Sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) enable us to make personal choices about our own bodies, without judgement. They’re a bedrock of gender equality and women’s human rights. Leaders around the world have recognised the importance of protecting SRHR through COVID-19.
Consensual sex and intimacy are as important as ever! Some people have found a new love for self-pleasure and sex toys. Many people would be benefiting from pleasure during this stressful time. But some would also need barrier protection during sex, or they may be finding contraception more difficult to access. Some people may have changes to their menstrual cycle, have recently realised they are pregnant, or may not yet realise that their sexually transmitted infection could lead to chronic health issues. For others, they may be experiencing sexual abuse. It could be months or years before we have a better understanding of the full picture of our current access to SRHR.
Even then, we have already learned some important lessons about how to maintain access to sexual and reproductive health and rights during a pandemic. SRHR has often been led by pro-choice activists and advocates, so while there’s important lessons for our clinicians and policy-makers, there have also been some takeaways at the grassroots:
Be unapologetically pro-choice
Being pro-choice is supporting somebody to make a decision about their own body and their own healthcare, even if you wouldn’t make that decision yourself. Choice is all about options — for pleasure, contraception, sexually transmitted infection prevention, conception, pregnancy, birthing and mental health. Options include how, when and where to access health information or care, which aspects of health are prioritised, and who provides health care. Options enable decisions. Decision-making is not linear. Being pro-choice is as simple as listening to someone who wants to discuss their sexual and reproductive health options with you, supporting the decisions they make and not shaming them for the option they choose.
During the pandemic our choices have been limited and our options are less clear, but decisions remain time-critical. It has been more important…