UNFPAState of World Population 2004
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HOME: STATE OF WORLD POPULATION 2004: Reproductive Health and Family Planning
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Reproductive Health and Family Planning

Family Planning and Sexual Health
Contraceptive Access and Use
Unmet Need
Choice of Methods
Sexually Transmitted Infections
Quality of Care
Stronger Voices for Reproductive Health
Securing the Supplies
Men and Reproductive Health

Men and Reproductive Health

Some of the most innovative work since the ICPD has aimed to involve men in protecting their partners’ reproductive health as well as their own. Through their greater access to resources and power, men often determine the timing and conditions of sexual relations, family size and access to health care. Reproductive health programmes are increasingly being designed to counter the ways that gender inequality limits women’s—and sometimes men’s— access to health care.(57)

Prior to the ICPD, the population field tended to focus almost exclusively on the fertility behaviour of women, paying little attention to men’s roles in its study of the macro dimensions and implications of population growth and fertility rates.(58) As a consequence, basic family planning programmes served women almost exclusively.

ATTITUDES TOWARD INFORMATION AND SERVICES. Research has long shown that men want to know more about reproductive health and want to support their partners more actively.

Men’s desire to limit their family size often makes it possible for women who want to use contraception to do so. Research on male attitudes and practices, including a 17-country analysis of Demographic and Health Survey data collected on husbands during the 1990s,(59) suggests that views of men and women on contraception and family size are much closer than many in the field once believed. (60) Men generally want more and better information and access to services.(61) Those aged 15-24 want fewer children than men 25-34, who in turn want fewer than men in their 50s.(62)

When programmes exclude men, they undermine their own effectiveness. Men’s reproductive health directly affects that of their partners, a reality that the AIDS pandemic has brought sharply into focus. Treating sexually transmitted infections in women makes little sense unless the partners who infected them are also treated and involved in prevention education.

INCLUDING MEN IN REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH. In virtually every country, and in thousands of governmental and NGO programmes, creative ways are being found to draw men into reproductive health programmes. Men have responded positively to these efforts.

All countries replying to the 2003 UNFPA global survey reported taking measures to promote male contraceptive methods. Education campaigns on men supporting women have been carried out in all of the Central Asian countries and in most countries in Asia and the Pacific, Africa and the Caribbean. More than half of the Caribbean countries reported developing plans to encourage more male involvement in reproductive health.

DIVERSE APPROACHES TO “MALE INVOLVEMENT”. Programmes developed in recent years have taken different approaches to involving men in reproductive health. One approach focuses on men as obstacles to women’s contraceptive use and as an untapped group of potential users themselves.(63)

A second group of programmes emphasize the need to provide men with sexual and reproductive health care, remedying their traditional exclusion from such services.(64) Programmes can improve men’s access to sexual and reproductive health services by making existing services more receptive: welcoming men, both as clients and as supportive partners or fathers, retraining staff, providing information and services for men, hiring and training male counsellors, and even altering clinic décor. In trying to make men welcome, programmes need to recruit and train male health workers, who can be important advocates and role models for healthful behaviours and supportive partnerships.

WORKING TO CHANGE GENDER NORMS. A third approach focuses on men as supportive partners of women and seeks opportunities to address the ways that social positions constrain the sexual and reproductive roles of women and men. Some programmes explicitly address inequitable gender norms that harm the health of both men and women. They work to educate men about the ways in which control over family resources, violence at home, or views of male or female sexuality, for example, can inhibit good reproductive health.

Programmes such as Mobilizing Young Men to Care in South Africa, the Better Life Options Programme for Boys in India, the Men Can Stop Rape’s “Strength Campaign” in the United States, the Conscientizing Male Adolescents Programme in Nigeria, and Cantera in Central America seek to transform the values that underlie harmful behaviours.(65) They have shown that encouraging men to discuss their beliefs leads them to question harmful elements of traditional masculinity and that men welcome the opportunity to do things differently.

Some programmes promote communication and respect between men and women on reproductive health issues, and aim to build the negotiating skills of both sexes. Many efforts focus on young and unmarried men whose ideas about gender roles and sexuality are still evolving.(66) From Costa Rica to Kenya to the Philippines, programmes are working with young men to address their sexual health choices and to develop their skills. The Mathare Youth Sports Association in Kenya, for example, has established a peer education programme for HIV prevention.(67) The Brazilian NGO, ECOS, emphasizes the links between masculinity, fatherhood and health.(68)

Working with men in leadership positions who can influence other men and advocate for women’s health is another important strategy.

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