International Women’s Health Day 2020: Eight sexual health commandments for every woman to live by
The main agenda of this day is to promote the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) of all women all over the world.
Every woman has a right to sexual and reproductive health and rights, no matter which part of the world she hails from, what age she is, or what her ethnicity or religion is. This is the reason the International Day of Action for Women’s Health (or International Women’s Health Day) has been observed every year on May 28 since 1987. The main agenda of this day is to promote the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) of all women all over the world.
Why women’s health is important
Now, you might wonder why women’s sexual and reproductive health deserves a whole day to be celebrated. After all, doesn’t the World Health Organization (WHO) recognise both of these as a fundamental subset of human rights for both men and women?
It does, but as a study published in the Journal of Women’s Health in 2019 reveals, there are many more barriers that women face which “prevent women from receiving proper medical counselling, support, and/or care for their sexual health needs and concerns.” Another paper published in the Online Journal of Health and Allied Sciences in 2011 underlines how the right to abortion, contraception, reproductive choices, and protection from genital mutilation merely remain on paper for many Indian women due to inadequate healthcare services, lack of information and social stigma.
Breaking this chain of ignorance and taboo to make informed decisions about their own bodies is something every woman needs to be able to do. So, here are eight commandments every woman should follow to get optimum sexual healthcare and to maintain sexual rights.
1. Find the right gynaecologist: A gynaecologist is ideally the person who can care for all your sexual and reproductive health needs, whether you experience pain during sex, have a sexually transmitted disease (STD), or are going through menopause. If you have an unplanned or accidental pregnancy, your gynaecologist is the best person to inform you of your abortion rights and to provide primary care. They will also advise you about regular testing or vaccines you might need. So, find a good gynaecologist in your area and don’t hesitate to consult them whenever the need arises - and sometimes even when it doesn't.
2. Body awareness is key: Many women are made to feel ashamed of their bodies, and most have never even seen what their own genitals look like. Take a small mirror and then take a good look at yourself. Learn to love every curve of your body, because as long as you’re healthy, complexion, shape, size, etc don’t matter.
3. Safe sex rules: Safe sex is not just about asking your partner to use a condom, or getting a female condom for yourself. Consult your gynaecologist and go over all the choices you have from a diaphragm and a combined pill to an intrauterine device (IUD).
4. Get tested for STDs: It’s not only important to know that some STDs can occur not just through vaginal/penetrative sex but also unprotected oral sex. Getting that pap smear can save your life, your partners’ life and, when you do get pregnant, your unborn child’s life too.
5. Take your pain seriously: Many women consider pain to be a natural part of their sexual and reproductive life, but severe pain can have a debilitating effect on your physical as well as mental health. So, if your periods or having sex causes severe pain and other symptoms, go to your gynaecologist immediately.
6. Choose comfort over misconceptions: Taboo might be easier to spread than break, but that’s where your personal choice comes into play. Instead of allowing misconceptions about sex (especially about periods and pregnancy) to take a hold of your life, talk to your doctor and make an informed, individual choice.
7. Menopause is not the end: Your reproductive system might slow down and stop working when you hit menopause, but your sexual health still matters. Taking your sexual health seriously after menopause is important because if you’re sexually active, you could still get STDs.
8. Consent and agency matters: In case it wasn't already clear, your right to sexual and reproductive health is inalienable. Your consent and your choices matter the most. You might take the advice of medical practitioners, parents, spouse or society in general, but the ultimate decision over your body lies with you.
For more information, read our article on Women’s Health.
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