By Marc Peters, MenEngage Global Communications and Campaigns Manager
The sexual and reproductive health and rights issues that are being debated as part of the determination of the post 2015 sustainable development goals are myriad. Yet, there is one part of the SRHR discussion that is not getting its due attention because of the volatile political narratives involved and the lack of any sort of global consensus on the issue. I am speaking of women’s right to safe abortion services. The International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion calls for an inclusion of this right in the post-2015 agenda and it is critical that men stand with them in advocating on this issue.
Abortion is one of the hardest issues to have a productive dialogue on. When we consider our stance on safe abortion at MenEngage, what we consider most of all is freedom, choice and safety. This is a fundamental issue of whether women will have control and ownership over their own body and decisions related to family planning. At MenEngage, we have taken the stance that women must have the rights and freedom to make choices about their reproductive health and men must support that.
Unfortunately, a lot of the political decision making around the world rests with men and they tend to be tragically under informed when it comes to issues of reproductive health. This starts at an early age. While society has an obligation to educate boys and men on these issues, we have been tragically negligent when it comes to doing so. We stunt their growth and education with regards to SRHR and as a result, they are ill equipped to deal with these issues in their personal life and in the public sphere.
We hold true to the myth that these issues only concern women and that men should not be in these spaces. To be better partners, men must be engaged on the political level to ensure safe and accessible abortion access. This is going to involve empowering men to rethink their notions of traditional masculinity to be inclusive of being involved in debates and advocacy normally reserved for women. It is important to note that we must make sure that when we engage men, we are not silencing women. This is about education, not domination. It is about support, not control. It is about a full partnership, not ownership.
Obviously, access to safe abortion is not the only pressing SRHR issue under discussion with regards to the post 2015 development agenda. It is also critical that we push for men to take a greater share of the contraceptive burden and to develop new family planning options for them as well. We also have to continue to have a focus on HIV/AIDs prevention and treatment and ensure that men are taking care of their sexual health because it is in the best interest of their partners, their children and themselves.
Even with these other priorities demanding our attention, abortion is one of the most critical SRHR issues of our time and we cannot stand idly by while countries roll back women’s rights to make decisions about family planning. So we will continue to stand up, make noise and support women in every way possible as they fight to maintain the ground they have gained and to move our world further still.