Every country in the world is now party to at least one human rights treaty that addresses health-related rights.
The situation in Malawi, for example, is very different to the UK.
Health workforce shortages are severe: there are fewer than three doctors for every 100,000 people in Malawi, and more than 60% of nursing posts are vacant. A Malawian woman is 130 times more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth than a British woman.
Nearly 12% of the working-age population are living with HIV and only 35% of them are on treatment, 13% of children under 5 are underweight and over a quarter of married women want and would use contraception but can’t get it.
Homosexuality is still illegal and highly stigmatised in Malawi, as in many other nations around the world. For example one of our partners in Uganda, working for sexual minorities is fighting a proposed law, which would not only prevent sexual minorities from accessing health care, but could lead to the death penalty for being gay.
The differences between the health and rights of people in the UK and developing countries are clear, shocking, and fundamentally linked to whether countries are able and willing to uphold people’s human rights.
Through our programmes and advocacy, Interact Worldwide works to improve the sexual and reproductive health of many vulnerable and marginalised people; adolescent girls and boys, prisoners, sex workers, men who have sex with men, and others.
Marginalised people themselves are the best advocates for their rights, and with support they can be powerful empowered voices that are hard to ignore. By involving marginalised people in the decisions that affect their lives, the programmes we run can meet their needs more effectively and help them claim their rights.
“Shared stigma, shared concerns, shared potential.”
Interact Worldwide has been working on a project with our partner, SAATHII, since 2008, which aims to help bring equality and sexual and reproductive health care to 16,000 sexual minority people, and 25,000 people living with HIV and AIDS in Orissa and West Bengal, India.