Friday, November 2, 2007

Know your reproductive health!

Reproductive health remains a top concern across the world, and especially in Asia. Experts, advocates and activists meeting at a United Nations-backed meeting in Hyderabad, India addressed this issue on Wednesday. In an opening session subtitled, “An unfinished agenda,” the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Deputy Executive Director Purnima Mane noted that Asia continues to have “high rates of unintended pregnancies, high rates of maternal death and disability, increasing numbers of new HIV infections, and persistent and widespread violence against women and girls,” despite the region's progress in reducing poverty.

Participants of the meeting cited external pressures, outmoded laws, and regulatory structures undermining reproductive health as the root of these reproductive health issues. The participants vowed to push for greater resources and awareness in a better attempt to achieve the goals of the Fourth Asia Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights, which is an ongoing review series since governments pledged in 1994 to make reproductive health services accessible to everyone by 2005. Clearly, that goal has yet to be accomplished.

This UN-backed meeting comes at the heels of UNFPA denouncing the practice of son preferences in Asia. Preference for sons is deeply rooted in many Asian countries for both cultural and economic reasons, but UNFPA explains that prenatal son selection in several Asian countries could result in severe social consequences – such as a surge in sexual violence and trafficking of women.